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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)

12th of January

New Artist of the Month at Musical America


BERLIN – “I suppose I am by nature a curious person,” says Francesco Piemontesi. “I want to know.”

It’s a quality that the young pianist makes apparent on more than one front. In recital at the Konzerthaus Berlin last spring, he performed works by Debussy, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert with a combination of meticulous technical assurance and nearly philosophical introspection.

A mere glance at Piemontesi’s contribution to program notes reveals the depth in which he had explored… Read more

(c) Marco Borggreve

19th of December

A look back at 2014…


2014 has been a defining year for Francesco, with debuts with major orchestras all around the globe and a much-praised solo recording. Orchestral debuts include NHK Symphony with Roger Norrington, São Paulo Symphony with Andrew Manze, and Helsinki Philharmonic with Kazuki Yamada.

Over the summer, Francesco’s debut at the BBC Proms with Thomas Søndergård and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, where he performed Strauss’s Burleske and Mozart’s Rondò in A major, was praised in the British press: “Francesco Piemontesi sparkled with dashing insouciance, only to contrast that with playing of lyrical beauty in Mozart’s Rondo in A major, K386” (Financial Times). On the other side of the Atlantic, he performed Mozart Piano Concerto No.27 with the Cleveland Orchestra to an audience of thousands, as part of the Blossom Music Festival.

Francesco made much-awaited comebacks to orchestras such as the Hallé in Manchester, and he toured Switzerland and Italy with Royal Philharmonic and Charles Dutoit. In November, a performance of Beethoven Piano Concert No.4 with City of Birmingham Symphony and Lahav Shani was described, in a five-star review on Bachtrack, as “…one of the most assured performances of the piece I can recall hearing”.

In recital, Piemontesi returned to Rotterdam De Doelen, BOZAR at Royal Conservatoire Brussels and Wigmore Hall in London, and made his debut at Berlin and Vienna Konzerthaus.

Mozart Piano Works, released in April on Naïve Classique, has garnered widespread acclaim for its maturity and refinement, consolidating him as “a Mozartian force to be reckoned with” (Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine).

Piemontesi ends the year with a return to some of the ensembles with whom he enjoys a longstanding relationship. Together with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra he performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on 3 December, taking it afterwards to Glasgow Ayr and Perth. Two weeks later, he performed the same work with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Thomas Zehetmair at Sage Gateshead, as part of the hall’s 10 years celebrations.

Piemontesi also returned for a mini-tour with Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, playing at Geneva’s Victoria Hall on the 10 December, Salle Equilibre in Fribourg on the 11 December, and the Salle de Musique in La Chaux-de-Fonds on 12 December. He performed Dvorák’s Concerto for piano and orchestra in G minor, which he recorded for Naïve in 2012. The concert in Geneva has been broadcast live on radio RTS Espace 2, which you can listen to here.

FPI website 2014 round up with Halle
Francesco rehearsing with the Hallé in Manchester.

4th of December

“Wit and imagination”


Francesco’s performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the Hallé Orchestra was praised by the local press in Manchester this November. This was Francesco’s second collaboration with the orchestra after his captivating debut last season, returning to interpret some of Beethoven’s earlier work.

He’s superbly equipped technically, but, more importantly, has wit and imagination that he can bring to bear in the most familiar classical works. It’s a matter of doing the little things well – like making real contrasts in his playing to match those written into the orchestral music, and catching an atmosphere of mystery, as he did in his first movement cadenza.

Click here to read the full article.

18th of September

“A refined, probing, uncompromising intelligence”: the Spectator on Francesco


British magazine the Spectator published a feature on Francesco ahead of his Proms concert with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in August.

Focusing on Francesco’s recording of Schumann’s Piano Sonata No.3 in F minor (Claves 2009), writer Damian Thompson praises him as a pianist of “refined, probing, uncompromising intelligence”, comparing his approach to the architecture of a piece, for example, to that of Alfred Brendel.

Read an extract:

Can you tell how intelligent a musician is by listening to him play? Last year I discovered a recording of Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in F minor, a sprawling and spidery work that can fall apart even under the nimblest fingers. Not this time. Francesco Piemontesi, a young Swiss–Italian pianist, totally nails it.

Believe me, it takes some nailing. In the opening Allegro brillante and the final Prestissimo possibile, Schumann stretches lyrical melodies across madcap scales and arpeggios that dart in every direction. The rhythms are insistently dotted: Schumann at his most obsessive-compulsive. There are lots of crunching gear changes and scampering pianissimo passages that turn to mush if the pianist seeks safety in the sustaining pedal.

Click here to read the full article.

© 2017 Francesco Piemontesi. Designed by kroeger-photography.com