CLAVIER - May/June, 2002
FIFTY YEARS OF MUSIC WITH MY HUSBAND,
by Jacques Leiser and Ates Orga
consider the legendary Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli to have been one
of the greatest pianists of the 20th century. When he won the first
Geneva International Musical Competition in 1939 "Alfred Cortot
exclaimed, 'A New Liszt is born,' an accolade to become commonplace
down the years."
Leiser, who was Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli's manager for several
years, interviewed Giuliana Michelangeli in Brescia, Italy in 2000. A
forthcoming book will include Leiser's memories of working with
such legendary pianists as Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli, Claudio
Arrau, Lazar Berman, Maurizio Pollini, and Sviatoslav Richter.
Orga resides near London, England, where he is a writer and record
producer specializing in pianists and conductors. He is on the
professional staff of Istanbul Technical University. A forthcoming book
(Kahn & Averill) profiles modern players and compares recordings of
the standard piano repertoire.
music lovers believe the legendary Arturo Benedetti-Michelangeli was
the greatest Italian pianist of the 20th century. Although he could
play the entire piano repertoire by the age of 20, he is best
remembered for his interpretations of Classical repertoire as well as
Debussy and Ravel. Brescia, Italy was the home of Michelangeli, a child
prodigy born on January 5, 1920 who played the piano by the age of
four, before he could speak. His wife Giuliana, whom he married when he
was 23, remembers family stories of how Arturo loved music before he
could read and that "he sang before he could speak, shaking his head,
just as he would do as a man."
Michelangeli's father, a
lawyer and composer who taught theory, harmony, counterpoint, and
piano, trained his son in those early years. The talented youth
attended the Milan Conservatory and later, in 1939, won the first
Geneva International Musical Competition. "When he finished playing,
Alfred Cortot exclaimed, 'A new Liszt is born,' an accolade to become
commonplace down the years." In 1949 he started the F. Busoni
Competition with Cesare Nordio, the director of the Monteverdi
Conservatory in Bolzano. Throughout his life Michelangeli taught,
performed on the great concert stages of the world, and he left a
legacy of recordings (Telefunken, EMI, Decca, and DG) for listeners
when he died in 1995. His wife Giuliana traveled the world at his side
and shares her me'mories of this great concert artist.
Did Michelangeli prefer teaching privately, in the conservatory, or in masterclasses?
principle he did not like giving private lessons, although he did this
when he was young. In Italy pianists have to complete eight years of
piano education at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory before they can
teach. Michelangeli passed this stage when he was only 11, and he often
was the substitute teacher for his father who was not well.
day an 18-year-old girl, Carla Tretti, arrived for a lesson, and his
father told her to return the next day and Arturo would hear her. The
following day Arturo opened the door and she entered the studio, said
nothing, and just waited. Arturo waited too and said nothing. After a
long time she asked for the son of the Maestro, so he gestured using
the same circling gesture with his arm that he would do with all of his
students. The girl played the Pathetique Sonata, and Arturo listened
with great attention but without speaking. When she finished, he went
to the piano and played the sonata as only he could - perfectly. She
was amazed and often told me of her astonishment.
19 Arturo won the Geneva International Musical Competition, and
Mussolini gave him a position at the Martini Conservatory in Bologna,
honoris causa. Michelangeli always loved teaching, but he was often
misunderstood because rather than train the stars of the piano, he
wanted to develop good musicians, good teachers.
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