PIANO ARCHITECTURE:
The Story of Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian

by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)

Once upon a time, a highly-talented musician, Ignaz Bosendorfer (OBM) had the fundamental vision to build a piano that would not only deeply satisfy the performer on a mechanical level, but would also inspire the audience with an exhilarating listening experience.

With this vision he attracted the attention of fiery young composer and artist Franz Liszt.  Known for his impulsive playing technique, Liszt (OBM) had wrecked nearly every piano made available to him, and thus required an instrument that could withstand his notoriously passionate virtuoso performances.

At the recommendation of his friends, Liszt decided to select a Bösendorfer grand for his 1838 concert in Vienna. The audience was thrilled, as was Liszt, who was quite taken by the fact that he didn’t have to hold back his artistic energy, in large part due to the instrument’s durability and powerful, inspiring sound.

In 1839, the Emperor of Austria named Ignaz Bösendorfer “Imperial and Royal Piano Purveyor to the Court”—the first piano maker to be granted this honor. Numerous gold medals and first prizes followed.

As a result, Bösendorfer became famous overnight, as well as the instrument of choice for many concerts to follow. In 1839, the Emperor of Austria named Ignaz Bösendorfer “Imperial and Royal Piano Purveyor to the Court”—the first piano maker to be granted this honor. Numerous gold medals and first prizes followed.

Since then Bosendorfer has become one of the leading piano manufacturers in the world wowing the connoisseurs of art with its beautiful collector editions.

Here is the story of one of them – the Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian Piano.

 

 

The Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian Piano

 

In 2014, an American entrepreneur – owner of the Kessler Luxury Hotels – and an art collector, Richard Kessler (MGBH) who started his endeavor with piano in the second grade, was approached by a representative of a Bosendorfer Company. It was a surprise that he received that day.   He had no idea when he came to work that morning that he would be asked to create an artistic piano for the Bosendorfer Collection Edition.

Kessler Grand Bohemian Hotel in Asheville, NC

 

As he began to think about the project being the design of the Grand Bohemian Piano, he thought of three criteria that were important to him.  The first one was not to diminish or compromise of the instrument itself in any way.  The second criterion was that the design itself needed to be feasible.  And the third criterion, which was the fun part, was creating a piece of art that truly was the piece of art of beauty.  He wanted the Grand Bohemian Piano to be a complement to the instrument itself and to be truly a collector’s piece of art.

The design for the Grand Bohemian was inspired by pieces from Kessler’s personal collection, including a painting of a peacock and a special collection of bronze sculptures.

The design for the Grand Bohemian was inspired by pieces from Kessler’s personal collection, including a painting of a peacock and a special collection of bronze sculptures. Fascinated by the beauty and elegance of the peacock, and the ideal use of bronze for the base of the piano, Kessler selected these themes and works of art to cultivate inspiration for the design (1).

The next thing he needed to do was to choose the artist he wanted to work with for the design of the piano. The name that immediately came to his mind was Mr. Frank Castellucio (MGBH), an international artist of incredible talent.

Frank Castellucio describes the process:

“You begin with the sketches to come up with the design, and when you find something you like, then you create a scale model. And once you have your scale model, then you go ahead and you build a life size model. And from the life size model, which is in clay, you begin to make molds – you make the silicone molds and you pour wax to get duplicates. Once the duplicates are cleaned, you send them to the foundry. Then you get what you sent them in bronze. From that point, the bronze has to be welded and chased and the whole base is assembled.”

 

While Frank was doing all that work, and he was certainly intense about that project, Bosendorfer in Vienna were also busy at work.  They had to do all the design work on the specialty case itself, and that was done and completed as Frank was completing his work.

The pianos are crafted using an exceptionally high concentration of spruce—more than 80 percent, more than any other manufacturer.

The basis of each Bösendorfer Grand is spruce that is naturally dried by air and has proven to be the ideal tone wood.  The pianos are crafted using an exceptionally high concentration of spruce—more than 80 percent, more than any other manufacturer.  The four seasons, sun, wind and wide temperature differences gently prepare this wood for its final purpose – to resonate.   The Austrian spruce must be grown at a minimum of 800 meters above sea level guaranteeing a very dense and regular grain structure.   Harvested in winter, when the sap is at its lowest, it is subsequently quarter sawn for parallel grain.   Additionally, all of the bass strings are spun in our unique way. A steel core string is the basis for 1 or 2 layers of copper.  The carefully spun strings are a substantial element of the warm and sonorous Bösendorfer bass.   Each string is individually attached with a handmade loop. Over time this improves tuning stability and is particularly service friendly.  Bösendorfer is the only piano manufacturer that applies a detachable and independent Capo d’Astro in the upper register to assure most precise adjustment in the upper register guaranteeing the original Bösendorfer Sound for generations.

Once Frank was finished, and all the parts were sent to Vienna, they assembled all the parts to make the Bohemian Grand come alive.

“It is certainly exciting to be part of this and to see my part of the project being the base, being incorporated with a box. It’s so unlike any other project that I’ve ever done where I complete a whole sculpture. This sculpture is a combination of different artisans from around the world. It’s amazing,” says Frank.

 

“Bosendorfer started building pianos in 1828, which makes us the oldest premium piano manufacturer in the world. For such a project, we would never compromise in the acoustical setting of the piano. However, for the exterior, we have almost unlimited possibilities, and the Grand Bohemian piano is a perfect example of traditional craftsmanship and a magnificent design,” says senior product designer Ferdinand Brau (MGBH).

 

The unveiling ceremony of the Bosendorfer Grand Bohemian piano took place at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna, where both Mr. Richard Kessler and Mr. Frank Castelluccio were invited as the honorary guests.

In the US, you can hear the Grand Bohemian Piano at the Bosendorfer Lounge of Richard Kessler’s Bohemian Hotel in Orlando, FL.

And since there are only nine of these pianos made worldwide, I wonder, where did the other eight find their home?

 

 

References:

 

(1) https://www.boesendorfer.com/en-us/pianos/collectors-item/grand-bohemian

PIANO ARCHITECTURE: THE FAZIOLI STORIES

by Esther Basha (MGBH)

With many piano manufacturers around the world, the Fazioli company keeps surprising us with not only with the high quality of sound, but also with its astonishing designs.  With a story behind each piano design, Fazioli has become one of the world’s top piano manufacturers.  Its sought after pianos found their place in many music halls, private homes, and have been seen in many movies.  

American Council of Piano Performers

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Located in Sacile, Italy, the company was started in the late 1970s by a visionary Paolo Fazioli (MGBH), a pianist with a degree in mechanical engineering, who, after joining a family business, decided to leave and start a piano factory at the time when dozens of piano manufacturers were closing their doors.  He began designing his first grand piano with the help of Professor Pietro Righini (OBM), Professor Guigliermo Giordano (OBM), Virgilio Fazioli, and Lino Tiveron (MGBH).

But we are not here to bore you with the history of the company and chronology of its events, which you can read on Wikipedia – click here.  Rather, we are here to tell you exciting stories of each of the custom pianos created in the house of Fazioli.  Here we go.

We will start with three piano that have one thing in common – all three of them have found their permanent homes in Vancouver, BC.

Fairmont Piano by Fazioli
Fairmont Piano by Fazioli

 

 

THE FAIRMONT PIANO

The custom made Fairmont Fazioli piano was created as a centerpiece for the lobby of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, BC.  With the cost of $225,000, it features a unique three-dimensional design under the lid.  Vancouver-based MGB Architects + Designers created the case for the white piano and the intricate walnut inlay under the lid that echoes a 180 feet-long origami sculpture by Joseph Wu (MGBH) that juts out from Oru Restaurant into the hotel lobby.

All the hinges are plated in the 18K gold with the soundboard from the same forest as the wood of Stradivari’s (OBM) violins.  The piano cover has a slow fall feature.  The hotel even has a dedicated Fazioli Suite, designed by Terry Zacharko (MGBH).  The room features a number of different photographs of the piano making process.  It even has some pieces of a piano.  All the photos in the suite are hung by the Fazioli piano wire.  The suite contains some interesting artwork that relates to Fazioli and the design of pianos in general.  Mr. Fazioli was very pleased with such gesture. “To dedicate one suite to one piano maker is really, really something very special,” he commented in an interview.

 

 

Telus Garden Piano by Fazioli
Telus Garden Piano by Fazioli

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THE TELUS GARDEN PIANO

The Telus Garden Piano was a brain child a local architect Gregory Enriques (MGBH), commissioned to design the case for a Fazioli piano that was going be placed in the lobby of the Telus Gardens Building.  “When we originally designed the lobby,” says Enriques, “the piano was in the back of our minds, but we didn’t really have a defined spot.  And when I was approached to design a piano, I said, “I am not so sure…”  I have seen some of the custom pianos that have been designed, and a lot of them are just adapting an existing piano.  And I said, “If we are going to do something, let’s make something very specific for this building.   And Telus Garden has a very specific aesthetic, which is about a certain sense of geometry and a certain materiality.  And if we can find to make the piano in-sync with that, we thought it would be very exciting.  So, if you look on the outside of the building, you will see these giant V-shape columns, which hold up the office component of the building.   And so, I thought, if we can hold up the piano using the same sort of geometry rather than a traditional leg, it would not only be more modern, but it would also be keeping with our specific space. And so, you have a piano, which has V-shape legs, is made out of Douglas fir, very much like the beams of the lobby.  And what you have is a traditional piano in terms of acoustics, but the outside of the piano has completely been reinvented to be of this place.  Even the chair, the little stool, the seat that it sits on is a little Z-shaped chair, which relates to the geometry of the piano, and we are very excited about what’s going to become in terms of focal point of the space.  The acoustics of the space are actually very well-suited for the piano because of the nature of the trusses on the ceiling.  It’s pretty much like a concert hall,” adds the architect.

Telus Garden Building, Vancouver, BC

 

 

 

Red Elm Piano by Fazioli
Red Elm Piano by Fazioli

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THE RED ELM PIANO

The Red Elm piano was a custom order for a private client – Zhai Zai Chen (MGBH) – residing in Vancouver, BC. Designed by Ernest (MFBH) and Grace Collins (MGBH), the same architects that designed Mr. Chen’s house, the 10-ft four-pedal piano was scheduled to arrive to his house with a matching cabinet ( built by Joe Edwards (MGBH)) and a painting (by Michael Soloman (MGBH)).

“I design any conceivable type of furniture from ultra-contemporary to the most beautiful historic pieces,” said the architect during the interview, Ernest Collins.  “The client’s house was originally built 13 years ago.  It has a Georgian quality to it.  But certainly in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, there would be salons where people would play the piano and gather around and sing.  So, it was really lovely to rework that particular room, which I used as a music room as well,” commented Grace Collins.  “Mr. Chen wanted to take it to almost a salon level where people would feel welcome to come in and sit around the piano while someone was playing.  And so, when he decided to invest in this piano, he felt it was important that it should speak to the house even on a bigger level than just being a beautiful piano.  So, we started researching motifs that were used by the great English furniture makers.  And one of the motifs that we both particularly liked was the Chip and Dale medallion that Chip and Dale developed in a lot of their cabinetry.”

During an interview,  Manuel Bernaschek (MGBH), the owner of the Fazioli gallery in Vancouver, spoke about the idea of the painting.  “One of the ideas that we had…because the client liked the idea of a painting underneath the lid… we suggested commissioning a painting that goes in the same room as the piano, but not necessarily on the piano itself.  The idea behind the piano was that the music room was sort of like many paintings form 1400s-1500s that showed many people sitting around the piano and enjoying the music.  So, we wanted to mimic something like that.”

 

Here is a story from Michal Soloman, the painter.  “It was abut a year and half ago…. I wanted to do some whimsical paintings of a piano and my little cousin dressed up as a fairy with little butterflies and things.  I decided to go to a piano store on Broadway.  I went in there and asked the woman if I could take some shots of some pianos, just the keyboards and things.  And she said, “Yes.”  And she was interested in art.  And said, “When you [finish] these paintings, I’d like to see them afterwards.”  Eight months later, I went in there with a painting.  And brought these big paintings in. They were a lot bigger than I thought they would be.  And she said, “Yes, let’s bring them down to Richmond.”  And then a few months later Manuel phoned and said, “I have this Fazioli sale happening.  And the client wants a painting of a family.  Would you be interested in doing it? There is going to be like 19 people in this painting.” So, I said, “Yeah, of course.” And I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  So, I went into the photoshoot with the family, I’ve got them posted all over my wall […].  The biggest challenge of the thing was that the client wanted to see a lot of the house. So, I had to take a shot from far back.  And I never really painted small heads like that before.  To make a great amount of detail had been a huge challenge.”

 

Manuel Bernaschek talks about the project.  “One interesting aspect to this work was […] to have Mr. Fazioli somehow painted into the scene.  So we thought, if the piano was gonna be there, why not have Mr. Fazioli playing the piano, and the whole family sitting and enjoying.  So, the client gave us a deadline of July 31st, and we knew it was a little bit tight with the piano because we knew it would take 12 months to make the piano.  We ordered the chairs, the cabinet, the painting.  Our plan was [for all of the pieces] to come in on the same day and have this WOW! effect. We really looked forward to blow him away.”

 

….. to be continued

 

 

References:

  1. http://vanmag.com/uncategorized/a-500k-pianos-new-home/
  2. http://westbankcorp.com/fazioli/fazioli.fairmont-pacific-rim.html#.WGQuFiMrKCQ

  3. http://westbankcorp.com/fazioli/fazioli.fairmont-pacific-rim.html#.WGQuFiMrKCQ