Wednesday, January 19

Someone just spent R4m on a (almost) new piano

Cape Town piano dealer Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos blurted out that he imported a Fazioli concert grand piano for one of his customers and will deliver it to the lucky pianist in a few days. You only need to unpack it after the long flight from Italy, because you don’t put a Faziolo in a shipping container.

While it does not disclose the exact price, a large new Fazioli F278 concert is priced at $ 326,000, equivalent to R4.8 million at the current exchange rate. Assuming the buyer paid for his new piano a few weeks earlier, when the rand was much stronger, he probably paid a little over R4 million.


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“That’s pretty close,” commented one of the Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos staff members.

The dealer revealed that the piano was purchased by a private buyer, who says he is a serious pianist who is making his dream of owning and playing an “astonishingly fine piano” come true. The new owner indicated that he also plans to make the piano accessible to pianists and piano lovers for small concerts, or just for a chance to try one of these unique instruments.

Fazioli is relatively new to the world of luxury pianos. Paolo Fazioli founded his factory only 40 years ago, compared to other well-known brands that have been around for centuries.

Expensive pianos

At the higher end of the market, Steinway & Sons, Yamaha, Blüthner and Bösendorfer are more likely to find themselves on stage in front of players like Yuja Wang.

Fazioli pianos are more rare, partly because they are so expensive and partly because Fazioli produces a maximum of 140 pianos per year. Economics 101 professors would immediately point out that they are expensive because they are rare.

Read: Huge collection of rare and bizarre pianos to be auctioned

There are more expensive pianos, but they are often expensive for reasons other than their musical appeal. It’s a moving target, but Steinway & Sons boasts some specially painted pianos valued at more than $ 2.5 million, an incredible 37 million rand.

Pianist Magazine noted in 2018 that a regular brown (and faded) upright Steinway sold at auction for $ 2.2 million, simply because it was owned by John Lennon. At that time it was the second most expensive piano in the world.

In contrast, Beethoven’s Broadwood & Sons grand piano, which the great composer literally smashed to pieces when his audition began to fail, was said to be worth only about $ 200,000, according to an old article on estimates.

The piano was donated to the virtuoso Franz Liszt after Beethoven’s death and, now restored, belongs to the Hungarian National Museum. An old Broadwood Grand in South Africa was recently offered for sale for R38,000.

‘Not an indulgence of wealth’

Regarding the new Fazioli, Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos noted: “The purchase of this piano is not a luxury of wealth, but the expression of a great lifelong passion.”

We would like to add that spending R4 million on a piano also demonstrates the beauty of capitalism.

The free market system allows choice. Many people would immediately say that it is crazy to spend millions on a piano. One could argue that a Yamaha grand piano (around R1.2 million) is sufficient, and deposit the rest of the money.

It sounds fair, but the argument fails when the next person says that a Rowland grand digital (R74,000) is good enough and that spending R1.2 million on a piano is insane. Finally, the discussion will end when someone defends that R74 000 is also too much, to say that an R500 plastic keyboard is not a necessity. Then the music ends.

The prices are relative. Some people will not be willing to spend R32 on a cup of coffee. A wristwatch only tells the time, but it is more expensive than a stove.

Customers of the Drydock restaurant on the Knysna Waterfront (prawns at R79, including a glass of wine) were able to enjoy a show a few weeks ago when someone launched a new catamaran. Speaking at the pier was that it cost R27 million.

There was a similar show two days later, but this owner had to settle for a yacht costing less than R80,000, yet more valuable than his car. This is not unusual; most members of any yacht club in South Africa would admit that their boats are worth more than their cars.

Let’s not forget to mention cars – many are more expensive than a three-bedroom house. And cyclists pay much more for a bicycle than for a new mattress.

The benefit of the choice is the freedom to spend money on nice things, like a Fazioli.

This piano

Burgess-Simpson says that Fazioli pianos are the most handcrafted pianos in the world with fewer than 140 grand pianos released each year. Each instrument takes two years to complete under the direct supervision of Fazioli himself, the inventor, designer and owner of these unique pianos.

“It is often overlooked that the piano was invented by an Italian, Bartolomeo Cristofori, in the early 18th century,” according to the piano dealer. “There are only eight Fazioli pianos in the entire continent and they are all located in SA.”

Ian Burgess-Simpson Pianos is the first dealer to represent Fazioli in Africa and notes that the new Fazioli has a unique heritage.

“This instrument comes from the Fazioli concert fleet and is only four years old,” says the dealer.

“It has the remarkable distinction of having been selected specifically for performances by great pianists, such as Daniil Trifonov, Angela Hewitt, Louis Lortie and Vadym Kholodenko. It was also used in some of the major international piano competitions, such as the Scriabin Competition in Grosseto.

“The import of an instrument like this, as well as the overall success of Fazioli in South Africa, in less than two and a half years since its launch here, is a tremendously encouraging indication that the music industry, despite the challenges he has faced, he is still more than alive and well, ”according to Burgess-Simpson.

The Fazioli impact

He adds that no piano maker since Henry Steinway in the late 19th century has had a comparable impact on the piano world in such a short time as Fazioli, who has introduced unique concepts around the touch and tone of a piano. “[These concepts] changed the landscape of the recording and concert world in just four decades.

“Because these pianos are made in such small quantities [compare 140 annually to Steinway’s current production of around 3 500 per annum] There has never been a piano of this rarity and stature in the last 100 years. Every Fazioli piano is personally checked by Paolo Fazioli before it leaves the factory in Sacile, Italy, ”according to Burgess-Simpson.

Among the rare features of these instruments are soundboards constructed from Italian spruce from the Val di Fiemme region of the Italian Alps, the same forest from which Stradivari selected the wood for its famous violins.

The construction techniques and the innovative use of materials make Fazioli pianos completely unique within the superior range of fine pianos and Paolo Fazioli has been directly involved in the smallest detail of the design and construction of these pianos since their inception.

One of those small details, to solve the natural tendency of brass to tarnish relatively quickly, is to gild all the hinges and accessories of these instruments.

“There is nothing flashy about this, it is purely a practical solution to a problem,” says Burgess-Simpson.

Another one-of-a-kind Fazioli F278 grand piano is the subject of a heartbreaking story: the engines dropped the one-of-a-kind piano, it was built with four pedals instead of three, after being lifted from a stage after a recital by the owner, the classical pianist Angela Hewitt. The £ 150,000 (R3 million) Fazioli suffered irreparable damage.

One last note for (very wealthy) piano lovers is that there are two more Fazioli grand pianos available in Cape Town. Let’s put a value of R10 million in all three.

That’s a lot of money, but they are there because someone will buy them. Hurry while supplies last.

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