“a Mozartian to cherish”: Mozart Piano Concertos No. 25 & No. 26 (Linn Records)
Crystalline clarity, radiant tone and eloquent phrasing…In the fine and intriguing cadenzas…he shines with surety of purpose.
BBC Music Magazine, September 2017
[Piemontesi] has become a Mozartian to cherish. It’s hard to fault his sense of line, structure and deft approach to detail in these two concertos from Mozart’s Vienna period … Piemontesi’s polished playing is alert with exactly the kind of spontaneity essential to great Mozart performance.
The Observer, August 2017
This is a young pianist (b1983) who has already amply displayed his Mozartian credentials… Here again, his sympathy with the style and ethos of the Salzburger’s music simply sings from the speakers.
There is intimacy rather than inwardness to these chamber-scale performances… The militaristic opening movement of K503 can become something of a bangfest but the Swiss pianist instinctively draws back before overpowering the music, adding cheeky touches of ornamentation here and there as if it were all too easy for him.
Gramophone, August 2017
I think the result is top class.
Classic FM Album of the Week, August 2017
“Playful, assertive, intelligent music-making”
It was playful, assertive, intelligent music making, with bone-china clarity from Piemontesi.
The Times, February 2017
[Piemontesi] gave a wonderfully winning performance of Mozart’s final piano concerto, faithful to the work’s dewdrop lucidity and gentle nostalgia, but irradiated with joie de vivre too, in the way he garlanded Mozart’s notes with stylish and witty flourishes of his own.
Daily Telegraph, February 2017
Francesco Piemontesi was the soloist, his neat, relaxed fingers drawing a warm, pearly tone… his decoration flowing ripplingly, his added ornaments perfectly fitting, his nuanced phrasing as natural as singing. He conjured a whole range of moods from these deceptively simple textures, and his collaboration with Mirga’s orchestra was as empathetic as in chamber-music.
Birmingham Post, February 2017
“Rarely has the Bowl’s Steinway sounded so elegant”
…an unaffected, alternately sparkling and passionately inward rendition of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi in his L.A. Phil debut… Piemontesi showed an unpredictable temperament all his own.
LA Times, August 2016
Piemontesi offered a performance as soloist in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 that made even someone who has heard this piece dozens of times in performance sit up and take notice… Rarely has the Bowl’s Steinway sounded so elegant.
Class Act, August 2016
“Piemontesi’s Mozart recital was contrastingly monolithic”
Three early sonatas in the first half, and the remarkable Fantasia and Sonata in C minor given without a break in the second. By dint of an immaculate weighting of tone and fastidious articulation in every sense, he not only made these works sound plausible on a big Steinway, but uncommonly plausible altogether (they are easily patronised), and made me feel I didn’t want to hear them in any other way. The rapturous precision of his playing was at a pitch of intensity in the F minor Siciliano centrepiece of the Sonata in F, K280, but all the slow movements of the sequence stood out.
Sunday Times, July 2016
K475 is large-scale and diverse: deeply serious, searching, consolatory, drawing-room charming and with an overspill of emotion. Piemontesi had the music’s measure and heightened its contrasts…The aria-like Adagio was suitably vocal in shaping, and given with increasing passion, while the elusive and angular Finale found Piemontesi uncompromising in revealing the music’s troubles.
Classical Source, July 2016
“There is some Brendel, but equally some Gould in this clarity”
I can’t remember when I last heard Mozart with such a deft touch, such a sense of legato, such subtle phrasing. In Piemontesi’s performance, there is some Brendel (other people have said it too), but equally some Gould in this clarity, this exactness, which avoids all mannerisms whilst never neglecting the role of sensuality in the work.
Bachtrack, May 2016
“Elegant and Sassy”
Francesco Piemontesi was elegant and sassy, virtuosity a means to a musical end… The still-centre of the first movement was especially rapt… and Piemontesi’s trills were especially delectable. His long solo to open the Mozart-meets-Fauré Adagio was particularly lovely…while the Finale… also managed to be playful.
Classical Source, April 2016
“One to Watch”
Piemontesi is one of those pianists who bring something original to everything they play. To witness his give-and-take with an orchestra in a Mozart concerto is a joy.
Sunday Times, April 2016
“Every note was unblemished”
The opening sequence of solo piano chords built ever so gently to set the tone. Every note was unblemished and placed carefully and purposefully. As the work played out, it was clear that we were listening to one of the great pianists of this generation.
Ontario Arts Review, April 2016
Toronto Symphony Orchestra / Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4
“a masterclass in the Classical style”
The start of the A-minor Rondo…gave an idea of Piemontesi’s ability to charge the smallest inflection with meaning, and his perception of the elaborations as both integral and insubstantial arose from playing of the greatest sophistication… To witness the economy of Piemontesi’s technique as well as his precise pedalling was a masterclass in the Classical style, although there was plenty of panache to be heard in a rousing ‘Rondo alla turca’ Finale.
Classical Source, January 2016
This programme, intelligently constructed, and equally intelligently performed, satisfied from beginning to end. D minor led to D major, Don Giovanni-like in the first half, and A minor led to its tonic major in the second. The D minor Fantasia makes for a splendid opening piece.
Seen and Heard International, January 2016
Wigmore Hall / Mozart Cycle
Debussy Preludes Album
[Piemontesi] has the deftness of touch to create the necessary colours for Feux d’artifices or the half-shadings of Brouillards. In a crowded field with many classic performances, Piemontesi brings a new perspective.
5*, BBC Music Magazine, June 2016
[Piemontesi] is as robust as his mentor in capturing the jazzy rhythms of Minstrels, the cakewalky swagger of General Lavine and the homages to Stravinsky in Brouillards and Les Tierces alternées, but his delicacy is spellbinding… his Cathédrale engloutie rises from the sea with majestic grandeur and mystery.
Sunday Times, November 2016
Francesco Piemontesi is a seriously classy presence on the international scene.
Primephonic, May 2016
“A Magical Performance”
The highlight [was] Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.26… [The] combination of the sweetly childlike and the intellectually questing reached its height in a first-movement cadenza… 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.
The Independent, August 2015
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.
The Times, August 2015
Aurora Orchestra at BBC Proms / Mozart Piano Concerto No.26 K.537
“Poetic responses, generously expressed”
In Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Francesco Piemontesi made a poised first entry and went on to entrance with many poetic responses, generously expressed, a first among equals with the Philharmonia.
Classic Source, May 2015
Philharmonia / Schumann
“Meticulous technical assurance and nearly philosophical introspection”
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.
Artist of the Month, Musical America, January 2015
“Every once in a while, given the right acoustic conditions in ideal concert halls, an apparent vacuum of sound is created from the collective holding of breath by an expectant audience… It was precisely this kind of silence that greeted the opening chords of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, brought into existence by pianist, Francesco Piemontesi, [who] went on to deliver one of the most assured performances of the piece I can recall hearing. Piemontesi’s conception was mobile, almost daringly so, and unfussy. Yet, he rendered this concerto’s uniquely rhapsodic elements with a deeply-felt intensity and, at times, an ecstatic quality… In the substantial first movement cadenza, the pianist once again commanded an awestruck silence, astonishing in his maintainance of clarity and accuracy even at daredevil tempi.
[In the second movement] the CBSO strings were muscular in their declamatory statements and Piemontesi’s pianism appropriately tender and semplice. Brief interlude it may be, but this movement is where the emotional heart of the concerto lies. Perhaps the most anguished moment is the pianist’s sustained trill just before stunned, soft strings rejoin just before the movement’s close. It was clear here, as elsewhere, that Piemonesi really feels this music in his soul; those spread minor chords have rarely sounded so dark.
There was yet more urgency in the third movement rondo… Soloist and orchestra worked hand in glove by generating real energy in the development, generally storming through the movement and yet bringing out Beethoven’s periodic oases of calm. A tremendous artistic success, then, enthusiastically received and with no encore to divert attention from what had come before.”
5*, Bachtrack, November 2014
CBSO with Lahav Shani / Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4
“Sparkled with dashing insouciance”
“What the Burleske does have to offer is a virtuoso piano part, and Francesco Piemontesi sparkled with dashing insouciance, only to contrast that with playing of lyrical beauty in Mozart’s Rondo in A major, K386, after the interval.”
Financial Times, August 2014
“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 chors 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. Piemontesi’s exquisitely poised encore, a limpid sliver of a Mozart sonata, proved the ideal icing on the cake.”
Arts Desk, August 2014
BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Thomas Søndergård at BBC Proms / Strauss, Mozart
A stellar Mozartean
“A stellar Mozartean, an artistic temperament both soulful and playful, whose sound Sunday was crystalline and yet not weightless or too ethereally pretty. His was Mozart of shape and substance”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 2014
Cleveland Orchestra / Mozart Piano Concerto No.27 K.595
“He took his listeners to a wonderland”
“When the young Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi played the late Mozart Sonata in F Major in a full Kleine Saal of the Konzerthaus, he took his listener to a wonderland where everything sounds new and unheard, without this appearing somehow forced or calculated. Piemontesi takes the listener with him on his own discovery journey through this music.”
Berliner Zeitung, May 2014
Berlin Konzerthaus / Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Schubert
“Excoriating, electrifying performance”
“His excoriating, electrifying performance of Schubert’s C minor Sonata… I loved the care and discretion Piemontesi lavished on the pedalling, so that you were never at the mercy of mere blasts of sound, but most memorable was the surge of possession that brought the finale to melting-point hysteria. This was drama and tragedy… and all from a coolly undemonstrative performer. There was a different but no less potent spirit of possession at work in his encore, a dazzlingly virtuosic and extrovert performance of [Debussy’s] Feux d’artifice…”
29. 05. 2014, Peter Reed, Classical Source
Wigmore Hall London / Mozart, Beethoven, Ligeti, Debussy, Schubert
“A fully fledged master”
“Francesco Piemontesi, at 30 a fully fledged master, played four Debussy Preludes in a manner to rival Pollini’s, while his account of Schubert’s D960 Sonata was both ravishing and original.”
05. 2014, Michael Church, International Piano
Wigmore Hall London / Debussy, Schubert
“A master of the piano concerto”
“‘Delightfully unpretentious’ is the appropriate attribute for Francesco Piemontesi’s interpretation of the Piano Concerto by Robert Schumann. He never wishes to overpower the listener, no excessive tempos, no superficial bravado. Piemontesi impresses instead with a musical serenity, which one would not necessarily expect from a just 30-year-old pianist. Clearly the person sitting at the piano feels no pressure to constantly prove his virtuoso skills. This mature attitude may be due to his close cooperation with piano greats such as Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia, Mitsuko Uchida, and in this way he has developed earlier than many of his peers.
Alongside the live recording of the Schumann Piano Concerto, this CD also includes a studio production of a little-heard musical jewel Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G minor, published in 1883. One cannot imagine a better advertisement for this piece than Piemontesi’s splended recording, despite the otherwise excellent BBC Symphony Orchestra displaying occasional insecurities. This piece should be heard in the concert hall more frequently.”
22. 9. 2013, Jochen Hubmacher, Deutschlandfunk-Radio
“Great music, atmospheric setting”
“Lauenen is located in beautiful mountain scenery, and tonight there is picture-postcard weather. People are moving towards the church, which gradually fills up to the last place: a simple stone building from the 16th Century, with a paneled bell tower and wooden ceiling bars. Tonight this church hosts the Menuhin Festival Gstaad, where the Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi gives a piano recital..
To suit the space, a slightly shortened Steinway concert grand with a brilliant treble was provided. Not necessarily a Mozart instrument, but as a musician of the young generation Francesco Piemontesi has the flexibility to adapt stylistically. His touch was bouncy and light in Mozart’s Rondo in A minor, K. 511, and he left a sensual experience of the composer experimenting and seeking a new piano sound. Similarly, in the Piano Sonata in F major, K. 533: This is a pianist who loves his Mozart, and who is able to articulate it.
In Chopin’s Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op 60 , he showed that he has a fiery temperament: a gondola ride through stormy waters. After the break, five selected pieces from Claude Debussy’s Préludes, where he took some time before he sank completely in the poetry of Debussy’s particular piano sound. While “Voiles”, and “Des pas sur la neige” sounded perhaps a little distant, in “La cathédrale engloutie” Piemontesi was in his element.
He built up the work with great use of dynamics. “Ondine” was wonderfully characterised, and “Feux d’artifice” became a brilliant climax. What a magician of sound Piemontesi is! The two “water”-pieces from Liszt’s “Années de pèlerinage”, “Au lac de Wallenstadt” and “Au bord d’une source” he played ravishingly. And with his final piece, the arabesque on Strauss’ “On the beautiful blue Danube”, Piemontesi presented himself on a level with the great virtuosos of the past. An exceptional talent of extraordinary range.”
2. 8. 2013, Alfred Zimmerlin, Neue Zürcher Zeitung
“Francesco Piemontesi brings together two oddities: Schumann’s Piano Concerto is a dreamlike dialogue between soloist and orchestra, while Dvorák’s rather dull work has slid into obscurity.
Piemontesi’s crisp articulation is matched in the characterful playing of the BBC SO’s clarinet, flute and oboe principals, the cadenza of the Schumann exquisite. Belohlávek’s balancing of orchestra and soloist is near-ideal, though the Dvorák remains a puzzle.”
22. 6. 2013, Anna Picard, The Independent, *****
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jiří Bělohlávek – Francesco Piemontesi plays Schumann
„From his first entry Francesco Piemontesi proved himself a poet at the piano and displayed a close rapport with Jiří Bělohlávek. Mixing virility and sensitivity to bewitching effect, Piemontesi seduced with his range of touch, dynamics and colours. His phrasing was unfailingly shapely, and he also dialogued (and listened) meaningfully with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, clarinettist Richard Hosford a particularly eloquent responder, while the strings’ variety of timbre and bowing-weight was a constant pleasure. The slow movement was given with beguiling simplicity, the cellos blooming and tender, and the finale was a quest without losing poise. Recorded for Naïve, to add to the already studio-documented Dvořák Piano Concerto, this meticulous yet spontaneous account, alive to Schumann’s introspections and emotional overspills, was absorbing, and its release on CD is keenly anticipated.“
1. 12. 2012, Colin Anderson, Classical Source
Francesco Piemontesi – Queen Elizabeth Hall
“At 29, the Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi is still at the beginning of his career, but his recitals and recordings attest an artistry which is world-class in its mature refinement. His training with the distinguished pianist Cecile Ousset is reflected in the way he moves his hands and arms with a relaxed awareness of their weight; Alfred Brendel has taught him, he says, ‘to love the detail of things’.
And it was very much in that spirit that he launched into Mozart’s early ‘Sonata in D major K 284’ at the QEH, using a light, springy touch to bring out the first movement’s orchestral variety of tone; the variations of the finale were vividly characterised.
Piemontesi has described his approach to Schubert’s sonatas as a form of cartography, and the early ‘Sonata in A minor D 537’ clearly benefited from that. He presented its first movement less as a formal structure than as a tapestry of moods, and gave the slow movement an improvisatory feel. After a finely-calibrated performance of Chopin’s ‘Barcarolle’ came Debussy’s ‘Preludes Book 2’, and there 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.”
9. 11. 2012, Michael Church, The Independent, *****
“Pianist Francesco Piemontesi placed musical intelligence ahead of his virtuoso technical skills”
“With some young pianists, native brilliance and joy in sheer digital dexterity sometimes runs ahead of musical intelligence. That’s never the case with Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi. At the age of 29 he’s already a superbly self-possessed artist. He has technique to burn, but the striking moments in this recital – and there were plenty of them – owed nothing to the “wow” factor.
That musical intelligence was already evident in the programme, which was cunningly shaped to create a sense of burgeoning amplitude. The sonatas by Mozart and Schubert that came before the interval were both seldom-played products of their composer’s youth, and though fascinating were not absolutely top-drawer works – a smart move, as it threw the focus onto Piemontesi’s artistry.
The first thing one noticed was how well matched Piemontesi’s small perfectly-formed sound was to the essentially classical frame of the music. And yet there was never any sense of deliberate “holding back”. The operatic quality in the slow movement of Mozart’s sonata was beautifully caught. You could almost hear sultry clarinets answering the curling, graceful phrases of the “voice”. In Schubert’s slow movement, Piemontesi gave the dry bass a touch of pedal, just enough to lend its martial outline a mysterious quality (Piemontesi is as much a poet of the pedals as he is of the keyboard).
After the interval came music by Chopin and Debussy, and a sudden blooming of the piano sound. Even so, Piemontesi’s performance of Chopin’s Barcarolle was restrained by many pianist’s standards, and probably too much so for some tastes. But I relished the unusual clarity of the inner parts, and the sense of release brought in the final pages, where Piemontesi seemed to finally let himself go.
Finally came the crowning glory of this recital, a complete performance of the 2nd book of Debussy’s piano Preludes. It’s often said of Debussy that he dissolved musical line into sheer colour, but as Piemontesi’s performance showed the truth is more complicated. The first piece Brouillards (Fog) is often rendered as pure mistiness, but Piemontesi gave us a sense of something solid glimpsed through the mist, which was much more interesting. Every one of the 12 pieces came up fresh, even the modest ones like Canope (Canopy) which nestled tenderly inside its opening and closing frame. Finally came Feux d’artifices (Fireworks), which whirred and crackled and finally erupted with a frenzied energy, in a way I’ve never heard equalled.”
8. 11. 2012, Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph,*****
“A combination of superlative technique and extraordinary taste”
“Right from the start of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C major K503 Piemontesi was wholly engrossed in the music, soundlessly imitating the orchestral exposition on the keyboard before starting his solo with a crystalline light touch, making every run sparkle while at the same time giving them structure – a combination of superlative technique and extraordinary taste. Everything was given fresh colouring and his performance featured playing of the softest and most personal manner. This allowed Piemontesi to also bring out the dark powers in the Andante, while he kept a tight rein in the Allegretto in order to highlight every nuance… Mehta and Piemontesi created a refreshingly lively Mozart.”
12. 11. 2011, Neue Züricher Zeitung
Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1
“The night belonged to the astonishing Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi for his dazzling and amazingly fleet performance of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Concerto, one of those rare performances that reveals the mastery and genius of a composition and asks why we hear the piece so infrequently. The playing of the slow movement, which threw a spotlight on the lower strings of the SCO, was breathtakingly tender and beautiful.
And then, having stopped hearts with his own pristine, exquisite playing in the slow movement of the concerto, Piemontesi went on to break them with an encore of a slow movement from one of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas: music so simple it could be played by a capable student; music so profound it could have been uttered by a philosopher.”
14. 1. 2013, Michael Tumelty, The Herald