Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steinway -- Fabbrini (or Fabbrini -- Steinway) Piano

I first heard the sound of Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini piano in Daniel Barenboim's Liszt Recital in Teatro alla Scala, Milan, 28 May 2007, which was released as a DVD in December of that year. I was immediately struck by the varieties and shadings of tone colors, and above all the sheer tonal beauty produced from the piano. At first, I thought that was entirely due to Barenboim's magic touch. (IMHO, Barenboim is more a musician than a pianist and, as much as I admire his pianism, the tone color is probably not his most distinguished characteristic.) Only later, after a little bit of research, I discovered the secrets hidden in the golden letters "Fabbrini" printed on the piano:

Fabbrini -- Steinway Piano

The "Fabbrini" logo was clearly visible from the audience. In fact, if I remember correctly, Barenboim's piano has the golden letters "Fabbrini" printed on the front side much more prominently than the Steinway & Sons logo.

About Angelo Fabbrini's work, here is a very brief summary:

"Italian piano technician and entrepreneur Angelo Fabbrini, ... purchases new Steinways from that firm’s celebrated Hamburg atelier and subjects them to minute technical fine-tuning, replaces or substantially rebuilds numerous crucial action components, and reworks the interaction between strings, bridges, and soundboard."

Apparently, he forged a cooperative relationship with the Steinway, which allows him to market his altered piano as Steinway-Fabbrini. The list of customers (apparently) includes: Daniel Barenboim, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Maurizio Pollini, Sviatoslav Richter (who mostly played Yamaha), and AndrĂ¡s Schiff, among others.

The idea of this alteration is to introduce pianos which are

"... capable of delicacy, reliable repetition at low dynamics and in the sepulchral bass region, and a newly broadened spectrum of forte power devoid of clangor."

The most useful single article I can find, 3 years after the concert, was one in The Boston Musical Intelligencer written by the recording engineer Christopher Greenleaf:

Thoughts on Hearing Maurizio Pollini’s Hamburg Steinway-Fabbrini in Concert (28 Apr 2010)

The Youtube sound can hardly do any justice to the nuanced tones of Fabbrini Steinway piano, but here it is anyway:


More information at Fabbrini's official website (Italian only)


  1. Listened to an Andras Schiff recital about 5 years ago in Chicago; he was playing a Fabbrini Steinway. Amazing sounds and seemingly an improvement over the regular Steinway.

  2. I played Michelangeli's Steinway some years ago in Munich (with Signor Fabbrini himself looking on, over my shoulder). It was indeed a fabulous instrument, with an exceedingly even tone over the full range yet with a wide range of possible colors and an amazingly sensitive action. A far cry from the so-called "Horowitz" piano Steinway has been sending around on circus tours over the years and which probably bears very little resemblance to the piano actually played by Horowitz.

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