A musical biography in the first person...

I was born in Milan in 1966. I grew up surrounded by music thanks to my father, who is a great lover of the classical repertoire and whose collection of recordings accompanied me for many years. I began to study piano relatively late, at the age of 10, and it was only after 14 when I was able to find teachers capable of deeply marking my musical training. The more years that pass, the more I appreciate what some of them left me: the rhythmic strictness of Emilio Suvini’s singing classes, the foundations of harmony I received from Angelo Bellisario, and above all the bases of piano performance I was given by Emilia Crippa Stradella, whose warmth came together with a demand and a clearness of ideas which are an coveted treasure for any young pianist. Having qualified in piano in the “G. Verdi” Conservatory in Milan, and while I was studying composition, I began to receive classes from Franco Scala and Edoardo Strabbioli, whose technical advice I needed so much. I also attended Alexander Lonquich’s courses, whose lessons brought together a powerful imagination and a wisdom which amazed me and was capable of awakening in me the intuition I have developed in the following decades. Finally, the historical keyboards: my interest in the pianoforte, in the clavichord and the harpsichord grew in Emilia Fadini’s classes and was later strengthened in the courses I did with Ton Koopman and Rinaldo Alessandrini, and in my many years of personal and professional contact with Jordi Savall.

 

Between 1985 and 1995 I frequently played in public in recitals, as a soloist with orchestra and four hands with Viviana Amodeo, in Italy and many other countries. I did this with the support of the prizes I received from numerous national and international competitions and thanks to the energy I have always put into the most diverse initiatives. From these years dedicated to concert activity, I remember the two tours of Mexico in 1989 and 1990 with particular affection (two tours which were possible thanks to the efforts of Víctor Rasgado, a brilliant composer whose Seis gestos sobre las cuartas I was able to perform for the first time in the Sala Xochipilli in the Mexican capital) and the many concerts I gave in Spain after 1991, where I had established my residence. However, these years also supposed the discovery of a new passion, teaching. The unconditional confidence I was shown by Enrique Subiela, a great friend and then director of the “Duetto” School of Music in Valencia, allowed me to give shape to the Annual Performing Courses that I still give today with such enthusiasm, almost two decades later.

 

In Spain I got a doctorate in musicology from Barcelona Autonomous University and was able to see how research and teaching fascinated me much more than a life dedicated to concerts which was beginning to become very absorbing and, in a certain way, excluding. My final abandonment of my piano career coincided with the beginning of a project that was destined to influence my later activity like no other: in-depth research around the history of piano technique. The result was the writing of my Historia de la técnica pianística (History of piano technique), published by Alianza Editorial in 2001, a book I wrote thinking first of all of my pupils and my own desire to know more about how the way piano playing had evolved in time. The success of this book, with more than 10,000 copies sold to date, and the fact that it has become a textbook in so many conservatories in Spain and Latin America, surprises me still. What I can say is that what I write I write with passion, a passion for music and for what it represents. Music for me had always been very much an intellectual challenge, and musicology gave shape to my tendency to wonder what there was behind these sounds, to seeking the ways to think not only of he who composes, but also of he who performs and he who listens. Therefore the centre of my research activity is the theory and history of performance. In 2009, I finished my second large book (Beethoven al piano, Barcelona: Nortesur, 2010), a study of Beethoven's technical exercises which has taken eight years of work and reflects the attitude towards music that I have cultivated in the last decade. This is a dense book aimed at the professional audience although its content also caught the attention of the media in many countries, even before it was published, because in one of its chapters I cast serious doubt on the author behind the famous Für Elise. With Áurea Domínguez and Silvia Martínez, I am finishing up just in these months another publication - the first style manual in Spanish dedicated to writing texts on musical themes. In the coming years I hope to spend time on a text focused on the theory of musical performance, a volume in which I place great hope and which I imagine will cause more than one controversy.

 

For me teaching is very closely linked to research. I have given courses and master classes for over 15 years intended to give performers musicological knowledge. The focus I give on teaching piano in particular, with special importance on reflecting on the styles of composition and the performance praxis of different times; a spirit which impregnated the Annual Courses of Piano Performance in Valencia, which I have been directing since 1992 and in which I have had the privilege to train so many brilliant Spanish and Latin American pianists, many in cooperation with Pablo Gómez Ábalos. In recent years, these courses have been attended by great artists such as Dimitri Bashkirov, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Joaquín Achúcarro, Eric Heidsieck, Leslie Howard, Ton Koopman, Mischa Maisky, Josep Mª Colom, Frederic Rzewski, Uri Caine, Francesco Tristano, Andreas Staier and the long missed Lazar Berman and Alicia de Larrocha, as well as musicologists and historians of the like of Eero Tarasti, Piero Rattalino, Clive Brown, Barry Cooper and Kenneth Hamilton. In May 2002, Krystian Zimerman gave the concert that celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of these courses. The such favourable opinions which they have all, without exception, expressed on this initiative are a source of great satisfaction and a perfect guarantee for courses which represent an extraordinary musical and human experience for all of us involved.

 

In 2001, I started another great personal and professional adventure: teaching in the Higher School of Music of Catalonia (ESMUC), where I now teach as a member of the Musicology Department. In ESMUC I met Silvia Martínez, an extraordinary life companion, and an atmosphere providing inexhaustible stimuli with musicians and musicologists of all tendencies and pupils who are often surprising. My experience of the ESMUC encouraged me to found Musikeon in 2003, a musicological service and product company which, from now on, will deal with organising the Annual Courses of Piano Analysis and Performance of Valencia. Once more, the professional and the personal unite: I cannot conceive Musikeon without the contributions of the marvellous people who experience with me the excitement of everything that it represents: first of all Amparo Sales, and then Eva, Berta and many other names. Within the framework of Musikeons’s multiple activities, in addition to the Annual Performance Courses I personally direct, there is the Nortesur Musikeon book collection (www.editorialnortesur.com, along with Silvia Martinez), the "Música y Biomecánica" Project (www.musicaybiomecanica.com, alngo with Dr. Yerko Ivanovic and the Centro Médico de Rehabilitación Monte Alto, Madrid), and also the “Nuevas Miradas” Project, an initiative aimed at promoting experimental performance of classical music, inspired in the example of the musician I most appreciate amongst all of the living performers and composers: Frederic Rzewski.