Paolo Fazioli and Showcase Pianos

In tune.

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Dressed smartly in a well-tailored suit and tie, Paolo Fazioli takes a seat at the piano bench and begins to play. His fingers dance along the keys, first hitting the musical scales and then launching into a piece that Fazioli knows by heart. Aside from the clicking of cameras, the only other sound that can be heard amidst his playing is heavy rain pitter-pattering on the ceiling of this large exhibition tent. Somehow, perfectly, it sounds like applause.

As the founder of top-line piano company Fazioli Pianoforti, Fazioli personally tests every single instrument himself before it is allowed to leave his factory in Sacile, Italy. And this piece, the one he is currently playing, was no exception. The shiny white piano’s body is a sight to marvel at, its three-dimensional handcrafted curves and rivets looking as delicate and intricate as origami. The so-called Butterfly Piano, commissioned by Westbank and this morning on display at the Vancouver-based developer’s “Fight for Beauty” exhibition outside the Fairmont Pacific Rim (though it has since moved to the hotel’s Botanist restaurant), will eventually find a permanent home in the late architect Bing Thom’s Butterfly building. But for all its beauty, the Butterfly Piano is first and foremost a musical instrument—it might be one-of-a-kind, a true work of art, but it is very much still designed to be played. For Fazioli, a product’s performance is always paramount.

“I give much more importance to the quality of sound; the most important is the piano sound,” Fazioli says, seated in the lobby of the Pacific Rim as, fittingly, the cheery notes of a piano trickle across the room. “Second is appearance. Sound is number one. I am very careful. Even if the piano is a special piano like the Butterfly, the quality of the sound for me stays always in the first position.”

Fazioli is in Vancouver to christen the new location of Manuel and Judy Bernaschek’s store Showcase Pianos, the official local representative for his creations. Moving just down the street on West Broadway, the new Showcase space boasts 4,300 square-feet—quite a jump from the previous store’s mere 1,500. Along with the selection of Fazioli pieces on display, Showcase also sells Casio, W. Hoffmann, Seiler, C. Bechstein, Grotrian, and more. The new location has classrooms and a performance space, too; Showcase’s music academy has expanded from its Richmond location in Aberdeen Centre to include West Broadway, where director Jenaya Page is excited to continue educating the next generation of musicians. “In the beginning, I did not understand why we had classes for two-year-olds,” she says, walking through the new store. “But it’s amazing how it helps them with technique to start so young.”

Fazioli himself began studying piano as a child in Rome, and became interested in the fundamentals of the instrument’s creation after playing the rundown piece that was all his family could afford. He eventually founded his company, now coveted internationally and known to produce some of the most expensive pianos in the world, in 1981. Combining technology, science, and craftsmanship, each piece is individually handmade and upheld to the highest of standards.

“This is a big achievement for us,” Fazioli acknowledges of his work’s global recognition. “We were born 38 years ago and we started with three people. We started from scratch. To know that today our pianos are quite known all over the world makes me very proud.” In typical hard-working Italian fashion, he adds: “It means that I must work more.”

Fazioli describes his love for the piano as being “360,” as in: full-on, all the time. “This is my life,” he says without an ounce of conceit. “I am trying always to improve my idea of the piano, the sound. I am working on the research continually. It’s not something that is finished.”

As only about 150 pianos are completed at the Fazioli factory each year, these instruments are a hot, rare, and exclusive commodity. But even for those who simply listen to one being played, or admire its high-level handiwork, it is hard not to recognize the inherent beauty of it all.

Back at the Butterfly Piano, Fazioli finishes his mini concert. Now the only sound that remains is that of the rain, and it seems to be giving a standing ovation.


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June 17, 2018