No, this isn’t a high performance sports car. It is the world’s most exclusive piano, and it will be featured in the gala benefit that Midsummer’s Music is presenting at the Ellison Bay Estate (aka “The Big House”).
I know exactly when I first learned of the Fazioli. I was reading “The Piano Shop on the Left Bank” by Thad Carhart. It’s a very entertaining read about an American writer working in Paris. He decides he wants to take up the piano again in his 40s, not having played since college.
On his daily trek taking his daughter to school, he comes upon a small shop that intrigues him because the only indication of what it does is the collection of small piano parts that lines a single dusty shelf in the window. His first visit to this Parisian atelier gains him little information because of the very circumspect nature of the owner, but over time and with persistence he comes to learn that in the secret back room, which he only gains entrance to after several visits, is a wonderful workshop that restores antique pianos, some going back to the early 19th century.
He eventually manages to purchase one but has to prove his pedigree by getting a reference from someone who has been a previous customer. The owner of the shop actually comes to his apartment and, after seeing the circumstances under which the restored piano will live, informs our customer which piano he will be allowed to buy. This is not a purchase, it is a piano adoption.
Toward the end of this very intriguing book, which is mostly about older pianos, we learn a bit about modern pianos. Enter the Fazioli. Other than Steinways, Bösendorfers and such, the Fazioli was new and exciting to learn about because Fazioli makes the largest and most expensive piano in the world, and it is almost completely re-engineered.
Paolo Fazioli started the company in the 1980s. He was the youngest of six sons of an exclusive furniture and cabinet maker in Rome. The other sons went into the firm as they matured, but Paolo went to the conservatory to continue his piano studies. He also studied engineering. When he realized that his considerable ability at the piano still fell short of the very top tier of players, he decided to turn his energies to the making of a new design of piano.
Having a good connection with an excellent cabinet shop was a good start, but he was not content to simply copy much of the tried-and-true mechanisms used in other pianos.
Instead, he set about to study each of the thousands of moving parts in the piano to see if the design that had evolved in conventional pianos was the best solution, or if it could be re-engineered to improve it. The result is an instrument that has been described as the Maserati of pianos.
We have had a contact with the Fazioli dealer in Chicago, Pianoforte Chicago, for quite a while. Our pianist, Bill Koehler, has known the owner, Thomas Zoells, for some time, and both Bill and I have worked with his piano technician, David Graham, for even longer.
We had an understanding that we could use this instrument in Door County on loan from Pianoforte Chicago if we had just the right venue. When the opportunity to perform at the Ellison Bay Estate developed, our very next thought turned to the Fazioli F-308. It seemed like the perfect match for such an opulent venue.
July 15, a very large truck will arrive in Ellison Bay with the F308 — all 2,000 pounds of it, along with four equally husky movers. David will be with them to help get the instrument set up, tuned and adjusted to perfection.
With works by Johann Hummel and Serge Liapunov on the program that call on the pianist for extraordinary feats of virtuosity and elegance, the Fazioli will be put through its paces by our superb pianist, Jeannie Yu, accompanied by six other musicians. Audience members will get a tour of the home, hear Zoells give an introduction to the F308, experience an extraordinary concert and take part in a sumptuous buffet following.
To view this extraordinary home and hear this amazing piano in the company of Midsummer’s Music, call (920) 854-7088. Tickets are going fast, so call now.