Stefania Passamonte is an Italian-born pianist based in London. She received her Postgraduate Diploma in Piano from the Royal Academy of Music in London and undertook advance studies at Ecole Nornale de Musique de Paris. Passamonte’s teachers include Piero Rattalino, Ian Fountain, Christopher Elton and Jacques Lagarde, and her recordings include works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann and Liszt. She has performed recitals all over Europe, including such august venues as St. Martin In The Fields, Salle Gaveau, the Lysenk Theatre and Pomeriggi Musicali. Passamonte’s latest album, Beethoven’s Dramatic Sonatas, offers her interpretations of some of Beethoven’s most dynamic work for solo piano.
Passamonte opens with “Sonata Op.13 in C minor ‘Pathetique’”, which was written when Beethoven was but twenty-seven years old. Passamonte shows tremendous energy in the dichotomy of a dark and sometimes violent canvas painted over with a sprite brush in the first movement, “Grave – Allegro di molto e con brio.” Passamonte shows early on that she’s technically brilliant, but also highly capable of bringing the emotions underlying the music to life. The second movement, “Adagio Catabile” may be familiar to Billy Joel fans. Joel borrowed the main theme for the song “This Night.” Here, Passamonte presents the piece as the lyric interlude between the first and third movements, working magic in the juxtaposition of a beautifully lyric theme and the nervous passionato of the spaces in between. Passamonte picks up Beethoven’s sense of darkness on the third movement, “Rondo – Allegro,” in what becomes a somber meditation.
“Sonata Op. 57 in F-minor ‘Appassionata’” once again finds Beethoven struggling against darkness. Movement I, “Allegro Assasi” runs the full gamut of human emotion, from light and airy to dark, disturbed outbursts chronicled in Passamonte’s explosively percussive left hand and the nervous rambling of her right. Passamonte actually misses a single note just shy of the nine-minute mark here. This is notable as Beethoven’s Dramatic Sonatas was recorded in one day in a studio in London, and many of these pieces were likely done in one take. In spite of that, this is the only miscue noted in fifty-five minutes of music. As in “Pathetique,” Beethoven uses the second movement of “Appassionata,” “Andante Con Moto” as a sort of emotional resolution or resting point. The lyric nature of the theme here is peaceful, and Passamonte finds hints of beauty in its passive nature. “Allegro Ma Non Troppo,” on the other hand, returns the violent struggle of man against nature to the fore. Passamonte plays this struggle with powerfully emotive lines and an impresario air. The performance offered here is powerful, moving and technically refined.
“32 Variations in C Minor” again finds Beethoven (and by extension Passamonte) investing a lot of energy in the left hand with a stubborn theme that repeats itself while descending the scale. “32 Variations in C Minor” was wildly popular in the second half of the 19th century and has the dramatic flair of a silent film pianist. Explosive runs lead into dainty passages, displaying a full range of emotion and technique blended into a living, breathing performance that is nothing less than stunning.
There are many pianists in classical music who are better known than Stefania Passamonte, but it would be difficult to argue that there are those who are more dedicated to their craft. Passamonte displays a deep musical understanding of pieces she plays, the history behind them and the composers’ intent. It is this set of skills blended with a distinctive technical expertise that mark Passamonte as a talent who star has yet to see its Zenith. Beethoven’s Dramatic Sonatas is the sort of work that could put Stefania Passamonte on the classical “it” list to stay.