Italian Piano-Maker Paolo Fazioli dedicates white grand piano to Vancouver's new Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel
Paolo Fazioli is not your average piano-maker. Mr. Fazioli is the kind of man who tours a client through his factory, drives them back to the station and waits for the train so he can wave goodbye.
I recently had the rare opportunity to spend several hours with the proud but never snooty Mr. Fazioli at the new Showcase Pianos store at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond.
Fazioli flew to Vancouver so he could personally dedicate the $225 000-with-custom-inlay-and-modifications white Fazioli F212 piano to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. As the hotel is not yet complete, Showcase Pianos Store Owner Manuel Bernaschek was generous enough to hold an ancillary event on January 18th, 2010.
The white piano includes an intricate walnut inlay echoing a 180ft-long origami sculpture by Joseph Wu jutting into the hotel lobby. The piano will be a showcase for the hotel but will also be well utilized: incorporated into nightly entertainment schedules featuring a soloist during the week, a trio on the weekends and even Sunday Brunch Jazz.
The hotel plans to create a 'Fazioli Suite' on the top floor sporting photos of the piano's construction. Michelle Biggar and Seng and Tsoi altered the piano's original design by devising the inlay, simplifying the rest of the piano, slimming the legs and rounding the piano's edges.
Manuel and I picked up Mr. Fazioli from the airport and I began the interview in the car. I was impressed with how Fazioli's answers were as detailed as his pianos. (Note I have altered the grammar of some answers for readability):
Q: Would your company be able to function anywhere other than Sacile?
Fazioli: I think because we were born in Sacile, my choice is to stay in Italy. Concerning the choice of the site-- where to create the factory, it is very close to Venice, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and the World. Northern Italy is an industrial area. Northeastern Italy is close to Austria and Germany so it is the ideal location for a piano business. Austria is the primary country for classical music; we sell the most instruments per person in Austria. We sell a great number of pianos in Germany and the United States, but their populations are much larger. In Austria the tradition of playing music is very much alive. In each family it is easy to find someone who plays an instrument, not necessarily professionally but competently. There are three concerts every day in Vienna. Sacile, Italy has many furniture factories and knowledge related to woodworking so if I had the choice to choose again I would still create our factory in Sacile.
Q: How many people does your team consist of today? What positions are involved?
Fazioli: Forty including me [pointing a thumb to himself]. There are production departments, administration and marketing. Production is divided into three parts: Woodworking, Harmonics (action, stringing and finishing) and the Beauty Firm which is washing and polishing.
Q: What is your contact with Jazz?
Fazioli: My origin is classical, but the time I approach is another kind of world. I have approached Herbie Hancock and he likes Fazioli for the dynamic tone colour. Jazz pianists need inspiration for improvising. Fazioli pianos have a lot of colour and nuance so this is very helpful to improvisers.
Q: What are your opinions on the use of electric pianos?
Fazioli: They are a whole other instrument; complimentary instruments. Sometimes musicians like them when going on holiday to use as an aid. Major digital piano companies would like to say that the piano could be overshadowed one day, but the piano will remain a musical instrument just as synthesizers will not eliminate violin or cello.
Q: Are you currently formulating plans for more innovative products?
Fazioli: We are always ready to create a new instrument; a new solution. Soon we will be taking the design of the M-Liminal F183 and extending it to a full 4 metres. (Note the original M-Liminal will be a topic of interest in Fox International's upcoming feature Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief).
Q: A century from now, how would you like to be remembered?
Fazioli: First I hope that the company will still exist. It would mean my success as I will not be around at that time. I would want to see Fazioli still being one of the best pianos. I will do my best. For this reason, my next project will be to create the future of the company. I have a 21-year-old son who will join me, but I tell him, "Please go do some other work first." I also have a 17-month-old daughter who is of a very new new new generation.
I followed up with Dr. Corey Hamm, International Concert Pianist and Assistant Professor of Piano and Chamber Music at The University of British Columbia. Corey expressed that Fazioli pianos are designed to satisfy the pianist, not just the interior designer:
"Action is the most important aspect for ridding a performer of nervousness. This means having control over the instrument. The piano going to the Pacific Rim Hotel has the fastest note repetition I have ever heard. Also, the pedals are active through their entire descent."
Hearing Dr. Hamm, the unbelievably talented piano student Tim Zhang and even Mr. Fazioli, himself, perform (Fazioli is a skilled pianist!) was a fabulous way to spend my Monday afternoon.
General Manager Randy Zupanski, and Nancie Hall, Director of Public Relations for the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel revealed the hotel is set to open on February 5th, but sadly, the Fazioli Suite will not be ready in time for the Olympics.
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