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Ignaz Pleyel Biography

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Ignaz Pleyel (June 18, 1757–November 14, 1831) was an Austrian composer of the Classical music era.

He was born in Ruppersthal in Lower Austria, the son of a schoolmaster named Martin Pleyl. While still young he probably studied with Johann Baptist Vanhal, and from 1772 he became the pupil of Joseph Haydn in Eisenstadt. As with Beethoven, born 13 years later, Pleyel benefited in his study from the sponsorship of aristocracy, in this case Count Ladislaus Erd?dy (1746-1786). Pleyel evidently had a close relationship with Haydn, who considered him to be a superb student.

Among Pleyel's apprentice work from this time was a puppet opera Die Fee Urgele, (1776) performed in the marionette theater at the palace of Eszterháza and in Vienna. Pleyel apparently also wrote at least part of the overture of Haydn's opera Das abgebrannte Haus, from about the same time.

Pleyel's first professional position may have been as Kapellmeister for Count Erd?dy, although this is not known for certain. Among his early publications was a set of six string quartets, his Opus 1.

Pleyel is one instance of the phenomenon of a composer (others include Cherubini, Meyerbeer, and Thalberg) who was very famous in his own time but presently obscure. According to some, during the brief period between Joseph Haydn's prime and the rise to fame of Beethoven, Pleyel was the most celebrated composer in Europe.

His fame even reached the then-remote musical regions of America: there was a Pleyel Society on the island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts, and tunes by Pleyel made their way into the then-popular shape note hymnals. (Pleyel is in fact the only classical composer represented in the principal modern descendant of these books, The Sacred Harp.)

Like his teacher Haydn, Pleyel was prolific, composing 41 symphonies, 70 string quartets and several string quintets and operas. Many of these works date from the Strasbourg period; Pleyel's production tailed off after he had become a businessman.

Recent scholarship has suggested that the theme for the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, by Johannes Brahms, opus 56a, was probably composed not by Haydn but by Ignaz Pleyel.

Pleyel continues to be known today a composer of didactic music: generations of beginning violin and flute students, for example, learn to play the numerous duets he wrote for those instruments.

The piano firm Pleyel et Cie was founded by Ignaz Pleyel and continued by Pleyel's son Camille (1788-1855), a piano virtuoso who became his father's business partner as of 1815. The firm provided pianos used by Frédéric Chopin, and also ran a concert hall, the Salle Pleyel, in which Chopin performed his first — and also his last — Paris concerts. Toward the end of the 19th century, the Pleyel firm produced the first chromatic harp. In the early 20th century, at the behest of Wanda Landowska, it helped to revive the harpsichord. Pleyel continues to manufacture pianos today, under the corporate auspices of the Manufacture Française de Pianos company.

"Pleyel" is pronounced in German as, approximately, "plile". In French it is (again roughly) "play-ELL". English speakers generally follow the French pronunciation.
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