The widely anticipated XVIII International Chopin Piano Competition was held October 2-23 2021 in Warsaw, Poland. For many, it is the most important of the European piano competitions. It had, as so many other events, been postponed due to the pandemic.
The competition itself attracted 87 of the world’s best, and most driven, young pianists. To watch and admire the performances of so many talented pianists is exhilarating. For the piano stores near you, it can also be exciting because the choices of pianists when it comes to the piano they will play in the competition reflect on the current global landscape of the highest quality and high performance piano makers. Representing the FAZIOLI Seattle and Bellevue market, we eagerly awaited the results of the pianists who selected FAZIOLI.
The Chopin competition has a specific set up when it comes to the piano that will be seen on stage. Each competitor is given 15 min the day before their first performance to select from 6 concert grand pianos. Making the right choice is key for each competitor. There is an inherent risk of choosing the less-than-ideal piano for each pianist. Will the piano be able to match tonally the colors I am hoping to create? Will it have the power in the fortissimo passages and the sensitivity when playing pianissimo? Will the keys move as fast or as slow or as precise or as dynamic or as sensitive as wanted? Will it please the jurors? These are some of the questions that go through the minds of those with an important choice to make.
And this year the choice could not have been more difficult. The competition offered the following 6 choices to its participants:
2 x Steinway & Sons Model D, 1 x Yamaha CFX, 1 x Kawai Shigeru EX, and a 1 x FAZIOLI 278
If you are looking to buy a piano in the wider Michigan and Ohio area, the available choices of instruments at the competition is a good reflection of the region’s piano store line-ups: Steinway Detroit, Solich Piano in Cleveland represents Yamaha in Ohio, Kawai Music Gallery also located in in the Detroit market, and The Piano Place the exclusive representative of FAZIOLI.
The question as to why Steinway was given the option to supply two instruments has not been answered by the organizers but it gives Steinway a decided advantage: Two instruments can be voiced differently and thus appeal to more participants. So how did the contestants choose and what do their choices say about the pianos?
FAZIOLI chosen by the better competitors, Steinway chosen by the larger crowd
The larger crowd chose one of the Steinway D models. 64 of the 97 contestants opted for one of the two Steinways which makes 74% of all participants. Asked as to why one of the contestants described the reason for his choice for a Steinway because it has “...the most natural action of all the piano brands currently on the market”. (Talon Smith, Interview with Jed Distler from Gramophone, Oct. 18 .2021)
The Fazioli on the other hand was described as having a “a tactile immediacy and responsiveness that contrasts with the more “palpable” grip found in Steinways…Consequently, the FAZIOLI takes some getting used to for a pianist to control it comfortably,....” (Jed Distler, Gramophone, Oct. 18.2021)
When it comes to the choice of the best pianists of the competition the winner is FAZIOLI. In the top three positions FAZIOLI was chosen 50% and Steinway and Kawai eachi 25%. (If weighted for the fact that there were 2 Steinways to choose from, Steinways ration would fall to 12.5%)
A FAZIOLI is a by far more difficult piano to play, because it is more sensitive and more expressive. Talon Smith was right that the Steinway action feels more “natural” but that does produce world-class piano performances. Currently, there is no other piano on the market that is as powerful and as expressive as FAZIOLI.
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