The design philosophy of Poul Henningsen’s ground-breaking piano design neatly fits in to the narrative of PH’s life as a designer and creator. In the same way that PH was unafraid to break with tradition in his furniture, lighting and architectural designs, PH turned his attention to the reinvention of the traditional grand piano. Creative genius Poul Henningsen introduced his mind-altering design of the PH Grand Piano in 1931. When Poul Henningsen designed the PH Grand Piano in the the 1930s he observed that traditional pianos appeared to be played ‘inside their packaging’, since the soundboard and strings of pianos had come to be encased inside a ‘wooden box’ that was not removed when the piano was played.
PH was keen to ‘unbox’ the piano and reveal the core of the instrument inside. The result is a piano that allows it’s audience to be even closer to hearing the piano’s voice directly from the soundboard, while visually appreciating the mechanism of the instrument itself – there is literally more to see and experience and to entertain. Poul Henningsen wrote the following explanation about his piano design, which explains how he did not wish to alter the tradition sounds and mechanics of a piano as a music instrument, but rather it’s traditional wooden casing:
The piano as an instrument – By Poul Henningsen Published in EPOKE, October 1931
Epoke has asked me to write a few words to accompany the picture of the new piano, which I designed. I would hate it if the experts were to regard this work as “functionalism”. I had no intention of following any particular fashion – which is why the only straight lines in the piano are natural ones… which is really a revelation of the beauty of technical features, tradition, ingenuity and craftsmanship.
I did not change anything in the traditional piano that was already good. To begin with I did not even touch the gilding on the iron frame or the colours of the felt used for the strings. I have great respect for traditions that work well, such as those that prevail in the piano industry.
The PH Grand Piano combines elements from the Bauhaus tradition, fine arts, modernist architecture, modern design and the more traditional organic forms. It is a contemporary work of art. Steel and leather bound with a lightness of being. Graceful legs dancing to the beat of a different drummer. The cover is made of crystal clear celluloid, allowing transparency and a view of the felt hammers as their movement transforms into sound. The smaller minimal keyboard of the PH Piano and curved legs also mean that the instrument feels less obtrusive in the room yet still delivers the same response sonically as the finest traditional grand pianos.
Today, Poul Henningsen’s PH Grand Piano is crafted at the highest standards by the most esteemed German piano maker, Blüthner in Leipzig. The PH Grand Piano is available in two sizes: the PH186 (186cm) and PH150 (150cm). The larger PH 186 is designed for more spacious environments, such as larger homes, restaurants or performance venues, while the PH150 is more compact and suitable for smaller apartments or venues where space is at a premium.
The case and components of the PH Grand Piano are infinitely customisable to create a piano that is as unique as it’s owner and the environment in which it is to be situated. It is possible for all of the metal aspects of the piano to be presented in the colours and finishes of any individual choice. Similarly, it is possible to customise the leather banding to all preferences and interior settings. The PH Grand Piano is available with a unique self-player system; the system can be controlled by any device (smartphone or tablet).
The PH Grand Piano brings the pianist and the audience ‘closer’ to experiencing piano music with the greatest clarity in it’s purest form, straight from the heart of the instrument and the pianist playing it. It is this attribute that is the lasting legacy of PH’s design values: with the PH Grand Piano and his design for a smaller, upright piano – the PH Pianette – PH has succeeded in achieving his goal of bringing music to a wider group of individuals then may have the opportunity to listen to piano music which had traditionally been the preserve of the concert hall. While it fits perfectly in the finest of concert halls, the PH Grand Piano’s open and accessible design also has it’s place in the jazz club, the public space, the hotel and the home. PH was motivated to create designs that could communicate with everyone: with the open and honest design integrity of the PH Grand Piano and the PH Pianette, PH has done that very thing.