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Itallian Piano-Maker Paolo Fazioli Makes a Rare Visit to Vancouver

New Showcase Piano store gets a visit from the legendary instrument designer.

Talk about being a superfan: in 2007, Manuel Bernaschek and his wife Judy opened their shop, Showcase Pianos, specifically so they could stock Fazioli and pioneer the brand in Vancouver.Bernaschek was originally working at a Steinway piano store when he first heard of the Italian brand—famous pianists were moving away from Steinway’s instruments and choosing Fazioli instead. At the Fazioli factory in Sacile, Paolo Fazioli (the company’s namesake) and his team study the behaviour of their handmade soundboards and research the mathematical models of music. This acute attention to detail is what fans believe makes the piano more expressive and nuanced, giving precise control.Curious, Bernaschek tried a Fazioli for himself, and was immediately a convert. (Sorry Steinway! We still think you’re great.)Bernshek was keen to strike out on his own and open a Fazioli store, but the famed musician-engineer-pianomaker never grants dealership rights to people he hasn’t met, so Bernaschek and his wife jumped on a plane to Italy and booked a boardroom, set to make a good impression on the craftsman. Their first interaction didn’t exactly go smoothly (at the meeting, Bernaschek declared, “I will make sure all of Vancouver knows the name Fazy-olie!” before Fazioli corrected him: “It’s pronounced Fatsie-olie.”) but the rest of the pitch went well enough that Fazioli agreed to let the couple stock his brand. That relationship has lasted over a decade—now, 11 years later, Paolo Fazioli is wandering through Bernaschek’s store, tickling the ivories as he walks among his own unique creations.Fazioli is in town on a detour from the Namm music exhibit in California, here for a whirlwind visit to celebrate the grand opening of a brand new Showcase Piano store (right down the street from the original location on Broadway) complete with a music school and—the piece de résistance—a Fazioli concert piano in a performance space at the back. When not in use by Showcase, the grand concert piano is rented out to other venues.Showcase isn’t the only place Vancouverites can see a Fazioli in person right now, though. One of his musical works of art is currently on display at the Fight for Beauty exhibit: the Butterfly pianoa collaboration between Fazioli and the late great architect Bing Thom’s team to commemorate Thom’s work and to act as an anchor piece in the lobby of Thom’s Butterfly building on West Pender. The dramatic curves and brilliant white lacquer of the piano is designed to mirror the shape and flow of the 56-storey building, that in turn was modelled after the wings of a butterfly. From here, Fazioli plans on designing a second architecture-inspired piano, in collaboration with and named for Kengo Kuma, and a piece that Fazioli already considers to be “the most special instrument we have made in our lives.”Fazioli fans would believe that’s a tall order, as his pianos are already celebrated for their high-end craftsmanship that keeps the pianist’s needs in mind. “There’s always the best touch of the piano for the pianist… The action is just as important as the sound,” Fazioli explains while sitting at the piano and demonstrating the feel of keys with deft strokes.Ater all these years, Bernaschek is still a super fan. “An expressive piano like a Fazioli encourages and fuels creativity,” he says. “It’s like giving an artist more colours to paint with.” The rare native Indonesian Amboina piano is finished with a translucent lacquer to bring out the natural touches in the (expensive) wood.