Car Stops for Pianos!
My wife used to threaten to have that bumper sticker
made for me since I still couldn't resist looking at any piano
we came upon, although in Paris I was usually on foot rather than
in the car.
One night we were walking back from dinner at
a friend's apartment when I spied my prey, a piano store I had
not known before with a dazzling grand in the main window.
'This will only take a minute,' I pleaded, hurrying across the
street to inspect the dramatically lighted instrument. A simple
black cabinet revolved slowly on a pedestal and the fall board
What I saw inscribed as the keyboard lazily came into view, however,
was a word I had never before seen on any piano, set forth in
a simple, bold typeface reminiscent of art deco lettering: Fazioli.
What was this piano with an Italian-sounding name? The next time
I stopped by the atelier I asked Luc if he had heard of this strange
brand of piano and he fixed me with a stare as if he were addressing
'But of course. Fazioli is one of the best pianos in the world.
These instruments are absolutely extraordinary.'
I told him I had never before heard the name and I explained that
I had seen one in a dealer's window. How was it that they were
not better known? Were they Italian?
'Fazioli is very new,' Luc said. 'It's the
brainchild of a guy who decided less than twenty years ago to
build the world's best piano from scratch.
Basically, they're handmade and the production is very limited.'
The Italian connection also intrigued
The very best pianos had always been German or French or American;
a first-rank maker of pianos had not emerged from Italy since
Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano in the late seventeenth
I got the chance to find out more
when we travelled to Italy to visit my wife's family over the
The Fazioli family had for years run a successful office
furniture business in Italy.
Paolo, the youngest of six brothers, earned a diploma
in piano from the conservatory in Pesaro and he had also received
a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Rome.
He had grown increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of the
instruments he played, including the finest German, American,
or Japanese pianos.
Armed with both musical and technical knowledge, and the backing
of his family, he was determined to create a new piano that was
uncompromising in its quality.
'The first piano I saw was at the house of my aunt who was a piano
When I was still quite young, she would have musical gatherings
at her house on Sundays and one of my cousins would be made to
play for the family after dinner.
I remember two things vividly about those gatherings.' Here he
paused to take off his glasses and rub his eyes, as if he were
actually looking back into the past. 'The first was my wonder
at the beautiful music that came out of this strange piece of
furniture. The other was the fact that when my cousin, a girl
who was not much older than I was, made a mistake, my aunt would
give her a little slap, right there in front of all of us.'
Because his aunt was so uncompromising, his fascination with the
wonderful sounds became mixed with a kind of fear, a sense that
playing the piano could actually be dangerous if you weren't perfect.
In the late
1970s he consulted experts in acoustics, harmonics, woodworking,
metal foundry, musical instruments, and other specialties that
related directly to the piano to see if they would participate
in designing a new instrument from top to bottom.
The initial reaction to his plans was, at best, highly skeptical.
One of the people he talked to, a renowned expert in acoustics,
voiced a typical reservation. "You must be crazy!" he
told me. "This isn't a trumpet or a drum. Pianos are complicated!"
But when he heard that my family had a furniture company, he started
to be more positive.'
of departure was never to copy.
I wanted to use what was there and then add to it to make a better
piano. Why just reproduce what others have done?'
In 1978 Fazioli and his team were ready to start production and
took over a wing of the modern furniture factory.
By 1980 the team produced its first prototype, a grand piano measuring
1.83 meters, and the results were encouraging. 'There were problems,
of course, but mostly they were minor. When I heard that piano
and the special tone that it produced, I knew that we would succeed.'
Pianoshop on the Left Bank, by T.E.Carhart, published by Vintage