Voyage, Voyage: Long Story of a Small Piano

Discover the adventures of the piano on which Chopin composed his music in Valldemossa, Mallorca.

Pleyel Offices (c.1830)Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Prelude nº15 in D flat
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Since arriving in Paris in 1831, Frédéric Chopin felt a profound affection for pianos made by Pleyel. He would use their pianos for both his concerts and his lessons. It goes without saying that when composing, he always needed a Pleyel.

Manufacturer of the Pleyel piano that he used in Mallorca (c.1850)Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

When he decided to travel to Mallorca, Camille Pleyel offered to send one of their small pianos known as a pianino to the island. Chopin chose the newly made instrument in 1838.

Profile of Camille Pleyel (1861) by Eugène-André OudinéMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Camille Pleyel (1788-1855) devoted himself entirely to piano making, setting aside his composing and music publishing activities. Despite not publishing himself, he convinced Chopin to publish his Preludes.

Chopin bust (1841) by Dantan le JeuneMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

A few weeks after arriving in Mallorca, in November 1838, Chopin started to lose patience waiting for the piano to arrive. In his letters, he wrote that he was unable to compose as he didn't have the instrument and his health was poor.

View of Palma (c.1840) by Pedro Pérez de Castro (Litografía) y Mariano Conrado (Dibujo)Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

In mid-December, the piano arrived in Palma from Marseille, but the high customs charges led to a dispute. The piano was detained at the port while he negotiated with those responsible.

Accounts for the payment of expenses for Chopin's Pleyel piano (1838-1839) by Canut et Mugnerot CieMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Finally, on January 9, 1839 the piano arrived in Valldemossa. The banker Canut was responsible for releasing the piano from customs and for paying all the charges. This is recorded in the accounts book.

George Sand's letter from Valldemossa (1839-01-22) by George SandMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Prelude nº20 in C minor
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George Sand, Valldemossa January 22, 1839

In the midst of all this, Chopin's music plays wonderfully and the cell walls listen in awe. The only noteworthy event since this last letter is the arrival of the long-awaited piano. In the end, it arrived without incident and the vaults of the Charterhouse rejoiced in it.

Chopin's letter to Camille Pleyel (January 22, 1839) by Frédéric ChopinMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Frédéric Chopin to Pleyel, Valldemossa January 22, 1839

My dear friend,
I enclose my Preludes, which I completed on your pianino. It arrived in the best possible condition, despite the sea, bad weather and customs at Palma.

First edition of Chopin's 24 Preludes. (1839) by Ad. Catelin et CieMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Prelude nº7 in A major
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The Preludes were published in Paris a few months later. Chopin dedicated them to Camille Pleyel. Despite no initial reaction, his works continued to pique the interest of pianists and the public up to the present day.

Editions of the works related to ValldemossaMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Other compositions he started in Mallorca included a mazurka, a ballade, a scherzo, and a polonaise. The months he spent on the island were some of the most productive of his life and represented a real turning point in his music.

Chopin's Pleyel piano and tondo with Chopin's profile.Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Prelude No. 4 in E minor
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Their unexpected return to France in February 1839, due to the deterioration in Chopin's health, led them to make the decision to try and sell the piano in Palma. However, no one wanted it due to rumours of his tuberculosis.

Memoirs of Hélène Choussat (1875) by Hélène ChoussatMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Hélène Choussat, the wife of the banker Canut who looked after them during their stay on the island, decided to buy it. The trials and tribulations relating to how the piano ended up in her house are recounted in her memoirs written in 1875.

Showcase of Hélène ChoussatMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

Canut's wife kept it in her house in Palma (1839-1899), as did her son Ernesto Canut and his widow Josefa Pujol (1899-1913). The Quetglas family who inherited Canut's possessions, transported the piano from his old house to Chopin's cell in 1932.

Plaque affixed to Chopin's Pleyel pianoMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

In the 19th century, the Canut family placed this plaque on the front of the piano with the names of both artists and the years they were on the island.

Chopin's piano in the cell of the Carthusian monastery of ValldemossaMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

It has been preserved in its entirety without any modifications, where it was received in 1839. This pianino contributed directly to Chopin's musical creations within the very walls in which it lives today.

Chopin Pleyel piano tuning and aperture keys (1838) by Ignace Pleyel et CieMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

The tuning key for the strings and the keys to its two lids have always been kept with the piano.

Chopin's letter to Bazile Canut (1839-03-28) by Frédéric ChopinMuseum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

The museum is also home to the letter written by Chopin after his return to France, in which he tells the banker Canut how he is to pay for the Pleyel in Paris.

Interior detail of the pianino with its factory registration number 6668 (1838) by Ignace Pleyel et Cie.Museum Celda de Frédéric Chopin y George Sand

The factory registration number of the piano is 6668. The number is recorded on multiple parts of the instrument and is used to identify it in Pleyel's manufacturing and account books, which are now stored in the Cité de la Musique in Paris.

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