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Piano Man - Gérard Fauvin at Le Domaine Musciale de Pétignac

Piano Man - Gérard Fauvin at Le Domaine Musciale de Pétignac

You wouldn’t believe half of what happens in the southern Charente village of Pétignac, unless of course you happen to be a piano player, in which case a visit will feel like coming home.

The sign on the door says ‘Pianos Gérard Fauvin, Le Domaine Musicale de Pétignac’, followed by what amounts to: ‘visits by appointment only’. You can see why: step inside and you’re transported to another world, or at least a vision of how it might be if everyone were as passionate as M Fauvin obviously is about important things, not least people. As he puts it: “I don’t see clients - I meet people. Getting to know someone and understand their personality takes time and lots of patient listening, with no distractions... but only then can you help them find something which will bring them the kind of lasting pleasure which an investment as major as a piano should bring.”



However, Le Domaine is about much more than selling pianos, as Gérard (one of a select handful of concessionaires worldwide for Steinway & Sons) revealed to me. After four years studying musicology in Strasbourg he spent another four in Bamberg, being trained in the restoration of instruments for historic collections in Germany and Austria. “I learnt my trade completely in German...,” he recalls with obvious delight: “..then spent two more years in Paris learning the French terminology and acquiring business skills.” Finally, in 1986 he and his wife Fabienne (who had studied both fine and decorative arts in Mulhouse and Strasbourg) chanced upon a magnificent maison de maître for sale which had once been owned by a wealthy wine producer and Cognac merchant. They immediately fell in love with what would become not only their home but also a unique place of work.

Today, instead of casks there are countless pianos, from home friendly uprights to full concert instruments, awaiting new owners, while others undergo painstaking, highly skilled restoration in the Domaine’s atelier. “In our 29 years here we haven’t made a fortune, but I’m proud to have personally trained 37 apprentices, most of whom now have successful careers working on pianos, harpsichords, clavichords etc.,” says Gérard. “Other countries do renovation work, constructing what amounts to a new instrument inside an old shell, but here in France we still have the skills to restore historic instruments to their original condition.” There’s an important practical benefit, too: “Over the years we’ve seen some mediocre new pianos being produced and sold, when for the same price you could buy a fully restored instrument of real quality. We don’t know how a Stradivarius violin sounded when it was new, but with great instruments there is a sound quality which only comes from years of ageing.” That said, Le Domaine also offers new instruments, all prepared with the same attention to detail.

Piano rental is another important service. Some venues don’t actually possess instruments but instead look to Gérard to supply pianos for important recording or concert performances, for they know that, to use his analogy: “Just like a Ferrari or Maserati, concert instruments need constant care and attention to keep them at their best.” Giving his pianos just that is something he clearly loves. He can play them, too, but is modest about his abilities, preferring instead to support other musical talents. Le Domaine runs workshops, offers professional sound recording and hosts live performances, not least the annual Fête de la Musique et Silence – on a truly epic scale, attracting audiences of thousands. 

© Living Magazine - all rights reserved. Publihsed in Living Magazine December 14