Fazioli and Steinway in open war over piano competition

Fazioli and Steinway in open war over piano competition


norman lebrecht

December 02, 2018

Both firms are sponsors of the Honens contest in Canada.

Boutique maker Fazioli says its pianos were sidelined and competitors were pushed towards the market leader, Steinway.

Both firms are behaving like naughty schoolboys. And not just at Honens.

Read on here.




  • Bruce says:

    So Honens has signed an exclusive contract with Steinway for next time. Gosh. I guess I’m out of touch, but I always thought that big competitions offered, or should offer, a variety of pianos for competitors to choose from.

    Probably I’m basing that perception on the documentary made about the 1981 Van Cliburn competition, where they showed competitors choosing between Steinway, Yamaha, Kawai (I think), Baldwin, and maybe others. I’m not sure what kind of piano each person was supplied with to practice on in their host family’s home.

    That said, Steinway has long been known for their “crush all competition even though we’re winning” approach.

  • steven holloway says:

    HONENS, not Hohens, dammit. After reading the linked article, I should very much like an explanation from Edwards and his Board re why a patently obvious favouritism was shown toward Steinway in the first place. Edwards seemed rather too anxious to gag Fazioli and much too lacking in an explanation of why the two brands were distributed and displayed as they were. Paolo and Luca Fazioli have contributed greatly to the world of pianism and they deserve better treatment than they got at the Honens.

  • buxtehude says:

    This fun story will go on and on. Steinway has ruled the roost with its Steinway Artists program, a huge world-wide investment. They won’t want to play nicely with others in this space, there’s too much at stake.

    Daniil Trifonov has been using Fazioli’s guite a bit in the past, a Steinway or two more recently. Anyone know more about this? But whatever he plays on will sound like the best ever produced.

    I think the link is pay-walled.

    • Geoff Radnor says:

      Angela Hewitt has been playing Bach (and others) on Fazioli pianos for years. I think that she moved to Italy to be near their factory.

    • Geoff Radnor says:

      Angela Hewitt has been playing Bach (and others) on Fazioli pianos for years. I think that she moved to Italy to be near the factory.

    • Paul Carlile says:

      I know that Daniil Trifonov admires and loves to play Fazioli. But it’s not always possible; Fazioli is a “craftsman’s” piano, not an industrial production-line product, so there are not so many, distributed worldwide and he may find himself without his preferred instrument sometimes for dates outside the major centres. That’s just the way it is. Music first- so play best as possible the piano available.
      I heard a rumor that Steinway had given Trifonov a piano for personal use, (tb confirmed); again, a clever political ruse to disarm the principal “adversary” even if D Trifonov wouldn’t see it that way- he just wants to play the music.

  • Sixtus says:

    I wonder where NL got the image. It’s a stock photo from Getty Images with a bicycle in the driveway removed and the piano photoshopped in! Was the photoshop editor offered a choice of instrument?

  • Gus says:

    Steinway also makes sure they get them young as the RWCMD was the first UK Conservatoire to become an All Steinway music college limiting student and audience exposure to one make of piano. I can still remember a Bosendorfer being played by John Ogden but have yet to hear a Fazioli in a live concert.

  • May says:

    Next year exclusively use Bösendorfer and Yamaha. Problem solved.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    I have witnessed first-hand the duplicity, mendacity and slanderous attempts to crush the “opposition” by Steinway’s team at certain competitions and concerts. It’s strange, cos the instrument is still, mostly, of fine quality and the company has by far, the dominant position in the pianistic world.

    Probably, in the present case, (Honens), Steinway realises that Fazioli is very well represented in Canada generally and has attacked aggressively in advance to avoid the embarrassing blunders and “defeats” suffered at, for example, the Arthur Rubinstein Competition in 2014 and 2017.

    There should be no need for this warlike stance by Steinway. Fazioli doesn’t have a comparable structure, (exclusive artist roster, international network in concert halls, financial and logistic incentives..(blackmail!) to coerce the artist to play/stay Steinway), and any pianist who chooses another piano will usually be doing so for purely musical reasons. Fazioli especially, doesn’t pretend to have the worldwide network, therefore artists like Daniil Trifonov, who would prefer to play Fazioli, find themselves sometimes obloge to play Steinway, cos there’s no Fazioli available. In contrast to Steinway’s massive advertising budget, Fazioli spends a minimum, prefering just to present the piano as an alternative, and if the artist likes it, (they usually do!), that’s fine, no pressure or intimidation. “Let the music speak” …so said Paolo Fazioli in reaction to a notably slanderous newspaper article by Steinway….result: five out of six finalists defected to Fazioli, all the top prizes, (Arthur Rubinstein, Tel-Aviv 2014).

    As a side note, during a current visit to London, i’ve been to the Wigmore Hall for recitals of all sorts and heard three different piano makes. Arriving at last minute for a fascinating programme of Skryabin, Debussy, Szymanowski….i was frustrote by a limited, cramped, colorless sound…at half-time i saw it was a Yamaha; big mistake for this type of repertoire. Similarly, next time, arriving last-min with a blocked view, i was fascinote with the sound, (altho less enchanted with the interpretations)…then noticed it was a Fazioli, and, as i write, i listen to the BBC lunchtime from the Wigbore on radio…..and, for the first time ever, find myself obloge to telefone the Hall to ask which piano the young artist is playing….. “Our new Steinway…” I was too polite to explain that it sounded more like a beaten-up period instrument with spindly, spiky upper register and limited singing quality. But it did the young pianist no favors.

    Maybe Steinway is right to be worried, which explains their crushing aggressivity, especially against an instrument which many pianists would love to choose and play often, but don’t dare to in the face of such coercion, blackmail and financial force.

    (Disclaimer: complete amateur, no professional connexion with any instrument maker, only musical enthusiasm!)

    • Paul Carlile says:

      On re-reading, one correction of a minor detail: Rubinstein Competition 2014: among the SIX finalists, ONE had been a faithful FAZIOLI all the way; out of the remaining
      FIVE, FOUR changed to FAZIOLI, in face of the Steinway threats), for the big concerto final, having heard the better sound of their colleague! Just for any pedants who may have noticed the slip-up of my figures!

  • Francois Paulette says:

    This is all very damaging to Steinway – who are not the ones who should be attacked. They are the innocent bystanders. Fazioli is being treated by the new Honens in the same way that everyone is being treated by the new Executive Director Neil Edwards. His approach is bullying and inconsistent with ideals of Esther Honens. I have lived in Calgary for all my life and it appears that The Board is very out of touch with the work place culture and Mr. Edwards’ bullying relations with all his stakeholders. The other innocent bystander is Nicolas Namoradze. It is quite unfortunate that Nicolas Namorardze’s photo was offered for the article, presumably by Honens for The Globe article. Not the best PR and Marketing Strategy there. Everyone deserves better treatment. There is no good news story for the new Laureate there and no good news for Calgary and the Honens brand.

    • steven holloway says:

      Edwards has always been a bully and, though decidedly minor league in the music business, a vain man. He cannot tolerate dissent or opposition, yet doesn’t have the intelligence or skills to deal with it appropriately. I still want to know what deal he and his board made with Steinway, for it is patently obvious that something was done sub rosa.

      • Francois Paulette says:

        If it is well know that Edwards is a bully how did the Board not recognize this and look at his referees? Honens is a member of the WFIMC – why aren’t they stepping in to address these problems in conduct and professional relations, and why is the Board so oblivious. Perhaps Steinway should also reconsider its relationship. Yes indeed a minor leaguer now making Honens a minor league competition.