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The Most Expensive Pianos
From handmade masterpieces to the indulgently adorned.
Antique or newly minted. In fine tune or short a few keys.
The staggering amounts paid are their common bond.
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Fazioli Brunei — $400,000
 
 

The Dutch Rondane Quartet Plays Four Fazioli Pianos.

Founded by Italian Paolo Fazioli (b. 1944) in the late 1970’s as the Fazioli Piano Factory. Fazioli studied mechanical engineering as well as piano, receiving degrees in 1969 and 1971 respectively. For a short time he worked in the family furniture business but ventured off on his own to follow his dream of designing his own distinctive pianos.

He spent some time researching and studying piano construction, combining both traditional and modern techniques. By 1981, after completing several prototypes, he incorporated his company while adhering to the philosophy of producing "grand and concert grand pianos exclusively aiming for the highest quality with no concern for large production."

Fazioli Promo: Inside a Dream.

It was not his aim:

to imitate any other existing pianos, but rather to create an original sound; to individually handcraft each piano using time-honored traditional methods combined with the latest technological advances; to strive constantly to improve product quality by using cutting-edge technology.from Fazioli's Company History

Duo Biondi-Brunialti: G. Gerswin, Rhapsody in Blue.

Fazioli currently produces 120 – 130 pianos a year.

 
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The Dying Swan, Or 'La Mort du Cygne' — $409,000
 
 

The Masterpiece at The Villa Majorelle.

Built c. 1903 under the direction of the French piano company Érard, this majestic carved mahogany grand piano with wood veneer inlays was conceived by the French furniture designer, Louis Majorelle (1859 – 1926), and French painter, sculptor, engraver, pedagogue, Victor Prouvé (1858 – 1943) (both men firmly embedded in the Art Nouveau movement).

 
 

Detail of Veneer Inlays

Sotheby’s in France auctioned off the grand in 2013 as part of the 130 Art Nouveau pieces from the Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum in Nagoya, Japan. This collection was originally gathered by Takeo Horiuchi, a real estate mogul with the assistance of Alastair Duncan, an arts specialist for the museum.

After the tsunami in 2011, Horiuchi sold his collection to an American who then contacted Sotheby’s for auction.

 
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The Casablanca Pianos — $602,500 & $3.4 Million
 
 

The Green Casablanca Piano, Or 'Tiny Piano.'

The first of two, affectionately known as The 'Tiny Piano,' as it has only 58 keys (a standard piano has 88), the green Casablanca piano was seen in the romantic flashback scene at the Parisian café, La Belle Aurore. It is here in which we see Sam playing the instrument while Rick (Humphrey 'Bogie' Bogart) toasts Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) with a glass of champagne, saying the indelible line, "Here's looking at you kid."

First auctioned by Sotheby's in 1988 for $155,000 to a Japanese buyer, it was auctioned once again in 2012--this time fetching a whopping $602,500 (though Sotheby's had anticipated it going for $1.2 million). Interesting to note that the actor, Dooley Wilson, who played Sam, was a drummer and didn't actually play the piano--he mimed it. The story goes that another piano off-screen was used to accompany his voice, and Dooley would look over at the pianist and mimic his hand movements.

The second prop from the famous film, a rusty-colored piano with a Moroccan pattern, known as The 'As Time Goes By' Piano, is assumed to be manufactured by Kohler & Campbell with a Richardson's of Los Angeles label printed inside.

 
 

The 'As Time Goes By' Piano.

Like the flashback piano, it too has only 58 keys. First, the piano plays an important role in hiding the 'transit papers' given to Rick from Ugarte, performed by Peter Lorre. Second, it was used in the pivotal scene in which Rick sees Ilsa for the first time since she ran out on him years earlier; and in which Ilsa requests Sam to not only play some of the old songs, but especially 'As Time Goes By.' Later we see Rick drinking alone and commands Sam to 'Play it!' (two words so many have erroneously remembered as 'Play it again, Sam.') It is at this time he has the Parisian flashback in which we see the aforementioned piano, and Rick states another oft quoted line: 'Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine!'

It was auctioned off in 2014 by Bonham's for 3.4 million, won by an unknown buyer.

 
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[ CLOSE ]
 
 
– Image: Kwibus.  "The Dutch Rondane Quartet Plays of Four Fazioli Pianos."  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 24 April 2014.  Web.  25 Sept. 2015.  Public Domain.
– Video: Fazioli Pianoforti.  "Fazioli Promo: Inside a Dream."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 5 Dec. 2012.  Web.  18 Feb. 2016.  Standard YouTube License.
– Video: Fazioli Pianoforti.  "Duo Biondi – Brunialti: G. Gershwin, Rhasody in Blue."  Online Video Clip.  YouTube.  YouTube, 28 May 2014.  Web. 185 Feb. 2016.  Standard YouTube License.
– Quote: "Fazioli History 1978 – 1981."  Fazioli.  Fazioli Pianofort s.p.a., n.d.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
 
– Image: Léna.  "Grand Piano, 'The Dying Swan, 1905.'"  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 4 Aug. 2011.  Web.  25 Sept. 2015.  CC BY 3.0.
– Image: Léna.  “Detail of ‘The Dying Swan, 1905.'"  Photograph.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2 Oct. 2011.  Web.  25 Sept. 2015.  CC BY 3.0.

Additional References:
  • Villarreal, Jose, ed.  "Sotheby’s Paris to Offer Art Noveau Masterpieces Formerly in the Garden Museum in Nagoya."  Art Daily.  Royalville Communications, Inc., 2013.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
  • "Louis Majorelle 1859 - 1926."  Louis-Majorelle.  Art Directory, n.d.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
 
 
 
 
 
 
– Image:  Under License, Getty Images ®.
– Image: Under License, Getty Images ®.

Additional References:  
  • "Lot 83W - The Piano from Casablanca on which Sam Plays 'As Time Goes By.'"  Bonhams.  Bonham’s, 2001 – 2016.  Web.  25 Feb. 2016.
  • Mochari, Iloan.  "Sell It Again, Sam: Why the Casablanca Piano Netted $3.4 Million at Auction."  Inc.  25 Nov. 2014.  Inc.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
  • Liljas, Per.  "The Piano That Was Used in Casablanca has been sold for $3.4 Million."  Time Magazine.  25 Nov. 2014.  Time.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.
  • Barron, James.  "'Casablanca' Piano is Sold for $602,500 at Auction."  The New York Times.  14 Dec. 2012.  NY Times.  Web.  10 Aug. 2015.

Additional References:
  • Masthead Image: Bielefeld, Bruno and uploaded by Lindadesign.  Advertisement Poster for C. Bechstein.  1920.  C. Bechstein Factory, Berlin, Germany.  Commons Wikimedia.  Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 29 April 2010.  Web.  18 Feb. 2016.  Public Domain.
  • Background Image: Under License, Getty Images ®.
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