fazioli: HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
A relative newcomer to the world of piano manufacturing, over the course of 40 years, Fazioli has established itself as one of the select few elite piano manufacturers of the world today. Born in Rome in 1944 to a family of prominent high-end furniture manufacturers, Paolo Fazioli would combine his love for both music and engineering by receiving a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, and a Master’s in composition by the early 1970s. After several years of managing his families’ furniture factory and with the help of several experts, Paolo began producing prototypes of his own pianos in the very same factory.
With further refinements and gradually more models throughout the next decade, Fazioli would eventually produce a 10’2” concert grand piano; the F308 which is currently the largest grand piano available commercially. The 1990s would see the company grow in popularity, owing particularly to the endorsement of several prominent pianists, Herbie Hancock chiefly among them. In the late 1990s, Fazioli Pianos began construction on a new state-of-the-art factory, which would become fully operational by the year 2001, producing between 100-200 pianos annually.
Fazioli currently manufacturers grand pianos exclusively, available in six sizes, from the 5’2” F152, up to the 10’2” F308. Fazioli also manufactures a more standard concert grand piano in the form of the 9’2” F278. Fazioli’s designs are such that they utilize almost every best possible piano building practice, with very high attention to detail during the handcrafting process.
Specifics materials include Renner actions and hammers, laminated layers of hardrock maple for the rims, laminated mixed hardwood bridges, and soundboards made from Val di Fiemme spruce (Stradivarius, one of the very few piano manufacturers to utilize spruce of this quality.)
Fazioli represents the finest in Italian piano manufacturing, on par with the absolute best from Germany and Austria.
PAOLO FAZIOLI: The Founder of Fazioli Pianoforti
Paolo Fazioli, the founder of Fazioli Pianoforti, was born in Rome in 1944 to a family of prominent high-end furniture manufacturers, Paolo Fazioli would combine his love for both music and engineering by receiving a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, and a Master’s in composition by the early 1970s. After several years of managing his families’ furniture factory and with the help of several experts, Paolo began producing prototypes of his own pianos in the very same factory.
Paolo has been at the forefront of the company’s growth and direction since that time and has in many ways been the face of the brand. He regularly connects with dealers and customers around the world and is typically featured in much of the company’s literature and figures prominently into its mythology.
Read More: Fazioli – Wikipedia
Introduction to Fazioli Pianos
As the world heads towards a second golden age of piano manufacturing and ownership, four brands have emerged as the leaders in the mainstay public offering. Though boutique makers exist – producing but a few lone examples per year – their price points and lack of representation through any kind of dealer network make them irrelevant for the vast majority of the buying public (ex. Ravenscroft at 3-4 / year, Borgato of Italy, Stuart & Sons of Australia).
In alphabetical order, those four would be: (C.) Bechstein, Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Hamburg Steinway. Each possess unique qualities that make them musically distinct; each draw on rich histories of craft and passion; and all – unsurprisingly – are from western Europe, the birthplace of the piano.
The opinions contained here are based on first-hand experiences with each of these instruments over extended periods of time, and are offered as perspective to those individuals around the world considering one or several of these brands as part of a purchase, or for general interest. We sincerely hope you enjoy our thoughts on these wonderful pianos.
FAZIOLI ENTERS THE MARKET WITH A SPLASH
When Fazioli first entered the market in the 1980’s, few had heard of them. But early positive reports and some highly romanticized aspects of the piano generated a mythology around the instrument. This new ‘lane’ in the business – one of highly innovative, tech-driven boutique piano makers – paved the way for other new entries such as Ravenscroft, Stuart & Sons, Borgado, and even the newly rejuvenated Estonia. Much of the success was realizing that the piano itself needed a rebranding.
Coming into the 1980’s, nothing was more tired and stale than the piano business, with the only real innovation coming from Kawai in the form of its composite action experiment (soon to become a permanent industry feature). Other than that, most makers seemed resigned to the idea that the instrument itself was as good as it could be, and that staying viable against Asian entrants and flexing with aesthetic trends of the day were really the only two issues of the day.
Fazioli very effectively turned that paradigm on its head, reframing what a high-end piano was seen as; not just a musical instrument, but a piece of art emblematic of today’s top manufacturing practices and new-money sophistication.
Much of the structural features they promoted weren’t new to the industry, but in a masterclass of marketing, they made it seem that way.
Val Di Fiemme spruce, the legendary source of Stradivarius violin tonewood in Northern Italy, has been used by top European makers for decades. But Fazioli found a way to link it to the perception of Italian artistic excellence to the point where as they’d tell it, Michelangelo and Stradivari planted the whole forest themselves exclusively for Fazioli’s future use. Nevermind that C. Bechstein, Schulze Pullman, Bluthner, August Forster, and Sauter were already using it.
Artist endorsement wasn’t new, but Herbie Hancock and Angela Hewitt were highly respected with cross-over appeal, and emblematic of the sophistication that the piano was eager to align itself with.
Duplex scaling suddenly seemed sexy and exotic again, except that NY Steinway invented it 100+ years ago. But who knew customers actually wanted to know about it.
Precision thick laminating was cutting-edge – just don’t ask Hamburg Steinway or Bechstein about it. They’d been doing it for 5 decades.
It was a healthy shakeup, and a good reminder that an excellent piano was as relevant to a sophisticated buyer in the late 20th century as it was a century before. But customers wanted quality control. They wanted things that showed off their own sense of modernity. In other words, Fazioli brought sexy back to the business.
Esteemed but arguably stagnant brands were spurred to define themselves against the newcomer. And in combination with a growing domestic Chinese market for high end pianos, Fazioli can rightly take credit as of the contributing factors to the new Golden Age of pianos that we now find ourselves in.
There was no louder a response than those from C. Bechstein, Bosendorfer, and Steinway. The old guard has shaken the dust off, birthed a new generation of utterly stunning instruments, and reminded Fazioli and the world that they still know how to make a bloody good piano.
Piano Brand Reviews:
FAZIOLI VS C. BECHSTEIN
Unlike Steinway and Bosendorfer, which decidedly have two very different approaches to piano building, C. Bechstein and Fazioli are, in many ways, two points on the same spectrum. Both instruments use highly engineered hardwood laminates and precision cabinetry to deliver an extremely resonant cabinet and near-perfect exterior finishing. Both have employed advanced manufacturing techniques and design technologies to maximize the tonal output of the piano. Both are advances on the proven designs of the Hamburg Steinway (though neither may be quick to admit it). And both are owned and run by financially independent and musically passionate individuals.
This is not to say the two instruments are at all the same musically. Where Fazioli has boldly aimed for the maximum range both tonally and dynamically, C. Bechstein is a decidedly more measured experience that delivers a more blended tonality than the ultra-clear (and ultra revealing) Fazioli.
In short, and as the reader will explore further below, C. Bechstein could very aptly be described as the happy mid-point between a Steinway and a Fazioli.
Where Fazioli has designed the action geometry to permit the greatest range of motion, C. Bechstein has kept its action remarkable in its unremarkable’ness’. It’s the perfect “ordinary” action, with 50+ hours of regulating and voicing to deliver a piano that feels exactly as you’d expect and hope for on a piano of this price and pedigree. Where Fazioli’s tonal presentation is highly detailed and immediate, Bechstein’s present the same detail in less striking relief and a slightly more contained dynamic range.
A common observation we consistently heard from people interacting with Fazioli is just how much additional control it requires to play it; and while certain musicians and their repertoires have found this to be the ideal, the vast majority of concert halls are still filled with the other three brands mentioned above: Bechstein, Steinway, and Bosendorfer, all of which are in their various ways, are generally more accommodating. Yamaha CFX and Shigeru Kawais occupy the second tier of concert pianos that also outnumber Fazioli’s stage representation.
The chief physical difference between the pianos that most likely contributes to this difference in handling is the emphasis of where the tonal ‘heart of the piano’ truly is.
On a Fazioli, large hammers strike high-tension strings connected to an oversized duplex, which is, in turn, activating a thinner-and-dryer-than-usual soundboard. In proportion to the level of cabinet resonance, most of a Fazioli’s colour, therefore, comes from the most exposed parts of the instrument – hence the raw nature of it’s acoustic presentation and the unforgiving playing experience.
For Bechstein, the use of decidedly lighter hammers but a far more interconnected rim structure – forgive the pun – speaks volumes. As a proportion, more sound is coming from the body of a Bechstein than directly off the soundboard, which in this regard hues closer to the acoustic behaviour of a Steinway. However, Bechstein’s use of multi-hardwoods in both its bridge and rim still preserves the full spectrum of colour – like a Fazioli.
While there are definitely some commonalities in the tone itself, how the pianos behave couldn’t be more different – detecting the difference between the two on a recording wouldn’t be the easiest thing in the world to do…not detecting the difference when playing them would be impossible.
Piano Brand Reviews:
FAZIOLI VS BÖSENDORFER
The classic Bosendorfer sound has supreme tonal separation, an orchestral sense of ‘width’ to the playing experience, and a grandiose aesthetic presentation that harkens to a previous age of European supremacy. And if Bosendorfer is the original grand-daddy of the biz, Fazioli is the new baby of the industry – or certainly one of them. In the older incarnations of the ‘Bose’s’, the hard-edged spruce rim models played and sounded quite different than Faziolis. The tone blended differently, the stereo image reached the ear differently, and they felt different.
Over the last few years though, Bosendorfer has overhauled their designs, now indicated with the “Vienna Concert” or “VC” badges, and in the process, quietly shed the individually-panelled spruce rims with little ceremony and seemingly little acknowledgement within the industry. This refreshed incarnation brings Bosendorfer far closer to the new modern standard for European design and reduces the design ‘daylight’ between it and Fazioli. Time will tell whether this move will find Bosendorfer a new audience, or whether reducing its historical uniqueness will leave it as a great brand without the substance that got it there.
The musical experience of playing a classic Bosendorfer was one of serene melodic control with a brassy but ultra-clear bass. The dynamic output is muted but without a reduction in upper colour; the sense of width to the tone is extreme, creating some unexpected and pleasurable stereo effects on the player. The sustain is lovely and the action is always well-regulated.
The Fazioli on the other hand has a sensitivity and depth of tone which instantly gives the opposite effect – it’s exposing and requires a far greater level of control to achieve the same satisfaction.
Whereas the Bosendorfer feels like a nimble but slightly underpowered classic Italian sports car, the Fazioli is the 1000HP McLaren…capable of everything, as long as you’re a trained F1 driver.
Where a lazy Chopin melodic line can feel graceful without effort on a Bosendorfer, the Fazioli requires full attention to ensure the line feels even.
While there will most certainly be some skilled pianists who appreciate this level of dynamism from the Fazioli, most players will feel a greater level of satisfaction out of the more forgiving Bosendorfer (or Steinway), or the ‘half-way point on the spectrum, the current C. Bechstein concert series.
Piano Brand Reviews:
FAZIOLI VS STEINWAY
If Bosendorfer is the forgiving piano offering up a contained dynamic range and clear separation, Steinway is the growler with blended tones, a distinct mid-range hue throughout, with the same forgiving nature but increased dynamic potential. And both sit in contrast to Fazioli, the nearly unlimited pallet ready to be unleashed by players with the skill to harness and control it.
There is certainly much in common between the Fazioli and Steinway in terms of fundamental design. Both use a precisely tapered soundboard with high-quality spruce. Both use a vertically-laminated bridge system. Both use hard-rock maple to produce high levels of production, sustain, and upper-mid partials.
But where Steinway has stuck with maple as its core structural wood (and in a lot of ways, its tonal wood), Fazioli has used precision laminating of thick layers of multiple hardwoods – in both its rim and bridge – to eliminate the colouring that can occur when a single wood is used for those two components. This opens up the spectrum. Next, Fazioli has taken the duplex scale to an exaggerated level, amplifying the harmonics on the top end of the instrument (whereas Steinway uses an imprecise duplex which acts more as a resonator for the natural inharmonicities that occur. The former gives a sense of high-pitched resonance, the latter a sense of shimmer and depth.
The greatest difference between them, therefore, is the musical result.
Steinway, as mentioned earlier, has a darker overall tone, with harmonic blending through the mid and high ranges, while maintaining bass-range clarity. It strikes a balance between dynamic range and control which – either by design or unintended consequence – eludes most players at a Fazioli.
To achieve the forgiving nature, Steinways simply eliminate chunks of the harmonic spectrum and papers over others, which for over a hundred years has been a perfect instrument for many in a hall or recording setting.
For personal settings, however, and even before more updated options came to the market in the form of Shigeru Kawai, C. Bechstein, Schimmel Konzert or Steingraeber, Steinways haven’t had the same aura. Quite simply, without the natural ambience of a larger space, the subdued upper harmonics of most Steinways fall flat in dry, smaller rooms.
In the same type of environment, Fazioli can have the opposite effect – making the player feel like they’re ever too close to the piano, as though they’re listening to themselves through a microscope. For two pianos that share so much design language, you couldn’t dream up a more opposite experience.
FAZIOLI PIANO PRICE & MODELS
|Fazioli F156||5’2″||Satin and Polished Ebony||$120,000|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$138,000|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$150,000|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$168,000|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$180,000|
|Fazioli F183||6′||Satin and Polished Ebony||$122,900|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$141,300|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$153,600|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$172,100|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$184,300|
|Fazioli F212||7′||Satin and Polished Ebony||$137,300|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$151,000|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$164,800|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$178,500|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$192,200|
|Fazioli F228||7’6″||Satin and Polished Ebony||$153,600|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$169,000|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$184,300|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$199,700|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$215,000|
|Fazioli F278||9’2″||Satin and Polished Ebony||$205,400|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$225,900|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$246,500|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$267,000|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$287,600|
|Fazioli F308||10’2″||Satin and Polished Ebony||$224,600|
|Satin and Polished White/Red||$247,100|
|Satin and Polished Walnut/Cherry/Mahogany||$269,500|
|Satin and Polished Pyramid Mahogany/Macassar||$292,000|
|Satin and Polished Briers: Mahogany/California Walnut/Sequoia||$314,400|
*Disclaimer: Merriam Pianos offers the following information for the educational benefit of customers world-wide, and does not constitute an endorsement by – or imply representation of – the various manufacturers. For a full selection of the brands Merriam Pianos proudly represents, please click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Get In Touch
We are here to help you 7 days a week and respond within 24 hours.