REC­OG­NIZ­ING AND OVERCOMING LIM­ITS

Luigi Bor­gato is one of the most im­por­tant piano mak­ers, but he is also a con­tem­po­rary in­ven­tor. It was he who built the long­est piano in the world, cre­ated in his work­shop, piece by piece.

All About Italy (USA) - - All About Italy - Elisa Rodi

Al­ways rais­ing the bar higher and higher, Luigi Bor­gato never gets bored. Or at least he tries to avoid rep­e­ti­tion - in life in gen­eral, but cer­tainly pro­fes­sion­ally. Ar­ti­san-tuner, from the prov­ince of Vi­cenza, in Sos­sano, his self-built shop is also the birth­place of the best pi­anos in the world. He can boast of two patents, the Bor­gato L 282 and the Dou­ble Bor­gato L 282 - P 398, and last Septem­ber he pre­sented the Bor­gato Grand Prix 333, the long­est piano in the world. To­gether with his wife Paola, he chose this chal­leng­ing life pro­ject, with the help of just a dash of mad­ness and pas­sion, vi­tal for such an enor­mous un­der­tak­ing. These two char­ac­ter­is­tics are wrapped in ev­ery word spo­ken by Luigi Bor­gato, and re­veal how dif­fi­cult, per­haps even ex­haust­ing, but ex­traor­di­nar­ily sat­is­fy­ing, cre­at­ing such a master­piece was. Bor­gato has a wish list tucked in his dream drawer, with fu­ture work to be done. He ex­plains it all in this in­ter­view.

You are the only ar­ti­san ca­pa­ble of build­ing a grand piano, piece by piece, by hand. Is it love or im­mea­sur­able folly?

I must ad­mit, one thing that al­lowed me to set off on this ad­ven­ture was per­haps the lack of knowl­edge about how many ob­sta­cles there truly were. And cer­tainly my age made a lot of dif­fer­ence: if a young, 23-year old man chooses to build a piano, there is ob­vi­ously a good dose of un­aware­ness, but also great de­ter­mi­na­tion. It is true that hind­sight is 20-20, but also pas­sion and cu­rios­ity: without those I would have never started.

What was your ed­u­ca­tion like? Who taught you the ropes of this pro­fes­sion? How did you choose this pro­fes­sion when you were 20-years old…some­thing that most peo­ple that age would never think of?

That is prob­a­bly the truth, and that is a pity: there aren’t many young peo­ple as­pir­ing to be piano mak­ers to­day, and prob­a­bly not many even know what it is and en­tails. Un­for­tu­nately, there isn’t one school in Italy that teaches the art of piano mak­ing – one has to be self-taught. That is how I did it. I went around to mas­ters and learned: and when, for the first time, I had to have the first cast-iron frame forged, I had to go to Ger­many, to a foundry in Weis­senburg, near Nurn­berg, to learn; then I went to a fac­tory in Stuttgart that pro­duces piano pieces, and took in all of their sug­ges­tions and ad­vice. I learned as I went, and I searched these places out on my own. Italy has a his­tory, but has never de­vel­oped its piano in­dus­try.

In his ca­pac­ity as mas­ter piano-maker, Luigi Bor­gato is in­vited by Ital­ian as well as for­eign in­sti­tu­tions to run cour­ses on piano con­struc­tion and tech­nol­ogy

And yet Ital­ian Bar­tolomeo Cristo­fori is said to be the in­ven­tor of the piano… How deep is this tra­di­tion and how can it be cul­ti­vated?

We have had ex­tra­or­di­nary tal­ents, not only Bar­tolomeo Cristo­fori, but also Domenico Del Mela made the first up­right piano in 1739, and the first to play it was Lodovico Gius­tini. Ad one of the first pi­anists and com­posers, Muzio Cle­menti, was their teacher. Italy has a long list of inventors, but what is miss­ing is con­sis­tency.

Have you ever con­sid­ered open­ing a school?

I def­i­nitely have and would love to. In fact, I have made pro­pos­als to sev­eral academies, but bu­reau­cracy is a bit im­ped­ing.

For now it is a dream that I hope will come true. We are work­ing on it. Its ar­ti­sans and knowhow dis­tin­guish Italy: a tal­ent that we need to sup­port.

How much de­mand is there for your work abroad? Who are the most ap­pre­cia­tive of this type of crafts­man­ship?

At the mo­ment we are start­ing to see great de­mand from China, a coun­try that is very sen­si­tive to in­no­va­tion, in gen­eral and in the mu­si­cal field. But also Europe - with Ger­many, Switzer­land and France per­haps be­ing the first to take note.

The “Dop­pio Bor­gato” L 282 – P 402 is made up of two su­per­im­posed con­cert-grand pi­anos, the up­per in­stru­ment be­ing the con­cert-grand Bor­gato model L 282.

Who makes up Bor­gato?

I build two pi­anos a year and there are three of us in my ar­ti­san work­shop: me, my wife and another crafts­man cre­ate ev­ery de­tail from the small­est bit to the paint­ing and var­nish­ing. It is an elab­o­rate process that takes about 1,600 hours, but never ex­tin­guishes our pas­sion.

How im­por­tant has your wife Paola been in help­ing you start, and con­tinue, this road?

Ab­so­lutely fun­da­men­tal. It all started af­ter we met and it is dif­fi­cult to think of us di­vided. Work­ing to­gether has been life af­firm­ing: lov­ing mu­sic, shar­ing the same pas­sion, fol­low­ing great pi­anists, see­ing our pi­anos on ma­jor stages: it is all so sat­is­fy­ing.

Your last cre­ation is the “Grand Prix 333”, the long­est grand piano ever made. Why did you de­cide to take on this chal­lenge?

I was born with this char­ac­ter­is­tic — the de­sire to reach be­yond, to go fur­ther. When I built my first piano, I did not want to make some­thing that al­ready ex­isted. In fact, I added one more in­ven­tion that is a half-key­board to the tre­ble that I patented in 1991. A few years later, in 2000, I patented the Dou­ble Bor­gato, two su­per­im­posed con­cert grand pi­anos, one of which is op­er­ated by a tra­di­tional key­board and the sec­ond one with 37 ped­als, sim­i­lar to that of the organ. Hav­ing fin­ished these two in­ven­tions, I wanted to push the lim­its fur­ther, the stan­dard string length, and de­cided to in­crease them by 50 cm. in­creas­ing the strings means in­creas­ing the sound­board, mov­ing all the pa­ram­e­ters. When the piano shares the stage with the or­ches­tra, in mu­si­cally vo­lu­mi­nous con­certs, one gets the feel­ing that the piano de­serves more: so then some years ago I asked my­self if we could go fur­ther to help sat­isfy this sense. It took me 10 years of work and to­day I can say that yes, we have greatly raised the bar. Maybe this is my na­ture: not to build some­thing that al­ready ex­ists, but to go in search for new, or at least im­prove on the ex­ist­ing. For about 120 years piano de­sign didn’t change a bit, it was an honor to make it bet­ter.

Cur­rently the piano isn’t for sell, but have you thought of a price…?

We will be­gin Grand Prix 333 pro­duc­tion at the be­gin­ning of 2018, and the start­ing price will prob­a­bly be about 330,000 euro.

Bor­gato’s first grand piano, model Bor­gato L 282, was pre­sented in Pe­saro in April 1991 for the Euro­pean Congress “Europi­ano” for piano mak­ers, tech­ni­cians and tuners.

You have met some of the great­est con­tem­po­rary pi­anists. If you could time travel, whom would you make a piano for?

I have known many im­por­tant pi­anists and keep good re­la­tions with them, but I would like to build a piano not for past, but for the youngest and most tal­ented pi­anist yet to be born. I told you, I’m not made for the past.

Luigi Bor­gato and his wife Paola Bianchi.

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