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10th of December

Return to Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Andrew Manze


Francesco  returns to the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin on 11 January 2016 to perform Liszt’s Piano Concerto No.2 under the baton of Andrew Manze at the Berliner Philharmonie.

Later in month, Francesco begins his series of Mozart piano sonatas and solo keyboard works at the Wigmore Hall on 25 January.

29th of October

Gewandhausorchester Leipzig debut


Francesco makes his debut with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in two concerts conducted by Sir Roger Norrington on 5 and 6 November 2015. Together they perform Dvorák’s Piano Concerto in G minor, Op.33, which Francesco recorded for Naïve in 2013:

“Listening to Piemontesi…makes you wonder if it isn’t time the Dvorak gained a place in the regular concerto repertoire.”
Gramophone Magazine

Francesco and Norrington have worked together many times before, including with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra in January 2015, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo in October 2014, and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin in December 2013.

The programme in Leipzig is completed with Elgar’s Elegy and Symphony No.1.

See the Gewandhaus Orchester website for more information and tickets.

30th of September

Debussy: Préludes


Francesco’s new recording, featuring Debussy’s complete Préludes, has been released on Naïve, his third recording on the French label.

Though widely renowned for his interpretations of Mozart works, Francesco’s pianism and sensibility has close affinity with the Préludes, which he has included regularly and to great acclaim in recital programmes. Talking about the music, he commented: “[Debussy]’s works challenge the performer in myriad ways: they are technically demanding, but in addition to virtuosic pianism, Debussy requires an equally virtuosic handling of colours, shading and character. In 20th century music, this is not always a matter of course.”

In the press, Francesco’s performances of the Préludes have often been mentioned as the evening’s highlights: “his playing took the breath away. He combined the black and white notes of Brouillards to create soft grey tonalities, and went on to dazzle us with a wonderful range of effects in which a flawless technique was put to the service of some very original interpretations” (Michael Church, Independent), while another review wrote “Francesco Piemontesi, at 30 a fully fledged master, played four Debussy Préludes in a manner to rival Pollini’s” (International Piano)

Francesco’s recording is based on a new edition of the Préludes by Durand-Salabert-Eschig, co-directed by renowned French piano music scholar Roy Howat, who also wrote the liner notes for the CD. The recording is dedicated to Francesco’s teacher and mentor, pianist Cécile Ousset, who first introduced him to the music and advised during the recording process.

The recording will be released on the 9 October in France, Benelux, Switzerland, Spain and Italy, and digitally worldwide; it will be available from 23 October in Germany and Austria, 30 October in the UK, and 13 November in the United States. Purchase the recording here.

V5415 K Debussy Piemontesi

30th of September

Recitals in Berlin and Zurich


This October, Francesco appears in the main recital halls in Berlin and Zurich, presenting a new and wide-ranging programme which pairs composers of the ‘Wiener Klassik’ era, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, with the contemporary sounds of Karlheinz Stockhausen.

In Berlin, on the 11 October he makes his debut at the Berliner Philharmoniker recital series at the Kammermusiksaal: the programme features Haydn’s Variationes in F minor Hob. XVII:6, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata op.109 and 110, and Mozart’s Fantasy in D minor KV397, which he recorded for his Piano Works disc on Naïve, juxtaposed to Stockhausen’s Klavierstück IX and V.

The same programme is performed at the Tonhalle in Zurich on the 15 October, where Francesco returns after performing there earlier this year with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington.

7th of August

“A magical performance”: Francesco Piemontesi’s BBC Proms 2015 performance reviewed


Thank you to everyone who came to Francesco’s concert at the BBC Proms on 2 August 2015 with the Aurora Orchestra. It is available to listen to online on BBC iPlayer until the end of August. Click here to listen.

Francesco’s performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.26 ‘Coronation’ has been met with wonderful reviews; read what the critics said below:

“The high point of this Prom was Francesco Piemontesi’s perfectly-judged performance as soloist in Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ piano concerto, with a celeste briefly roped in for a cadenza.”
Independent

“The highlight [was] Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.26 (not played at the Proms since 1974). Francesco Piemontesi’s probing performance — gloriously accompanied — somehow suggested that while he was playing a serious piece by Mozart he was listening to a much sillier one. This combination of the sweetly childlike and the intellectually questing reached its height in a first-movement cadenza (written by Christian Zacharias) that saw Collon partnering Piemontesi on tinkling celeste. This was pure Magic Flute, and echoes of Mozart’s operatic swansong cast an autumnal glow over the rest of a magical performance.”
Times 

“Memorable, too, was Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi’s clean and authoritative account of Mozart’s Coronation Concerto, which included a perfectly poised slow movement and an intriguing first-movement cadenza by Christian Zacharias, in which Collon moved over to a celesta to filter in one or two magical, music-box-like phrases.”

Guardian 

“Most memorable of all was the Mozart, the so-called ‘Coronation’ Concerto, for which it seems Mozart didn’t write all of the left-hand part. There is an established left-hand part dating from the work’s first publication three years after Mozart’s death, but Francesco Piemontesi supplied his own left-hand writing where needed. And totally in keeping it was too. Piemontesi has a clear, focussed and unfussy manor at the keyboard, to which the Aurora Orchestra responded in kind.

Most intriguing was the first-movement cadenza (both that and for the finale were credited to Christian Zacharias). I’d noticed a celesta stage-left. Bizarre, I thought. But then, as Piemontesi started the cadenza, Collon walked over to the unexpected instrument and, for a few seconds, did a duet with the piano. It should be a music box, but that was thought an insufficient presence in the Royal Albert Hall.

After his lovely performance, Piemontesi gave us a Mendelssohn encore: ‘Duetto’ (Opus 38/6 in A flat) from Songs without Words – just as charming and unfussy as he’d been in the Concerto.”
Classical Source 

“Here, the lauded young Mozart interpreter Francesco Piemontesi gave us his own completion of the piano part. In true Mozartian fashion, his marvellous playing seemed to swim in and out of the foreground, while conductor Nicholas Collon achieved a refined play of dynamics from the orchestra”
Daily Telegraph 

27th of July

Francesco Piemontesi plays Mozart at the BBC Proms 2015 with Aurora Orchestra


Francesco Piemontesi plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.26 K.537 ‘Coronation’ with the Aurora Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon, at the BBC Proms on Sunday 2 August.

The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, and will be filmed and made available online on the BBC Proms website.

‘I’m someone who loves to analyse a piece,’ says Francesco Piemontesi. ‘But with Mozart, once you’ve done that, there is still something you cannot explain.’

The Swiss pianist, who performs the ‘Coronation’ Piano Concerto at the Proms this year, has made a name for himself as an interpreter of Mozart. And this concerto is one of his favourites: ‘There is a simplicity that composers seem to get in their last works. This concerto may be less elaborate than the middle-period concertos but under the smooth surface you find so many different aspects.

Something else that’s particular to this concerto is that large sections of the left hand part are missing. So Piemontesi has written his own. ‘I wasn’t very happy with the part given its existing condition – it’s not completely what I would have expected. So I studied the way Mozart had written the left hand in other concertos and made my own version. It was a lot of work, but to be able to compose this was wonderful.’

The conductor is Nicholas Collon, one of Piemontesi’s favourite musicians to work with, and also a great friend. ‘There are some musicians whose breathing is exactly the same as yours,’ says Piemontesi: ‘you don’t have to look for every upbeat, you’re both receptive to the other person. We know we can trust each other.’

© BBC Proms

The programme on 2 August 2015, which the orchestra performs completely from memory, also includes contemporary music with Brett Dean’s ‘Pastoral Symphony’ and Anna Meredith’s ‘Smatter Hauler’, and Beethoven’s Symphony No.6 ‘Pastorale’.

Piemontesi’s appearance at the BBC Proms in 2014, with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Thomas Søndergård, gathered unanimous praise for his interpretations of Strauss’s Burleske and Mozart’s Rondò in A minor K.386:

“Hands firmly positioned over the keys, the touch of this Swiss-Italian pianist remained deliciously light through all the work’s technical difficulties. Brilliant cascades shot out to dazzle us. He even generated appreciative chuckles as he jumped down to the lowest register in a chain of abrupt, knotty chords as the work’s whimsical end approached. The jewellery became more polished still after the interval in Mozart’s A minor Rondo, K.386, despatched with just the elegant ease and clarity this composer needs” Arts Desk

5th of May

Royal Festival Hall debut with Philharmonia Orchestra


Francesco returns to the UK this month for four concerts with Jérémie Rhorer and the Philharmonia, beginning on 12 May 2015, and making his Royal Festival Hall debut on 14 May. Piemontesi plays Schumann Piano Concerto in a varied series of programmes that also features Dukas Overture to Polyeucte, Schubert Overture in the Italian Style and Mendelssohn Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Overture The Hebrides and Symphony No.4. The concerts will take place at De Montfort Hall, Leicester (12 May), Bedford Corn Exchange (13 May), the Royal Festival Hall (14 May) and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival at St Andrews Hall, Norwich (15 May).

The Cube Electrolux 02

Prior to this, Piemontesi travels to Stockholm for two concerts on 8 and 9 May with the Swedish Radio Symphony and David Afkahm. Piemontesi will perform Bartok Piano Concerto No.3, and the first concert will be broadcast live on Swedish Radio.

13th of April

Britten, Prokofiev, Shostakovich: The Cello Sonatas


Francesco and Daniel Muller-Schott release a collection of cello sonatas including pieces by Britten, Porkofiev and Shostakovich. The new album offers three works that sum up several chapters of 20th c. Soviet history that go far beyond just the music. Sergei Prokofiev displays a masterful serenity in his songlike Sonata in C, op. 119, composed in 1949. It makes evident his adjustment to the cultural politics of the Soviet Union to which this world-famous composer had returned. Dmitri Shostakovichs Sonata in d minor, op. 40 is no less marked by the communist regime. The piece was on the program of a concert tour given by the composer and his cello partner Viktor Kubatsky in 1936 when Shostakovich was put on the Stalinist index of undesirables. Finally, Benjamin Brittens Sonata in C, op. 65 marked the beginning of a productive, creative friendship with Rostropovich that was established, despite the Cold War, in Aldeburgh in 1961, where it was debuted by the composer and Rostropovich.
You can pre order the cd here.

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30th of March

Live video stream Frankfurt


Francesco has been in Frankfurt for the last week working with the hr-Sinfonieorchester in the prestegeous Alte Oper. They perfromed Amadeus Mozart’s 25th piano concerto in Cmaj, conducted by Manfred Honeck. The concert was streamed live and broadcast on German radio. You can watch Francesco’s perfromance here. For more videos see Francesco’s media page.

5th of February

Is Dvořák’s piano concerto a masterpiece? by Francesco Piemontesi


Is the Piano Concerto Op.33 by Antonin Dvořák a masterpiece? Surprisingly I have been asked this quite a lot lately. Until then I never saw a reason to consider this question, and my answer would have been clear. The recording of this piece by András Schiff and Vienna Philharmonic was actually the first compact disc I proudly owned. I must say the concerto made quite an impact on me, probably because of its rhythmic energy, and its range of imagination.

Even though the Dvořák Concerto has been with me ever since, I only learned it much later. It was not until the Radio-Symphonieorchester Berlin and Marek Janowski offered me a performance that I started working seriously on the music. Shortly after, plans to record it for Naïve Classics with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek concretized.

Personally, studying the historical context of a particular work has always been as important as practising the piece itself. Soon I found out that shortly after the first performance in London, in October 1883, the concerto started collecting negative reviews. Critics were primarily dismissing it because the solo part didn’t produce the desired virtuosic effect.

A quick overview of the most beloved Piano Concertos in late 19th century will show how much Dvořák’s instrumental writing differs from what listeners were used to in this period. Popular concerti by composers such as Moscheles, Alkan and Litolff were written in a more flamboyant and bright style. A Solo Concerto was expected to give the soloist the opportunity to display his technical skills.

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Dvořák’s Op.33 was written in 1876, at a time when he was changing his compositional style: he abandoned his focus on the music of Wagner and Liszt and turned his attention to classically-influenced models, form and construction. In addition to this renewed attention, the folk element became more important among his sources of inspiration. The mix of folkloristic energy and classical composition technique is clearly represented in this concerto.

While the outer movements are conceived as enlarged Sonata form (I) and Rondo (III), the second movement appears as more a fantasy-like form, with both recitative and song-like elements. Especially in this movement, the relationship to Beethoven’s fourth Concerto is evident. If you take a closer look, the use of classical Sonata and Rondo form in first and last movements is more complex than it might seem. The symmetrical construction at a local (counting bars in every section will reveal much of his love for symmetry) but also a global level shows precious interconnections.

The piano part of this first version turned out to be far too easy: in 1876, Dvořák, already experienced in composing symphonic music, had not written any work for piano solo. The result couldn’t compete with the pianistic standard of that time. Under pressure from his publisher, he revised the piano part fundamentally for the second version, which was printed in 1883.

Dvořák’s piano writing now became really demanding, but not efficient. It is clear that the composer concentrated on the mere musical aspects without taking into account the ergonomics of the hands. In my opinion this shows that Dvořák cannot have been a consummate pianist himself. For instance, when I performed it for the first time I had the feeling that the audience hardly noticed I was breaking my fingers for 40 minutes.

But this is certainly not the only impression while performing this piece. The originality of Dvořák’s imagination is tremendous. In spite of the formal strictness, he grabs us with his richness of fantasy. Very few octaves and chords make it difficult for the piano to compete with the large symphony orchestra in terms of volume; in return the piano part offers a unique refinement and variety of colours. While performing it, I feel both like a soloist but also as a chamber-music partner of the orchestra.

640px-Dvorak_1868Due to the presented difficulties, famous Czech pianist Vilém Kurz rearranged the solo part, giving it a lot of brilliance and sound. By doing so, however, he used many elements of the pianism of Liszt and altered Dvořák’s writing. Kurz’s version eliminates the characteristic two-and-a-half to three octaves leap between the hands and the use of the higher register, which gives a particular bell-like soundscape to this concerto.

But the gained brilliance comes at the expense of Dvořák’s peculiar use of colour. Moreover, Kurz “corrected” some harmonies and voice-leadings which for me is unforgivable. It is therefore not surprising that I chose to record Dvořák’s original version.

There is no greater pleasure for me than studying the handwriting of the composers I play. This gives an intimate insight not only into the structure of a piece, but also into the creative process, and even the struggles and troubles. In the case of Op.33, Henle-Verlag published a magnificent facsimile of Dvořák ‘s manuscript. Looking at it, a lot of corrections, modifications and dismissed sections attest to the many obstacles on the way to completion.

On the other hand, numerous sections show us a filigree handwriting, which must have been written in one go and without any apparent effort. This concerto is certainly not one of the most accessible works of Dvořák, but a closer look reveals how the formal structure is only there to support musical imagination, and that’s what marks it as a masterpiece. I consider it to be among the most important works of this genre, maybe even because of its unevenness and nonconformity.

This article was written by Francesco Piemontesi for the release of Schumann / Dvořák: Piano Concertos (2013, Naïve Records)

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