La Scena Musicale

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Paolo Fazioli Dedicates Special Fazioli Grand in Shangri-la Hotel

Paolo Fazioli Dedicates Special Fazioli Grand at Toronto Shangri-la Hotel

Friday April 5th 2013, Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto

by Joseph So

When it comes to legendary piano brands, the most fable makes are the oldest ones - Steinway, Boesendorfer, and Bechstein. These names all have a long, long history - Steinway dates back to 1853, same year as Bechstein, and Boesendorfer goes back even farther, to 1828!  Then there's the Italian piano brand of Fazioli. It was found in 1981, which makes it only 32 years old, a baby in piano history terms. Yet in a short time it has shot to the pinnacle, becoming a brand as fabled as the others, a favourite of many classical pianists. Some of the best known Canadian pianists - Angela Hewitt, Louis Lortie and Marc-Andre Hamelin - have all played on Fazioli pianos in their recitals. Hewitt is quoted as saying the Fazioli is "a very creative piano, it really lets you (do) all that your imagination wants to do. It has a huge range of colours, from the most powerful sounds to the most delicate sounds - which are all produced with great ease. It is my most precious possession!" Stephen Hough calls it "an instrument of rare distinction." Russian Daniil Trifonov, one of the most stunningly gifted young pianist (who incidentally will play a recital at Koerner Hall on April 14) says: "Playing the Fazioli....has been one of my life's most wonderful experiences."

The Fazioli piano making process is meticulous - everything is handcrafted and only 110 pianos are produced a year. Paolo Fazioli is in charge of the family business and he was in town yesterday to dedicate a one of a kind Fazioli custom made for the Toronto Shangri-La Hotel. This $300,000 Fazioli is finished in light oak and matches the decor of the Shangri-La lobby beautifully. With the permission of fabled Canadian songwriter Joni Mitchell (who incidentally will be honoured at this year's Luminato Festival in a huge tribute in June), her song, "My Old Man" is engraved on the piano lid, with the sheet music embroidered on the piano cover.  Yesterday afternoon, at a media event, Vancouver-based 6 year old Isabelle Wang performed on the piano for the media.  Ms. Wang is scheduled to play at Carnegie Hall later this month - wow, the mind boggles!  

Ms. Kerry Connolly, media director of the Toronto Shangri-La, kicked off the proceedings by welcoming everyone, followed by Manuel Bernaschek, speaking on behalf of Fazioli pianos and he introduced Mr. Fazioli, who proceeded to sign the piano, which was then played by Isabelle Wang and Aisa Sayama. It was also announced that Remenyi House of Music will be carrying the Fazioli piano for the Toronto market.  Lovely piano, great sound, delicious prosecco and sumptuous pastries in beautiful surroundings - what a delightful way to spend a Friday afternoon!

Paolo Fazioli's autograph on the piano (Photo: LIZPR)

  Manuel Bernaschek of Fazioli (l.) and Kerry Connolly of Shangri-la (r.) open the festivities (Photo: Joseph So)

(l.) Paolo Fazioli addressing the audience (Photo: Joseph So)

 (l. left and below) 6 year old Isabelle Wang entertains the guests with her marvelous playing. (Photo: Joseph So)

For a diminutive pianist, they have a foot stool with pedal extensions - how ingenious! (Photo: Joseph So) 

Mr. Paolo Fazioli with 6-year old Isabelle Wang (Photo: Joseph So)

Paolo Fazioli kicking the tires :-)  (Photo: Joseph So)

Shangri-La Lobby pianist Aisa Sayama tries out the instrument (Photo: Joseph So)

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Monday, 1 April 2013

Video of the Day: Vestard Shimkus Plays Rhapsody In Blue

Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus

Latvian pianist Vestard Shimkus is making his Canadian debut on Wednesday evening at the Glenn Gould Studio, together with his wife, soprano Elina Shimkus. Here is Shimkus playing Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a very stylish rendition.  

The first half of the concert will open with Vestard Shimkus' own transcription of 'Liebestod' from Tristan und Isolde, and Liszt's transcription for 'Spinnerlied' from Der fliegende Hollander.  This will be followed by Latvian composer Janis Medins' 'Dainas' and Peteris Vasks' 'White Scenery' from The Seasons.  The first half concludes with Shimkus playing his own composition, 'Black Charleston' (2011).

Soprano Elina Shimkus

In the second half, he will be joined by his wife, soprano Elina Shimkus in a performance of Janis Medins' song cycle, 'Orphan's Song', Lucija Garuta's 'The Givers', Jazeps Medins' 'Reverie' and Jazeps Vitols' 'Happiness'.  The program ends with arias from Cosi fan tutte, Nozze di Figaro and Il barbiere di Siviglia.   

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Sunday, 31 March 2013

This Week in Toronto (April 1 - 7)

Tenor Colin Ainsworth sings Tamino in Opera Atelier's The Magic Flute (Photo: Kevin Clark)

Opera Atelier, Canada'a premiere baroque opera company, opens its spring season with a perennial favourite, Mozart's The Magic Flute. The cast is a strong one, with a mix of Canadian and visiting guest artists.  Tamino is tenor Colin Ainsworth, who was so impressive in the recent staged avant-garde song cycle, Janacek's Diary of One Who Disappeared put on by Against The Grain Theatre. Pamina is former COC Ensemble Studio soprano Laura Albino. Rising star dramatic coloratura Ambur Braid with her extraordinary high register is Queen of the Night, a role she has previously sung in the special Ensemble performance of the COC.  (Look out for my article on her in the Spring issue of Opera Canada, to come out in early April.) Baritone Olivier Laquerre is the birdcatcher Papageno. Sarastro is Portuguese bass Joao Fernandes. David Fallis leads the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The opera is presented in English with English dialogues - while this might offend some purists, but it does make the piece more accessible. In any case there will be English surtitles. It opens at the Elgin Theatre on Saturday April 6 at 7:30 pm, with a second performance on Sunday at 3 pm.
Soprano Ambur Braid sings Queen of the Night

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra swings back into action this week with two programs - a light classics show and one for kids. April 2 8 pm and April 3 (2 pm and 8 pm), the TSO is presenting a program on the Music from James Bond films, including Goldfinger, From Russia with Love, Diamonds are Forever etc. John Morris Russell conducts.  On Saturday April 6 at 1:30 and 3:30 pm, there are two Young Peoples Concerts suitable for children from 5 to 12. For more details, go to

Pianist Jon Kimura Parker gives recital in Markham

On April 2nd 8 pm, Canadian pianist Jon Kimura Parker is appearing at the Markham Theatre (now officially the Flato Markham Theatre) in Doing Rite by Stravinsky, obviously a play on words re Rite of Spring. It features Parker's own arrangement of the Stravinsky work. For a taste, go to  Also on the program is Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

Pianist Vestard Shimkus and soprano Elina Shimkus

The Toronto Latvian Concert Association is presenting the Canadian debuts of husband-wife team of Vestard Shimkus, pianist, and Elina Shimkus, soprano on April 3 at 7:30 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio.  The first half of the program will feature Vestard Shimkus in works by Richard Wagner, Janis Medins, Peteris Vasks and a new work composed by the pianist himself. The second half of the concert will feature soprano Elina Shimkus in works by Janis Medins, Lucija Garuta, Jazeps Medins, Jazeps Vitols, W.A. Mozart and G. Rossini.  This is a chance for Torontonians to discover these two artists new to Canada.
The tenors (Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef, Remigio Pereira, Clifton Murray)

The Tenors (once billed as the Canadian Tenors) is a Canadian phenomenon.  I admit I am familiar with only one of them, Victor Micallef who was once a member of the COC Ensemble Studio, and I heard his Tamino.  The other three are Fraser Walters, Remigio Pereira and Clifton Murray. They all have pleasant voices and engaging personalities. These guys will appear at Roy Thomson Hall on April 4 8 pm.  If cross-over is your thing, don't miss this concert.

Baritone Doug MacNaughton

On Monday 7 pm April 1st at Walter Hall, and on his 75th birthday, long time distinguished U of T professor of piano William Aide will give a recital of Beethoven Sonata Op. 10 no. 3 and the Chopin B minor Sonata. Joining him will be baritone Doug MacNaughton in Walter Buczynski's Letter to a Musical Friend, set to the poetry by Aide.

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