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Prime Time Piano: Pianist Plano shines with Austin’s gem

As winter draws near and new COVID-19 regulations have put social gatherings to a halt, there is a way to witness an uplifting musical performance with Austin’s prize piano.

Roberto Plano pictured with the Fazioli F308 orchestra piano. Photo provided

KSMQ Public Television will be showing two broadcasts of Roberto Plano performing on the 10-foot Fazioli F308 orchestra piano in Knowlton Auditorium for music lovers to get a first taste of the world class piano’s capabilities. The 90-minute show, which was recorded in October, will air on KMSQ at 9:30 p.m. Sunday and at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 29. The show can also be viewed at KMSQ.org and on PBS.org.

The show was made possible due to a generous donation from Paul and Joanne Worlein. Kevin Lukes, president of the Austin Symphony Orchestra Board, said KMSQ captured Plano’s performance in all of its glory.

“They did a fabulous job of capturing the music. I listened to it on a pair of headphones and it’s breathtaking,” Lukes said. “If you listen to the program, one of the things that comes through is the support of music from the community. This is just a huge new manifestation of the whole thing.”

Plano, a professor who teaches at the University of Indiana, has played in Austin several times, with the first performance taking place in 2002. He is a 42-year old Italian pianist who won the 2001 Cleveland International Competition.

Matt Bloom produced the show for KMSQ and he did so by using six cameras and 10 microphones. Bloom wanted to showcase the ASO with the broadcast and he also wanted to give the community something to lift the spirits when concerts are not being held.

“Austin is lucky to have a talented organization like the (ASO),” Bloom said. “I think it’s different (from a concert), because you can see different vantage points. When you’re watching on TV, you get to see Roberto’s face, you get to see the size of the piano and you get to see his hands. It’s pretty incredible. There’s a lot of close up shots and there were times we’re I’m not even sure the camera was running fast enough to catch how fast his hands were moving.”

Jim Herrick, vice president of the ASO board, was highly impressed with the work that Bloom did, especially considering the audio was recorded separately from the video and then pieced together after the recordings.

“In my opinion, that was an incredible task and they did it beautifully,” Herrick said. “This community oriented television station did a really good job and they stepped up to the plate when asked.”

The Fazioli F308 orchestra piano is one of just eight of its kind in the United States. Lukes said that big size gives the piano a big sound that can’t be duplicated from smaller grand pianos.

“In pianos, size is one of the largest factors,” Lukes said. “As you make them smaller to make them less expensive, the tension on the strings is different and they don’t resonate nearly as well. The bigger pianos can be louder with the same tonal quality.”