Fazioli: We don’t tie you down like Steinway

Fazioli: We don’t tie you down like Steinway


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2021

The Italian piano maker has lauched a social media campaign, attacking its rival’s exclusive contracts with artists.

Here’s the text:

Why does Fazioli refuse to sign exclusivity contracts with Artists?
We believe that Artists should have the freedom to choose which instrument to play, basing purely on the belief that it represents the best vehicle to express their talent. Instead of imposing any limitation, we prefer to establish reciprocal partnerships aiming to uphold artistic standards, which should always have precedence over commercial considerations.


  • May says:

    Stop. Although I would prefer that Steinway didn’t monopolise the concert stage, the statement by Fazioli is rather disingenuous. There is no way that Fazioli could ever be a reciprocating partner to potential exclusive artists, as there is no way that Fazioli could deliver enough instruments around the world for concert use. This would entail constantly transporting and maintaining a fleet of instruments, which is financially unsustainable. Steinway is only able to expand its monopoly across the Earth because most concert halls already have one of their instruments parked there. The cost of supplying a Fazioli (or Bösendorfer for that matter) only makes sense if there is already said instrument in town. Leider.


      Steinway & Sons pianos are in almost every concert hall in the world because the Allies imposed them after World War II. The most prestigious European concert grand piano was, until then, the C. Bechstein, but the Bechstein family, since the early 1930s, were close to Adolf Hitler (Helene Bechstein wanted to marry Hitler to her daughter) and therefore Nazis. The Soviets and the Americans reduced the Bechstein factory in Berlin to ashes in 1945. The Steinway, an American piano of ancient German origin (Heinrich Steinweg), but genuinely “American”, was then produced in Hamburg. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, Steinways gradually took over all concert halls in Europe and, by extension, on other continents. To conclude: the massive presence of the Steinway & Sons, manufactured with the unconditional financial support of the USA in Germany, was a political decision, totally unrelated to music. This is why major brands such as Fazioli, Bösendorfer or Steingraeber & Söhne cannot compete at all in the world market for concert pianos. Greetings from Orléans, France.

      • Jophn Borstlap says:


        But apart form all of that, the advantage of the Steinway is the reliable constitution of the type of instrument in terms of toucher and tone formation, which for travelling pianists is one worry less on their shoulders.

        • BERNARD CHEVILLY says:

          I don’t think so. A good concert pianist can adapt without any problem to any piano of a prestigious brand. Steinway’s monopoly has standardised the style and sound of many pianists. In the 19th century, the brand name of the piano appeared in concert hand programmes, and the manufacturers strove to distinguish the sound and character of their instruments from those of their competitors. Santé !!

      • AnnaT says:

        Bernard, this is fascinating history, thank you.

      • PFmus says:

        Steinway was founded in New York by a German. It opened it’s Hamburg factory in 1904 – it was not ‘imposed’ by the US government on Germany after 1945 – it was already in Germany. Any monopolistic practices are its own. Had the US wanted to impose a US piano for some jinogistic reason, after WW2 it would probably have been a Baldwin.

      • Rob Johnson says:

        The success and proliferation of Steinway has very little to do with political posturing. You’re forgetting the advances in construction that Steinway made, the introduction of the Steinway Artist programme and the subsequent backing of major artists. It was as much the artists convincing concert halls to provide instruments of a certain calibre on which to play.

        After all, the close ties with Hitler have done little to dampen the success of Volkswagen or Hugo Boss.

        Also, if it was a political move, why choose a piano manufacturer of German descent? Surely Mason & Hamlin would have been the obvious choice? If it wasn’t anything to do with the quality of the instrument that is…

        • Piano fan says:

          “Also, if it was a political move, why choose a piano manufacturer of German descent? Surely Mason & Hamlin would have been the obvious choice? If it wasn’t anything to do with the quality of the instrument that is…”

          Long before WWII, Mason & Hamlin had fallen on hard times and was acquired by Aeolian, which reduced quality. But at its prime M&H was prestigious enough to gain the endorsement of Rachmaninoff.

          And let’s not kid ourselves Steinways built since the late 1960s are nowhere near the same level at in its prime.

          • Rob Johnson says:

            Oh I agree totally. I was using Mason & Hamlin as an example to counter Bernard’s idea that the quality of the instrument didn’t matter, only its heritage and use in the political climate. By Bernard’s logic the post war long past prime Mason & Hamlin had just as much chance of becoming the premier concert instrument in the world as Steinway. All codswallop of course.

            I mostly agree with you regarding the 60’s being somewhat of a turning point, although I don’t believe it to be blanket fact. There have been enough alterations to the construction that post war instruments have little resemblance to those from the 30’s and older. I could list the many advancements that have been made but it’ll take a long time. Of course many pianists will focus on the sound and may prefer the tone that an aged soundboard produces, although that’s all personal opinion on what they’re looking for in an instrument and something that I am inclined to agree with. Technically though, the modern piano has a far more nuanced design that greatly simplifies and improves the process of making that sound. Construction wise, aside from recent restrictions on rare woods affecting the choice of materials, there is definitely no loss in quality.

          • Nothing can beat a 1960s or 1970s Steinway in optimum condition, not even a top Fazioli. A Fazioli will always sound beautiful, however harshly one may play it, and that is its limitation.

          • You bring up an important point — the date when the instrument was made. After WWII, the Steinways made in New York were almost completely different instruments than the Steinways made in Hamburg. If you qualify your statement to include only Hamburg Steinways, I would agree with you.

            The 1960’s-70’s was the infamous period when the New York Steinway manufacturers replaced felt bushings in the action with little teflon rings (which would constantly be falling out as soon as the wood in the keys compressed during dry periods and had to be replaced), and ivory/ebony keytops were replaced with plastic. That was bad news for most pianists! I own a 1976 Steinway B made in Hamburg, one of the last years when one could still get ivory keys, and it has felt bushings, and it has been a consistently wonderful instrument for me.

            Nowadays, I find the tonal qualities of the New York and Hamburg models to be much more similar to each other than in those days. So a fairer question would be, how does the Fazioli grand piano compare to Steinways made after 1985 or thereabouts?

  • John Borstlap says:

    I´m considering buying a piano from Fazioli, but only if delivered by this man.


    • RW2013 says:

      John, do you also dress up as Sally when you write in her name?

      • Jophn Borstlap says:

        I don’t write in her name at all, would be silly and unnecessary since she’s here most of the time. It’s a PA problem – intruding in my SD commentaries. With feminism nowadays, they have a confidence they never had before – when life was so much easier.

        • Al Hurst says:

          Feminism = female fragility

          No one is taking these girls seriously since they all lay down for Governor Cuomo who’s in double digits with his victims.

          They prove women belong only in the kitchen and the bedroom with their inaction.

          • Sharon says:

            In the world of government in the US, unless one is an anonymous civil servant, and sometimes even then, one’s career is dependent on being the protegee or receiving the favors of a politically powerful person. For ex. Henry Kissinger would have remained a non descript college professor if he had not met John Rockefeller.

            It’s very hard to make a complaint under the circumstances. The situation is very similar to musicians who are afraid to complain about conductors, musical stars, and teachers who are abusive, sexually or otherwise. There is just too much to lose. This is not “feminine fragility”– it’s realism.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Since I took a Women Lib Crash Course I can face any threat to be fired and revert it into a salary increase. And if it doesn’t quite work verbally, I’ve my frying pan at hand & till now it all worked-out fine already for 3 times. We just need a bit of courage!


  • drummerman says:

    Since Steinway doesn’t pay pianists to use their instruments, what benefit is there for someone to claim to be “a Steinway artist?” Is that to impress lay people?

    • Piano fan says:

      They don’t pay pianists direct promotion fees, true. But once in the Steinway “family” (which is rather like the Corleone family) you get access to discounts on tuning, kickbacks for teachers who refer their students to Steinway dealers, cross-promotions.

      The flip-side is that if you ever play another manufacturer’s piano or are caught complaining about a sub-standard Steinway (and there are plenty), you will be punished.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Unfortunately, there are strong indications that steinways after ca. 1970 are of less quality. The instruments of the 1st half of the century seem to be the best, still, if well-kept.

      • Maestro5151 says:

        The punishment is a horse-head in your piano bench.

      • JAMES LISNEY says:

        I have been a Steinway Artist for circa four decades and have enjoyed the ultimate service in Europe and New York.

        They provide superb pianos and they welcome feedback if their instruments need maintenance. Their top technicians are continually working with musicians to ensure that the Steinway piano performs to its optimum, whether in the concert hall or the home.

        I don’t recognise the above comments about ‘punishment’.

    • Patfran says:

      When a pianist qualifies to become a Steinway artist, they are guaranteed a top-notch Steinway grand piano whenever and wherever they perform.

  • Feurich says:

    The sound of the Fazioli is to blame. I am sure they are well made, and I know artists love the mechanism, but the sound is just too cold and clinical to compete with Steinway. I wish it were otherwise.

    • As with most other pianos, it is usually the pianist who makes the piano sound “cold and clinical” — or not.

      For anyone who has ears to hear, please listen to the videos of the 2010 Chopin Competition in Warsaw (viewable on YouTube) with many of the finalists and winners playing on a magnificent Fazioli piano, including major artists such as Daniil Trifonov or François Dumont. I don’t think you will find any of these performances sounding “cold and clinical”.

      • Feurich says:

        The terribly compressed sound of you tube is not a serious venue to suggest in awakening the ears of others.

        • Who is talking about “awakening”? The Chopin competition clips are about as good as they get, acoustically speaking.

          Aside from YouTube, there are numerous CDs one could listen to, e.g. Scarlatti Sonatas played by Angela Hewitt which sound marvelous on the Fazioli.

  • Pianistintheclouds says:

    So many reasons why I adore my two Bösendorfer.

    • Stephen Gould says:

      FWIW the parents of a friend of mine had both Steinway and Bösendorfer concert grands (and a Tschudi harpsichord) in their music room, and I much preferred the Bösendorfer. Not often one gets the chance to compare in real time…

  • Give Me A Choice says:

    Their website has the Steinway roster up to 1600 pianists. Honestly, I know people on that list (classical side) who can barely play a Beethoven sonata – seriously. They were put on the roster because they helped make their school “all Steinway”, or they lobbied local dealers to get there. It means nothing. I find their piano uniformly good, and also uniformly frustrating. When having a choice, I have found instruments by Yamaha (CFX), Bösendorfer, Bechstein, and others have outclassed Steinway in many respects. I adore my Bechstein. I hope to play a Fazioli as we get back to concertizing.

  • Paul Joschak says:

    Let’s have a shout out for Blüthner while we’re at it!
    Superb instruments and still family owned!

    • John Borstlap says:

      I think that the instrument that Debussy possessed, which he found in the south of England where he and his 2nd wife Emma had taken refuge after the public scandal of his infedility, was a Blüthner, with a double string format where the upper strings (which were not touched by the hammers) resonated with the lower strings which were actually played. The sonorities inspired him for all the great piano works that followed: Estampes, Images I & II, Préludes I & II.

      • Paul Joschak says:

        Yes, you’re right about Debussy. And I think you’re referring to the Aliquot resonating string in the treble, undampened and tuned an octave higher, which Blüthner patented.

    • Johan VanLeer says:

      you beat me too it with your comment !

  • Tom says:

    Can anyone point to a good recording of a concerto played on a Fazioli?

  • Simon says:

    Absolutely agree with you Paul…love the warm velvety chocolately sound of a Bluthner piano over all others..

  • Fazioli couldn’t if they wanted to. If they could, would they? No way to know.