For this concert, I exchanged the deep red plush seats of London’s Wigmore Hall for my first visit to Plush Festival, held in the tiny village of Plush, deep in Thomas Hardy country in Dorset. Here in 1995, far from the madding crowd, Adrian Brendel established the festival in a spirit of collaboration and shared music-making. A deconsecrated church, which sits in the arcadian grounds of Plush Manor (bought by the Brendel family in the early 1990s as a bucolic retreat) is the venue for the concerts. Its generous acoustic and small size make it perfect for intimate chamber music and solo recitals; in addition, visitors may sit in on open rehearsals.

I’d known about the village of Plush (the pub, the Brace of Pheasants does a good Sunday lunch) and the Brendel connection for years, but this was my first visit to the Festival – part of my determination to seek out quality classical music in Dorset, my new home since I moved from London in May.

The drive to Plush suggests one is entering a special place. Leaving Dorchester (Hardy’s “Casterbridge”), I left the A-road and passed through the villages of Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton (“Longpuddle”). Then a sharp right turn and up a steep hill and there was a sign to Plush Festival, guiding the way. The village is chocolate-box-pretty, with the pub at its heart. The signs to the festival pointed beyond the centre of the village and a winding, tree-lined lane takes you into the grounds of Plush Manor. A helpful gentleman guided me to park my car in an adjacent field and asked if I’d been to Plush before.

Outside the church, small groups of people lolled in foldout camping chairs or lounged on picnics rugs. Some were even enjoying a picnic ahead of the concert. A small bar offered wine, prosecco and soft drinks, and there was a bunting-draped stall next door selling CDs. The murmur of conversation was accompanied by birdsong. A friend texted (before my mobile reception disappeared) to say he was at Glyndebourne for the afternoon, and I thought there was a touch of the Glyndebourne experience, in microcosm, at Plush – though minus the dinner jackets: people were dressed casually. After all, this was a lunchtime on a sunny Saturday in August…..

10567-b5caaf2a50ce50da7f81d22244175770The soloist for this concert was Filippo Gorini, a prize-winning young Italian pianist. His programme was unexpected for a weekend lunchtime recital – Schumann’s Geistervariationen (“Ghost” Variations) and Beethoven’s mighty Hammerklavier Sonata – but Kat Brendel, Festival Director, told me afterwards that this was “the programme he wanted to play”. It proved a bold and successful choice.

Schumann composed his Ghost Variations in 1854, shortly before he was committed to a mental asylum. It was his final piece, dedicated to his beloved Clara, and the work is freighted with melancholy and tenderness. Filippo Gorini caught the tragic intensity and intimate poignancy of the work. Understated, elegant and restrained, one felt Gorini fully appreciated that Schumann is a composer who wears his heart on his sleeve; the final variation ended on a whisper, with Gorini allowing the sound to fade into the stillness of the church.

Beethoven, by contrast, is at his most declamatory in the Hammerklavier Sonata, which opens with a daring leap across the keyboard and a rollicking fanfare motif. This was masterfully shaped by Gorini who brought energy and vivid colour to the music. At its heart is the Adagio, a huge slow movement of infinite serenity and profundity which in Gorini’s hands felt like a stand-alone piece of music. Time was suspended, and while a butterfly fluttered, agitato, around the church, nothing could break Gorini’s concentration – nor the audience’s (who were as committed as any Wigmore audience). This movement, played with an intense concentration which echoed Gorini’s sensitive approach to the Schumann, has an almost Schubertian harmonic trajectory and introspection, with the improvisatory qualities of a Chopin Nocturne. Out of this other-worldly space came a finale of restless physicality.

Chatting afterwards, I mentioned to one audience member that I felt Gorini had the ability to make one forget a pianist was actually present during the performance. It’s a rare talent, and his lack of ego or unnecessary gesture undoubtedly contributed to this impressive performance.

If you think great music is only to be found in the metropolis, think again: Sir Andras Schiff returns to Plush Festival tomorrow for a sold out concert, and past seasons have enjoyed performances by Paul Lewis and Till Fellner.

This years Plush Festival continues from 14-16 September. Full details here




Header image: courtesy of Plush Manor



Who or what inspired you to take up the piano, and pursue a career in music?

Actually no one in my family is a musician; I never had pressure from my family, and the start of my adventure with music was one of the most natural processes – so natural that I still don’t know if I chose the music, or if the music chose me.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Definitely some things I’ve read – philosophical essays, some big German, French, Italian and Russian novels. And of course the holy books.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Every time disenchantment has made its way into my heart.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?

Always the next one!

But I’m still touched by some unbelievable experiences, such as my debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Which particular works do you think you play best?

The new one I’m going to practice!

But Mozart is without any doubt a great friend of mine.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I try to understand the changeable directions of my artistic wishes, and follow them. A concert programme should be a coherent spiritual journey, where different composers and music works interact and connect with each other, reaching a common vision at the end.

Some composers, however, are like lights in the dark for me: things may change on the surface, but deep inside they are always there. I can think of Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann, who have always been very close to my soul.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The Amsterdam Concertgebouw: that staircase seems to be the stairway to heaven!

Who are your favourite musicians?

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Grigory Sokolov and Sergiu Celibidache.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

A concert with Maestro Gergiev in St. Petersburg. The concert was at 10pm, he arrived at 9.55pm. No rehearsal. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3 on the menu. My debut with him and his orchestra. Live broadcast in all Russia. I wouldn’t wish those first five minutes on my worst enemy!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To me, this kind of success simply doesn’t exist. Art is an never-ending creative process, and for this reason it will always be ahead of us, moving infinitely, and as finite humans we will never catch up!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Just one: that there can be no Beauty if it’s not connected to the Truth.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I don’t know where I’d like to be, but I certainly know where I’d like not to be: in the land of illusion. I wish to always remain devoted to the Truth.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

When a human being is able to connect with all his own innermost feelings.

What is your most treasured possession?

My will.

What is your present state of mind?


Federico Colli’s first album of Scarlatti Piano Sonatas is available now on the Chandos label.

Federico makes his Wigmore Hall debut on 1 November 2018. He will also be making his US debut at Ravinia Festival on 4 September 2018 and his New York debut at Lincoln Center on 2 December 2018.

Italian pianist Federico Colli is internationally recognised for his intelligent, imaginative interpretations and impeccable technique, praised for his ‘crystalline brilliance and translucence that takes you to the heart of everything he plays.’ (Gramophone)
Federico first came to prominence after winning the Salzburg Mozart Competition in 2011 and the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2012. Since then, he has been performing with orchestras including the Mariinsky Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, RAI National Symphony, BBC Symphony, Royal Scottish National, RTÉ National Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Hallé Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Vienna Chamber, Camerata Salzburg, Klassische Philharmonie Bonn, Polish Radio National Symphony, Philharmonie Zuidnederland, Pomeriggi Musicali Orchestra, Orchestra della Toscana, National Philharmonic of Ukraine and Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira; at venues such as the Vienna Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Berlin Konzerthaus, Munich Herkulessaal, Hamburg Laeiszhalle, Beethovenhalle Bonn, NDR Landesfunkhaus in Hannover, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, Barbican Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Usher Hall in Edinburgh, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Dublin National Concert Hall, Salle Cortot in Paris, Rudolfinum Dvorak Hall in Prague, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Teatro degli Arcimboldi in Milan, Lingotto in Turin, Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw, Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro and the Mariinsky Concert Hall in St Petersburg.

Read more about Federico Colli


Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music?

I started to play the piano when I was 9, but the real “call” to music as a career came later, around 14… I liked almost all subjects at school, but none of them was giving me the same sensations that I felt while I was playing the piano, and sitting at my desk at school I found myself thinking what I would like to play, people I wished to play with or the next occasion to perform in public… therefore I understood that it could be worthwhile to spend my life making music.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?

Among my teachers, the strongest influence is the Italian maestro Sergio Fiorentino. Besides being an exceptionally gifted pianist and musician, he was an extremely humble man, a true gentleman (the kind you can hardly find nowadays), one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. The most significant thing I took from his lessons is the importance of the natural flow of music, and to give priority to the composer rather than the interpreter: his Beethoven was German, his Rachmaninoff Russian, his Cimarosa Italian… He also had the most impressive technical skills I have ever heard, but he used them always as a tool to better realize musical ideas, never to show how huge his talent was.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

To push myself against the odds, and take the responsibility myself to make my dreams come true, with all the consequences that entails. I come from a very simple family. All I had was my wish to become a musician: no one in my family and friends could help me to fulfill my goals, neither with money nor with culture and advice. And despite a strong personality, sometimes you get tired, because if you really want something, soon or later you’ll find a way to pursue it. Never give up.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

Well, I am hardly ever really proud of a performance; when it goes really well I feel a mix of happiness and adrenaline. It’s great to have been truly inside music, but what makes me particularly happy is when people tell me, after the concert, that they felt deep emotions flowing in the hall, and looking in their eyes I see they’re really moved. This is what music is for. Scientific studies discovered that during a musical performance the brains of musicians and audience tend to work at the same frequencies. This is simply amazing and proves that communication during a concert is not only intended in a metaphorical sense.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I feel very close to the late romantic repertoire, like some of Rachmaninoff’s works; I also feel comfortable with the Argentinian composers of the 20th century like Ginastera and Guastavino. It might have something to do with my Italian blood and my passionate temperament: I love the mix of the Latin character with the Progressive tendency in Ginastera and with the popular tradition in Guastavino, the result is an extremely characterized style with a perfect balance between such different elements.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Until a couple of years ago I was more free to follow my fantasies and desires of the moment… Now with my concert activity increasing, I have to take into account my medium-to-long-term plans. Anyway, despite what I must play, I always struggle to take the time to study what I need for my personal growth and for my personal pleasure.

Also, I constantly try to keep some contemporary music in my recital programs. A few years ago, during my first playing of some preludes by a Finnish composer, some of his words introducing the composition impressed me: “there’s no old music and new music, there’s only new music, because every old music has been new music once”. This is why it has no meaning for me to play a concert without at least one piece by a living composer.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

I don’t have a venue where I perform as a habit, for now. Nonetheless I felt a very special feeling with two audiences: in Prague and London. I was impressed by people’s education, elegance and sensitivity in Prague, and never felt so well understood, musically. And I fell in love with London, a deeply concentrated audience, no one was there for other reasons but listening (well) to music. And London is so energizing, an artist needs so many inputs… many people in central and south Europe don’t like London but I really do.

Favourite pieces to perform? Listen to?

At the moment I’m enjoying Rachmaninoff’s Elegy and the Cantos Populares by Carlos Guastavino. Among the pieces I often play with great pleasure, Liszt’s Paraphrase on the Quartetto from Verdi’s Rigoletto. It’s a masterpiece of the truly inspired Italian melody (what we call “cantabile”) and the perfect knowledge of conducting parts (Verdi used to keep on his bedside table the scores of Haydn and Beethoven’s string quartets).

I have to admit that I don’t really listen to classical music very often in my free time, but when I do it’s usually from my laptop or tablet. The internet is great for that: I also like to watch interviews and documentaries about people like Horowitz, Michelangeli, Rachmaninoff, from whose words we can learn so much about what music means in a life. I love that video in which Horowitz plays Schumann’s Traumerei in Moscow (when he went back to Russia to give a recital, the last one in his country, at the Conservatory): the atmosphere was so full of palpable emotion that many people in the audience couldn’t resist crying… no words were needed. That’s why music was considered by Schopenhauer the highest among the arts.

Who are your favourite musicians?

The ones who decide to take the courage to help others, without asking for something in exchange. Rachmaninoff helped so many musicians, and so did Schumann. It requires an effort, nowadays: we live in an extremely competitive world and it seems that every success of another musician is a missed one for another. I do not share that way of thinking: everyone’s success is a marked point for music, consequently a marked point for every musician.

But speaking of people I find inspiring, I very much like Maxim Vengerov’s performances and masterclasses; I also enjoyed watching Andras Schiff’s masterclasses on Beethoven Sonatas and the speech he gave about his performance of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier. And, overall, what I can watch and watch without getting tired is Sergio Fiorentino. On the internet you can find not only his performances but also some “musical interviews” which will surprise you in many ways.
What is your most memorable concert experience?

Recently I debuted at Shanghai Symphony Hall. It was a great sensation and I was thrilled about performing in such a concert hall, walking down the corridors seeing on the walls the photos of the greatest concert musicians ever and thinking “I have been walking on the same ground in a while”. I was wondering if people would like my repertoire and my way of playing… then, after the last note and during the encores, the audience was so warm and enthusiastic that I completely forgot my doubts. I think that in the end when you put a true message inside your notes, it reaches the destination, regardless of how far the country and the local culture can be from yours.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

In my opinion the most important thing to understand before deciding to dedicate your life to music is this: working with music is working on (and with) yourself, first. It requires great honesty, humbleness, a strong will and overall you should like the idea of starting a new research project every day, every time you deal with the same piece of music. You must develop the capability of listening to others and recognizing their own value. In other words, I believe you have to be a good human being first, then work hard to become a good musician.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Still making music and traveling as much as possible. I like discovering new places, cultures, people, foods; I can’t get tired of that, and I can’t spend too much time in the same place.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Enjoy the beautiful moments of life, possibly sharing them with my loved ones.

What is your most treasured possession?

I think the less you possess the more free you are, and I love freedom. I tend to spend my money on life experiences rather than objects. Till some years ago I thought that my piano was my treasured possession, then, moving to another country without it, I discovered my treasure is music, which is inside me, not in a specific keyboard of 88 keys. Actually I like to think of myself not as a pianist, but as a musician who uses the piano.

What is your present state of mind?

Enthusiastic! I’m more and more involved in my new project, whose name is ‘Ritratti’ (Portraits). It’s a new recording, music around the idea of the portrait, by 20th century and contemporary composers, and a tour, in which I’ll meet other artists and work in collaboration with them. It will take me in US, Australia, Canada and even farther… I can’t wait.

Cristina Cavalli’s ‘Ritratti’ project is now live on the Indiegogo crowdfunding site. Full details here

Cristina Cavalli, Italian born, began studying music with Lidia Palo Giorgi and graduated in Piano at the Conservatory “G. Nicolini” of Piacenza and in Chamber Music at the Conservatory “B. Maderna” of Cesena; alongside her academic path she attended courses and masterclasses with notable musicians, among which most important to her were the Italians Sergio Fiorentino, Pier Narciso Masi and Marisa Somma. She continued her studies at the Accademia Incontri col Maestro of Imola, where she obtained the Master Diploma in Chamber Music. She appears frequently in concerts both as soloist and as chamber music partner, in a repertoire ranging from the 17th century to contemporary music. Her interest in this latter has enabled her to enrich her musical experience by taking part in important events such as Contemporary Music in Streaming, Novurgia (Milan), Dentro la Musica (Rome, Accademia di Santa Cecilia) and Festival di Nuovo Musica (Reggio Emilia). Several works by European and American composers have been dedicated to her, and she is often asked to give the First Playing of new piano pieces (Milan, Shanghai, London, Helsinki, Belgrade, Rome among others). She has played for the Universities of Macerata, Piacenza and Bologna and has recorded for the Italian national TV channels RaiSat3, Canale10, and the Finnish Alfa TV; her performances have been broadcasted by Radio Vaticana, Radio Belgrade and many others.

As soloist and chamber musician she has appeared in important venues in Europe and Asia, including Shanghai Symphony Hall, Sala Verdi of Milan, Auditorium Parco della Musica of Rome, Wuxi Grand Theatre and Shandong Grand Theatre (Jinan) in China, Zus Concert Hall of Prague, Teatro Ateneo of Madrid, Teatro Cavallerizza of Reggio Emilia, St. James Piccadilly in London, Sala Eutherpe and Auditorio Caja España of Léon and Teatro Ruskaja of Rome, always drawing success and great feeling with the audience. She performed in United Kingdom, Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Serbia, Czech Republic, Macedonia, China and Inner Mongolia; last May 2015 she made her debut at Shanghai Symphony Hall with a very successful solo recital, carrying on her first China Tour with eight concerts and three masterclasses. Ms Cavalli is an official member of ECMTA, European Chamber Music Teachers’ Association (Helsinki), ILAMS, Ibero Latin American Music Association (London) and she is also Honorary Advisor of IIME, International Institute for Music Education (Honk Kong). Parallel with traditional concert activities, she is constantly collaborating with other artists to creative projects in which music is combined and synthesized with different arts. In 2010 she presented Mediterraneo, a musical journey along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, starting from some Italian music suggestions and ending with Flamenco. Between 2012 and 2014 she ran the artistic direction of Chamber Music in Italy (concerts and masterclasses in the beautiful island of Ischia) and Florestano in Roma (music and more in the heart of Rome). She is now engaged in her new project, Ritratti (Portraits).

In her vision, Ms. Cavalli privileges the development and diffusion of classical music among people of all ages, country and condition; because of this spirit of sharing, she is often involved in charity initiatives, seeing music as a powerful way to improve and enrich people and life, children’s life in particular.

Cristina currently lives in Madrid.

(photo: Roberto Masotti)

Who or what inspired you to take up the piano and pursue a career in music? 

I was inspired by the music and my never-ending desire to be part of such a unique art form, be absorbed by it, forgetting everything around me and becoming the music itself by bringing it to life under my fingers. Only then, being able to communicate it to others.

Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career? 

Musicians and artists around me, such as the countless performances, concerts, operas, ballets, expositions I was enriched with since I was a child and now. Also, my teachers, contemporary music and the art and the beauty I was surrounded by in my native Tuscany.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far? 

Playing Stockhausen for Stockhausen. I was really nervous, and being very young I wasn’t sure at all if what I had carefully prepared by myself was simply “right”.

Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?  

My next recording, which will be out soon.  It focuses on the evolution of Stravinsky’s music, starting from his folk roots, his native Russia and traditional folk tunes and themes featured in Petrushka. Stravinsky is then inspired by returning to music of ancient Classicism also following his refusal of the new revolutionary Russian ideals, and it is what we call now his “neoclassicist” period. Here I linked it with the Suite for piano or harpsichord by living French composer Karol Beffa. It features at the same time Stravinsky’s concept of “non descriptive” music as “the music expresses it-self”. It is followed by his serial period: Stockhausen and Stravinsky influencing each other. Stockhausen was influenced in his youth by listening to the Rite of Spring. Less obvious is the influence of Stockhausen’s serial groups music on Stravinsky’s later production.

Which particular works do you think you play best? 

Everything I love.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

Ideally every recital I play would feature one new piece and a juxtaposition of music picked from my repertoire. I always follow my wishes when choosing new repertoire.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why? 

I love to perform at the Wigmore Hall: the projection of sound is very clear and transparent yet rich and warm.

Favourite pieces to perform? 

I have many, and these have been changing over years. At this particular moment I would say Chopin Piano Concerto n. 1, the 4 Chopin Ballades, Petruska by Stravinsky, and Brahms Paganini Variations among others.

Listen to? 

The Rite of Spring

Who are your favourite musicians?

Igor Stravinsky, Sviatoslav Richter, Natalia Gutman.

What is your most memorable concert experience? 

One of them was performing Liszt Piano Concerto n.1 at the Berliner Philharmonie: just before walking on stage the conductor I was playing with said to me the following words: “just think about music”. I will remember that forever, and it gave me huge confidence. Only after the closing chord of the Concerto performance I realized I was surrounded by thousands of people in this amazing artistic architecture.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians? 

We do it to make people’s lives better.

What are you working on at the moment? 

On my next recitals: chamber music programmes, concertos and recitals including Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro, 5 Pieces in Folktunes, Janacek Pohadka, Tsintsadze 5 Pieces, Rachmaninov cello and piano Sonata, Chopin Polonaise Brillante for cello and piano, Bartok Romanian Dances, Beethoven Spring Sonata, Franck Sonata, Chopin Ballades, Rachmaninov 2nd Concerto, Arensky and Shostakovich 1st Trios, C.M. Weber and Nino Rota and Tchaikovsky Trios and a solo recital programme featuring Mozart and Liszt, up to December 2014.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Around the world performing every day.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

See above plus my and my dears’ health.

What is your most treasured possession?

Hand written notes.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Being surrounded by friends, reading, travelling.

What is your present state of mind?

In constant pursuit of perfection.


Vanessa Benelli Mosell is a rising star on the international music scene. She is continuously praised for her virtuosity, her technical brilliance and the sensitivity of her musical insight, which have been shaped significantly in mentorships with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Yuri Bashmet.

Benelli Mosell gave her debut appearance at eleven years old with pianist Pascal Rogé, who described her as “the most natural musical talent I have encountered in my entire life”. She has since performed with orchestras such as the Münchner Symphoniker, Berliner Symphoniker, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.She also performed with the Moscow Soloists, replacing Martha Argerich in 2012. In the same year, Vanessa gave her celebrated debut at Londonʼs Wigmore Hall. Last year was one of new encounters including a tour to South America, concerts with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, as well as a sell-­out solo recital at Hamburgʼs Laeiszhalle.

Vanessa Benelli Mosell began her comprehensive musical studies when she was exceptionally admitted at the International Piano Academy in Imola at seven years old, where she studied with Franco Scala. In 2007 she was invited to the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory to study with Mikhail Voskresensky. Vanessa entered the Royal College of Music in London in 2007, where she graduated in 2012 studying with Dmitri Alexeev, generously supported by the Russell Gander Award.

Full biography

Maurizio Pollini (© Cosimo Filippini)
Maurizio Pollini (© Cosimo Filippini)

How does one define “greatness” in a pianist? Is it the willingness to tackle a broad sweep of repertoire from Baroque to present-day? Profound musicality and penetrating insights, founded on pristine technique? A fearless approach to risk-taking in live concerts? Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini is the sum of these parts – and much more – as his recent concerts in London have demonstrated. Here is an artist who is equally at home in the elegance of Bach, the intimacy of Chopin’s miniatures and the spiky modernism of Pierre Boulez, always bringing supreme pianism and fresh insights to his performances.

For his second International Piano Series concert at a packed Royal Festival Hall, Pollini trod a more traditional path in an all-Beethoven programme. Traditional, but also ambitious: to perform three of the most well-known, revered and technically demanding of Beethoven’s thirty-two piano sonatas would be a challenge for any artist. For a man of seventy-two (and he looks older and frailer) this was a monumental programme, which scaled the highest Himalayan peaks of pianism…..

Read my full review here

This week I had the pleasure and privilege of attending a piano seminar with acclaimed Italian pianist and pedagogue Carlo Grante. Held over two days (I attended the first day only), the seminar focussed on a number of topics, drawn from Carlo’s book Fundamentals of Piano Methodology and his new book, currently in preparation, including:

  • “Chunking up and down”: the Lisztian legacy of problem-solving in piano writing
  • Identifying structures in seemingly complex music
  • Voicing and tone production
  • Mind-mapping and memorisation

Presented in the form of a lecture with musical examples, student participation and demonstrations at the piano by Carlo himself, the seminar offered stimulating and interesting food for thought for piano students, teachers and professional musicians.

In the first lecture of the day on “chunking up and down”, Carlo demonstrated how apparently very complex music can be reduced into small units or motifs, enabling one to simplify the music for learning. This practice also has benefits for memory work, as well as musical analysis.

Using Liszt’s ‘Mazeppa’ (the fourth Transcendental Etude) as an example, a work that on first sight appears highly complex and virtuosic, Carlo highlighted recurrent patterns, both thematic and harmonic, and showed how Liszt manipulates and expands this material, while never really deviating from the opening statements.

This approach encourages one to:

      • Simplify the structure of a seemingly highly complex piece of music
      • Looking at harmonic progression to help fingering
      • Learning the shape of the harmonic “chunks” to learn appropriate/most comfortable/efficient hand shapes
      • Looking for predictable/familiar devices, such as chromatic scales, arpeggios or triads
      • Putting all these “chunks” together to create a whole

The second morning session used Brahm’s Intermezzo in A, Op 118 as the example for a discussion of how music can be divided into smaller elements, “zooming in” on these constituent parts to achieve more focussed practising.

For example, the right hand part divides into two distinct “voices”, upper and lower: practising each part or “voice” separately enables deeper learning. Much of this seems quite obvious, but it is surprising how many piano who play and study piano music do not use these kinds of learning tools.

After lunch, during which I enjoyed talking about concerts and piano repertoire with some of the other participants, Carlo presented a session on memory work, demonstrating once again how reducing the music into small sections and patterns can facilitate memorisation. The musical example was Busoni’s elegaic barcarolle All’Italia.


The session finished with some discussion on expressive grammar, the study of which is necessary for a truly coherent reading of a piece: by this, Carlo means not only the obvious dynamic, tempo and articulation markings, but other aspects such as the “stretching” intervals (in the manner of a singer), masculine and feminine endings and cadences, different types of accents and so forth.

Throughout the seminar, Carlo stressed that these aspects of piano study and method should not be seen in isolation and that the ultimate goal is to encourage deep, thoughtful practise resulting in an profound understanding of the music and the ability to play with expression. He also stressed the need to be a “curious learner”. All in all, it was an extremely valuable and thought-provoking seminar and I left full of new ideas for my own piano study and my teaching.

Carlo’s book Fundamentals of Piano Methodology is available in English (publisher Rugginenti)