7 Songs, 54 Minutes

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JOHN WILLIAMS CLARINET CONCERTO

The Master

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli has been regarded as among the most commanding and individual piano virtuosos of the 20th century, among names such as Horowitz and Sviatoslav Richter. He is often considered the most important Italian pianist after Ferruccio Busoni. He was known for his note-perfect performances. The music critic Harold Schonberg wrote of him: "His fingers can no more hit a wrong note or smudge a passage than a bullet can be veered off course once it has been fired...The puzzling part about Michelangeli is that in many pieces of the romantic repertoire he seems unsure of himself emotionally, and his otherwise direct playing is then laden with expressive devices that disturb the musical flow." The teacher and commentator David Dubal adds that he was best in the earlier works of Beethoven and seemed insecure in Chopin, but that he was "demonic" in such works as the Bach-Busoni Chaconne and the Brahms Paganini Variations.
He also dedicated himself with great enthusiasm to his teaching activities. In 1939 he was made a professor at the Bologna Conservatory. His reputation quickly spread throughout the musical world led to his appointment later, to the Conservatories of Venice and Bolzano as well. From 1964 to 1969 he was director of his own piano academy in Brescia. In later years, he devoted most of his time to teaching. In addition, he gave master-classes in Arezzo, Sienna, Turin and Lugano. Among his pupils were Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini. A generous man, he funded each and every one of his students out of his own income, maintaining that music is an inalienable right for those who have the gift.

About Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Orchestre de Paris & Daniel Barenboim

One of the most enigmatic performers of the 20th century, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli was also one of the most compelling and, paradoxically, one of the least-heard pianists of his generation. Michelangeli was famous for having canceled nearly as many performances as he gave, and he committed little of his vast repertory to disc.

Michelangeli was born on January 5, 1920, in Orzinuovi, Italy. His father was a dedicated amateur musician who introduced young Benedetti to the art. After early studies on the violin, Michelangeli took up the piano, entering the Milan Conservatory at the age of ten.

In 1939 Michelangeli's concert career began in earnest after he claimed top honors at the International Piano Competition in Geneva. Of his triumphant performance at the competition, no less a luminary than the great Alfred Cortot exclaimed, "A new Liszt is born!" Service in the Italian Air Force during World War II interrupted Michelangeli's career; taking the stage again at war's end, however, he soon earned a place among the top performers of the day.

In 1960 Michelangeli performed Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto in Vatican City for the Pope. A triumphant 1964 appearance in Moscow reportedly had the audience in an uproar, and in 1965 Michelangeli became one of the first Western artists to concertize extensively in Asia.

In the 1970s and 1980s he made fewer and fewer concert appearances, owing both to consistent health troubles and his growing aversion to public display. During a performance in Bordeaux in October 1988 he suffered an aortic aneurysm onstage; nevertheless, he resumed performing the following season. He gave his last public performance in 1990 and died five years later died from the chronic medical problems that had plagued him since childhood.

Michelangeli regarded the life of a concert pianist as one of labor. His own schedule included upwards of ten hours of practice a day; he suggested to his pupils that they cease practicing only when the pain in the fingers and shoulders became too great for them to continue. Michelangeli took his role as a mentor very seriously; he held various teaching positions in Italy and throughout Europe, and included Martha Argerich and Maurizio Pollini among his pupils.

To many Michelangeli's playing was the ideal blend of technique and uncanny musical depth. His subtlety, revealed in such masterly recordings as Brahms' Paganini Variations, is in restraint and detachment -- calculated to temper power and fury, not to replace it. His performances of Mozart, Haydn, and Scarlatti are particularly esteemed.

Michelangeli never wholly embraced life as a concert artist. He felt that to pour such adulation on a performer was a disgrace, and that it distracted the performer from the very essence of his duty. A deeply private man, Michelangeli had a tendency to distort the truth during interviews, making it difficult for musicologists and historians to build an accurate portrait of his life; he will likely remain a fascinating, little-understood man.

HOMETOWN
Brescia, Italy
BORN
January 5, 1920

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