This piano is an original Pleyel, and indicative of the kind of keyboard Debussy and Saint-Saëns would have used and composed on during their careers. Pleyel & Co pianos was started by Ignace Pleyel in 1807, and then continued to by run by his son, Camille. Pleyel continued to make pianos up until 2013, and during their history bought many different piano manufacturers, including Érard. Pleyel instruments were seen as excellent keyboard instruments.
The instrument has had some work and restoration carried out on it, including having the soundboard repaired, replacing the bridge, restringing and re-felting the dampers and hammerheads, and entirely replacing the hammerheads at one point. Because of these alterations, it cannot be ascertained how the instrument would have sounded when it was first made, or when Paderewski performed on it.
This particular instrument has a very special history. After it was brought to Australia, this instrument lived at the Belgian Consul in Sydney. The owner – Mr Paul Beulens – had a close relationship with Padewerski (the famous pianist). During his Australian tour, Paderewski performed and practiced on this instrument. After Mr Beulens’ death, the instrument came into the care of Ms Eileen Holmes, who left the instrument to her borther, the Honourable Kevin O’Leary; former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, and also a former council member of the ANU. The Hon. Mr O’Leary currently owns the instrument, and has kindly loaned the Pleyel to the ANU Keyboard Institute since 2006.