Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Pleyel

Music History Monday: There’s No Software Without the Hardware!

Today we celebrate the birthday of the piano builder and composer Ignaz Joseph Pleyel, who was born in Ruppertsthal, Austria on June 18, 1757: 261 years ago today. It’s entirely understandable if you’ve never heard of Pleyel or his music, because his music – despite being extremely attractive and technically sound – has fallen into almost total obscurity. But if one had to pick a single, “most popular composer” in the years between 1800 and 1820, it would be Pleyel: more popular than Haydn, than Mozart, and yes, most certainly more popular that that curmudgeon Beethoven. A review published in 1791 in the Morning Herald of London states that Pleyel: “is becoming even more popular than his master [Haydn], as his works are characterized less by the intricacies of science.” (The reviewer is saying that because Pleyel’s music was easier to play and less complicated – less “scientific” – than Haydn’s, Pleyel was attracting a wider popular base than Haydn.) In Brussels, the contemporary and most influential music critic, musicologist, composer, and teacher François-Joseph Fétis outright marveled at Pleyel’s popularity, writing: “What composer ever created more of a craze than Pleyel? Who enjoyed a more universal reputation or a more absolute […]

Continue Reading

Music History Monday: An Auspicious Debut

186 years ago today – on February 26, 1832 – the not quite 22 year-old Frédéric Chopin made his highly anticipated Paris debut at the Salons de Pleyel – the tony concert hall of the Pleyel Piano Company – at 9 rue Cadet in the 9th arrondissement. (Alas; the concert hall is no longer there. At the time of this writing, the building is occupied by a café/brasserie called “Le Petit Cadet”; a small produce market called “Cours des Halles”; a bookstore called “La librerie de JB”; and a high-end grocery and sandwich shop call “Castro Maison”. My goodness if the original walls could speak what stories they could tell!) Chopin was born on March 1, 1810 in Warsaw, Poland, the child of a Polish mother and a French father. His father Nicolas had come to Poland in 1787 when he was sixteen years old, and remained there to avoid being drafted into the French Revolutionary Army. By the time Frederic was born in 1810, his father had become a teacher of French, a Captain in the Polish National Guard, and a genuine Polish patriot: something he would pass on to his son. Chopin – who was, after all, the […]

Continue Reading