Stefania, firstly I would like to Congratulate you on your quite brilliant and inspirational recent recording of Beethoven’s Dramatic Sonatas.
What is your profession and how long have you been practising it?
I am a concert pianist and I have been practising since my first concert at 6 years old.
How would you describe your nationality?
I am an Italian from Modena, so I carry the passion for the lovely homemade food and the warm welcoming of new friends. Also, my dad is Sicilian. So from there I inherited the pride in hard work and a passion for heroic feelings.
What does Heroism means for you?
Heroism means the strength to rise above everyday life in pursuing noble goals, artistic and non. It is the force to believe in your ideas or talents and to carry on with them in all circumstances.
How did you start out?
As a child, pretending to perform concerts was my favourite game, until my dad offered me my first piano lesson as a present for my 5th birthday. I have to say also that my father was a professional musician and he was my first piano teacher.
What were your major formative artistic influences?
My very first classical recording was a tape by Deutsche Grammophon, “Vladimir Horowitz-The last romantic” and it was love at first sight.
Also, when I passed my audition for admission to the Music Conservatoire of Modena at the age of 7, its director Isacco Rinaldi (student and only assistant of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli) commented I had a very unique sound. Later he explained to me that he was looking for that unique sound, so similar to the great Michelangeli’s one, for passing his artistic secrets and carrying on his “school”.
What are your major current artistic influences and objectives?
My current artistic influences are Martha Argerich, for the strength of a very independent artistic life and nonconformist approach to piano performance. And Evgeny Kissin for his unique ability to combine virtuosity with the poetry of the music .
My objectives are to bring to the public the beauty of originality, though always with true respect for the composer’s intentions. I believe in individuality and I pursue the beauty of differences in each human being, the composers, the performers and the audience.
How do you prepare for a recording such as the recently released Beethoven Sonatas? What were the major challenges? And how did you overcome them?
An album recording is always the result of years of study and research in the interpretation of the chosen repertoire. All my recordings comes from concert programmes I have been performing in different venues and times of my career, until I decided it was mature enough to be presented to a worldwide public that only a recording distribution can offer.
Because the musical inspiration has many shades and colours, the major challenge is to choose the one to be fixed for ever in the recording. It is the hardest thing ever, since each of these shades come from my deep feelings and are all equally true to themselves.
My personal way to overcome this is to reduce the recording session as much as possible to live recordings of concerts or to the most similar process of no more than a one-day recording session. In this way I can keep the unity of the recording programme with the unity of my physical form and mental inspiration of that same particular day and place.
Could you tell us what Beethoven means to you as an Composer?
Beethoven is for me the father of the Romantic Hero. Overcoming his deafness, he composed some of the most beautiful music ever. As a true Hero he had the force to rise above everyday life to pursue his extraordinary musical inspiration. He believed in his unique talent until he managed to win over the worst of the musical enemies: deafness.
Why have you agreed to be involved in Charmed Night? What interests you most about this project?
First of all I respect and admire Dumle Kogbara as theatre director and as founder of the Humanitas- Culture. The Charmed Night project was not only a very original and challenging project, but it was also for a very noble cause of fundraising to support a performance of an evening of Opera, Charmed Night at the Dartmouth Apprentice restaurant, which is owned by the charity Training for Life.
I have always been very involved with poetry: I’ve loved reading and writing it since a very young age. In poetry words are chosen for the sound and the rhythm they produce, therefore it is the literature form most similar to the musical composition.
Could you please give us some insight into the sound/emotional world of Chopin Scherzi and Nocturnes?…and how you see these connected to the Poetic choices of Charmed Night?
Scherzos and Nocturnes are two quite opposite music forms that Chopin took from the tradition to evolve in a remarkably distinguished new life. Both are characterised by a strong narrative that immediately came to my mind when I read the selection of poems for the Charmed Night project.
The First Scherzo has an incredible theatrical start and virtuoso appeal that will introduce the dialogue between music and poetry like the swinging of a Theatre Curtains suddenly opening the stage.
The Nocturnes are short but emotionally very diverse and intense as the poems that I related to them.
I finally chose the 2nd Scherzo as an allusion to the majestic theatre curtains of the first scherzo now closing this emotional voyage.
Please give us some insight into the most common difficulties encountered by an emerging star, such as yourself.
In the arts, success is based on human feelings of the artist, the critics and the public.
Because each of us is different not only from the others, but also from themselves at another age or place of their lives, the key to success is one of the most indefinable and unpredictable to catch.
In my experience, I discovered though, that critics and public recognise and respect the hard work, even if they don’t share eventually the same taste or artistic opinion. Therefore for me the first step towards success is the constant and honest work, without fearing that there are not enough hours in the day, or that there will be too many months or years before completing it.
What other current Projects are you working on?
I am currently working on a programme of Romantic Ballades for a recital in aid of the Child Brain Injury Trust that will take place at Hodge Jones & Allen on the 13th of October here in London. Also, I am preparing some Schumann Trios to be recorded and performed in Italy with two very talented brothers I know since our first day at the Conservatoire in Modena.
What future Projects do you have Planned or would like to pursue?
I am currently discussing the possibility to perform and record some of my favourite piano concertos, but everything depends on timing and places.
What would you like to ultimately achieve as a Pianist and Artist?
I have a very strong passion for the piano and classical music. I believe it is still a very contemporary way of expression, full of life and narrative meanings. My dream is to share this new point of view with the public less used to going to classical concerts.
Could you please tell us a bit about your love of teaching, your school, your approach and your record label?
My love for teaching comes from the same passion for sharing I was describing before as a concert pianist. Through my school, the London Piano Masters, I have been organising international masterclasses in London Paris and Madrid for exploring more in detail my artistic ideas with pianists of the future generations. Also, I believe musical talent has no age or limits, therefore I wanted my Academy to offer the same dedication to students of any age and level, from children to adults, from beginner to advanced professional level.
My record label, Master Chord Records was born by fate, after an initial project with a too busy partner left me alone in a brand new adventure. Finding myself as owner of this new classical label gave me the power to pursue the dream of creating a platform for new artists to be presented mostly, if not only, with live recording. This should offer the most honest and realistic view of the concert performance to an audience that is forgetting about it due to the sophisticated edited recordings they are used to listening to on Cd.
Stefania, as well as being a virtuoso, you have wide Cultural and Artistic interests. Could you please tell us a bit about these and how they support/nourish your core activity of Piano Playing?
In history all the figurative, musical or literary arts have proven to be deeply connected, together with the social, political and cultural period, contemporary or previous time when they were realised. Liszt for example was a deep lover of Italian writers Dante and Petrarca, therefore I wouldn’t be able to truly perform his Dante Sonata or Sonetti del Petrarca if I didn’t know the texts that inspired him. As well, I wouldn’t be able to understand those texts if I didn’t know about the historical period and literary style they were written in.
For a more general idea, I am deeply involved with any form of art as expression of the transcendence of the spirit over the human body. I am a strong admirer of the possibility of what our human spirit can achieve over any material everyday need: the charm I get from ecstatic contemplation of other artists or art forms is an incredibly energetic fuel to the drive to express my own art.
Stefania, a big thank You for taking time out from your hectic schedule.I’m very excited and inspired to be working with you on Charmed Night.