The last romantic, in Salzburg – Lorenzo Pone on Mozart’s piano

Considered together with Beatrice Rana, Federico Colli and Filippo Gorini one of the most mature representatives of the new generation of Italian pianists, Lorenzo Pone is already known for being the most successful pupil of Paul Badura-Skoda.

Lorenzo Pone with Paul Badura-Skoda at the fortepiano, at the latter's house in Vienna.

Young and successful, Lorenzo Pone got an invitation from the Stiftung Mozarteum to hold a recital in the Tanzmeistersaal in Salzburg, where he plays the legendary piano of Mozart to create a dialogue across the space-time boundaries between the great musician and the most distant languages. An event of international importance with Naples and Salzburg as protagonists.

At the center of this extraordinary event there is the young and established Neapolitan pianist and composer, who right in Salzburg studied the fortepiano under the guidance of Wolfgang Brunner and the modern piano with Cordelia Hoefer-Teutsch. And it is to Brunner that he dedicates his performance, Lorenzo Pone tells us, recognizing his former teacher as the one who taught him the use of colors on the historical piano. The recital is part of the Dialoge – Festival für Musik series, organized by the Stiftung Mozarteum, a foundation created by members of the classical star system and private sponsors in support of the Universität Mozarteum Salzburg. The aim of the Festival is to create an ideal dialogue between Mozart’s music and languages which, in terms of time and style, appear to be distant from the great musician. Concerts are held in different locations in Salzburg, but the most prestigious is the Mozartwohnhaus, where Mozart lived as a teenager when his father, Leopold, became Master of Court for the Archbishop and Prince of Salzburg. Currently, this large building is a museum, (paired with the more contained museum of Mozart’s birthplace, which can also be visited in the city), and houses a large concert hall, the Tanzmeistersaal, which contains the famous family portrait of Mozart and, surprisingly, the original piano that belonged to Wolfgang Amadeus: the same instrument, still intact and fully functional, with which he as a child amazed the whole Europe. After the recent and amazing successes at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, in Lisbon and in Barcelona, Lorenzo Pone has been invited from the Stiftung Mozarteum (which, incidentally, has hosted personalities of the stature of Daniel Barenboim and András Schiff), to play that very Mozart’s piano.

“Being invited to give a concert on Mozart’s piano, in his house, under that famous portrait, to play the keys that still are those Mozart himself played, it’s an honor among the highest that can be reached”, comments the pianist, who appears excited.

Not only the Stiftung called him as one of the Festival’s guest artists, (other concerts are starring Italians Leo Morello and Marco Sala as members of the N.A.M.E.S. Ensemble together with French pianist and composer Matthias Leboucher and German organist Alexander Bauer, the Viennese composer Wolfgang-Michael Bauer), but it commissioned Lorenzo Pone a dedicated piece. And he did more: in addition to Mozart’s and his own work, composed for the occasion, Lorenzo Pone chose Naples as an ideal location for this “dialogue-exchange”: because it was in Naples that the very young Mozart landed during his training.

“Naples – explains Lorenzo Pone – is a very Mozartian location. So today, next to the works of Mozart and mine, I will perform pieces by other Neapolitan authors. Some are heard in their first Salzburg performance. There will be works by two very established composers: Gabriele Montagano (a pupil of Giacinto Scelsi), and Girolamo de Simone. And in addition, how could Scarlatti be missing?”.

     Dialoge therefore runs on a double track: a dialogue between Mozart and contemporary languages, and between Salzburg and Naples. But the amazing thing is that, this time, contemporary music is performed on Mozart’s own piano: that is to say on an instrument which is very different, if compared to the modern piano, and that never before had been used for contemporary music. As another exceptional event, for nearly the first time, a composer of today recovers the fortepiano (as had happened at the beginning of the 20th century for the harpsichord), to reinvent it with new languages. And all this happens in Salzburg, within a leading international context.

The languages presented are multiple: from the musical textures, at once transparent and complex of Montagano, to the minimalism of Girolamo De Simone contaminated with oriental mysticism, to Mozart himself, passing through Scarlatti’s Neapolitan sound and the work expressly composed by Lorenzo Pone. He reinvents the fortepiano as an ethnic instrument, in an exotic re-enactment inspired by Gauguin, adopting a “primitivist” vocabulary, which, however, marries post-impressionist and spectralist technique, sounding on the fortepiano completely new and unexpected.

But this concert also brings an engaged political message: “We musicians – emphasizes Lorenzo Pone – are not just isolated individuals, intent on proposing a language that many perceive as esoteric and incomprehensible. Artists and musicians have always been involved in a social dimension”. For example, Girolamo De Simone’s work, entitled Antico canto siriano, is a meditation, a contamination, a hybridization on authentic Syrian melodies” – and was chosen by Pone –  “precisely for this Syrian component”. “But this – says the Neapolitan musician – is meant to be a broader message: Syria will also stand for Chile, where I have friends whose homes have been destroyed, and for Hong Kong, where I have friends who are forced to flee and take refuge elsewhere. Including a Syrian song in today’s concert in Salzburg is therefore a clear message, even for Colombia and Venezuela. We are living in Europe – concludes Pone – a very similar atmosphere to the one people must have breathed at the eve of the World War II. Today as then, there’s the need for artists to speak about it, to denounce it by affirming their position. And just as Paul Éluard sang unabated love and beauty as much as he denounced the horrors of the war, so today from that stage, I hope to do it myself in my own way”.

Lorenzo Pone recently performed at the legendary Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, in a memorable concert that was an extraordinary success, both with audience and critics. Now, from Salzburg, a new act of love for his homewotn by a pianist who is already projected into the Olympus of Italian and international classical music.


by Louis Delvincourt [Le Monde – Paris]

published in English

[a preview from The Saltzman Magazine, n. 12/2019, by courtesy of Saltzman&Sons]



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