Funeral march sounds for maker of Chopin's pianos

PARIS Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:55am EST

A musicien plays on a piano made by Peugeot Design Lab and Pleyel on media day at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile September 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

A musicien plays on a piano made by Peugeot Design Lab and Pleyel on media day at the Paris Mondial de l'Automobile September 27, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

PARIS (Reuters) - Pleyel, the illustrious French piano maker that crafted instruments for Ravel, Stravinsky and Chopin, has closed its factory doors, squeezed by high costs and competition from China.

While an existing stock of finished pianos will allow it to keep selling in the near future, it is looking at "alternate solutions" to continue production, Pleyel said in a brief statement, without elaborating.

The company's factory in Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris, employed 14 artisans.

The French Confederation of Arts and Crafts paid tribute to Pleyel's "rare and detailed know-how that today is at risk of disappearing".

Founded in 1807 by Ignaz Pleyel, a student of Haydn, the company was a renowned supplier of pianos to European courts including that of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon. It is said to have been the first firm to introduce metal framework into the instrument.

Pleyel produced up to 3,000 pianos per year in its heyday, but output trickled to about 20 in recent years as it focused on high-end instruments costing up to 200,000 euros ($269,000), requiring about 5,000 pieces and up to 1,500 hours of labor to assemble.

Other piano manufacturers have similarly struggled to fend off lower-cost competition from Asia in a tight sales market.

In July, U.S. brand Steinway was acquired by hedge fund firm Paulson & Co after struggling to keep its production margins competitive. The last piano manufacturer in Britain, Kemble, closed its doors in 2009 but its pianos are still made today in Yamaha's Asian factories.

Even if Pleyel pianos become a thing of the past, the name will survive in the Carrefour Pleyel, a Paris Metro stop named in its honor, and in the Salle Pleyel concert hall near the Champs-Elysees. (Reporting By Alexandria Sage; editing by Mark John, Michael Roddy and Mark Trevelyan)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
ChrisHerz wrote:
The UK and the USA need to recreate the WWII Grand Alliance with Russia since all three nations face more and more struggles with their disenfranchised commoners.
Perhaps this alliance will even reopen the Siberian Gulags, sending these pestiferous unionists to hard labour with Tolonnikova.

Nov 16, 2013 8:38pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ChrisHerz wrote:
The UK and the USA need to recreate the WWII Grand Alliance with Russia since all three nations face more and more struggles with their disenfranchised commoners.
Perhaps this alliance will even reopen the Siberian Gulags, sending these pestiferous unionists to hard labour with Tolonnikova.

Nov 16, 2013 8:38pm EST  --  Report as abuse
StephanLarose wrote:
Thank you China for replacing good jobs with slave labor and good products with garbage that breaks down in 2-3 months. The shift to offshoring and increasing corporate profits at the cost of social equity means the economics to retrofit human infrastructure to sustainability won’t be there, and the inevitable clash between rich and poor will not only devastate human society, but thanks to the new mode of consumption and production, will most likely lead to us drowning the world in garbage, pollution and toxins. Well done rich people. This was your plan after all.

Nov 16, 2013 10:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.