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.
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.
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.
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.
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