BRING A PIANO BACK TO LIFE

https://www.retedeldono.it/en/bdonations/205982

The link above will bring you to Mr. Bartoli’s epic campaign to restore his 1959 Steinway. The crowdfunding platform is in Italian, but below is an English translation. Any help will be greatly appreciated!

During the pandemic, in an unprecedented programme of cultural divulgation, pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli recorded Domenico Scarlatti’s complete Sonatas: 558 films which he freely shared through his YouTube channel. Introducing each episode with his colloquial yet informed style, Bartoli reached a global audience, including a multitude of people that were not previously accustomed to classical music. This resulted in thousands of channel subscriptions, hundreds of thousands of views, and an avalanche of comments asking him to do more. Bartoli is keen not to disappoint, and intends to do much more. Yet, in order to be able to continue this work, his piano needs a complete restoration. Bring A Piano Back To Life ia a project which will enable anybody to take part in this great adventure, donating a new lease of life to the instrument which will donate music.

Bring A Piano Back To Life: why?

«Recording all the Sonatas by Scarlatti taught me many things – says Bartoli – but the biggest of all has been the realization of how much our societies need serious, entertaining and accessible musical divulgation. As a musician, I have always considered it part of my mission to make this wonderful art form accessible to a vast audience, and especially to those individuals who are not accustomed to Classical music. I knew that I had an an audience of aficionados who followed my concerts eagerly, but with internet it was possible to reach a much larger audience. It has been very exciting to see how many people became passionate about Classical music through my little films.

When the project finished, on Christmas Day 2021, many came forward asking me to do more, to continue with this divulgatory work. How can one disappoint the expectations of those eager to learn? It would be a betrayal of those principles which are, or should be, at the core of my work.

In my small ways, I will continue to earn my living doing what I have always done: giving concerts. However, it has become an imperative priority to continue my work online, building on the musical sharing which began with Scarlatti. My project is quite simple: to make my repertoire available to all who have an internet connection.

Following on what I did with Scarlatti, I will realise a broad range of video projects such as, for example, all the Sonatas by Hayd Franz Joseph Haydn, the Nocturnes of Chopin, or Clementi’s Gradus ad Parnassum. With the intent of being useful to the many young students who follow my channel, I will film a selection of teaching pieces – especially Etudes – of various authors such as Czerny, Heller, Liszt: the daily diet of all who approach piano studies. In addition, in my years as a concert pianist, I have had many pieces written for and dedicated to me. The third and final part of my project will consist of bringing to the public this new and unknown music, thus closing an indeal trajectory which spans from the dawn of the pianoforte era (with Bach, Scarlatti and Clementi) to, quite literally, our days.

It is an ambitious and onerous work, but a work which will – in my intentions at least – give a modicum of music education to thousands of people who would not otherwise have access to that great heritage of humankind we call “Music”».

Restoration.

Pianos are complex machines, made of thousands of mobile parts which are capable of creating magic. Like any machine, however, pianos are susceptible to wear. After a certain limit, the instrument’s tonal capabilities rapidly degenerate, rendering it impossible for the pianist to realise the myriad of tone colours which distinugish noteworthy interpretations. The protagonist of thie project is Steinway & Sons’ Model B-211 364.122 of 1959: taxed with the enormous workload of the Scarlatti project, it is in need of a complete restoration. The experts of Piano Team recommend a series of actions which will bring the instrument back to its former tonal splendour, rendering it once again suitable for excellent recordings. In detail, the restoration includes: the renewal of the soundboard, keeping the piano in a controlled climate chamber; the complete restoration of the keyboard, the complete substitution of all mechanical parts (action, hammers), the restoration of the cast iron frame, the substitution of the legs attachments, the substitution of pins and strings, a new pedalboard, the restoration of the case and a final repolish of the external areas.

Film.

Such a great amount of work on a musical instrument is a noteworthy event, which requires specific knowledge and many months of work. In line with the divulgatory charcater of Sandro Ivo Bartoli’s YouTube channel, the restoration will be documented in a series of films by Emanuele Zampieri and Luca Damiani who will follow each step of the restoration process, beginning with the long journey that the instrument will need to make from its home in Tuscany to Piano Team’s laboratory in Verona. At the end of the restoration, all the films will be reunited in a documentary which, for the first time, will reveal the secrets that lay inside a piano: the magic assonance of the various parts, which together create a unique sound.

How to take part.

Helping us, you will help musical divulgation globally. We will gratefully accept any donation, big and small, but with a donation of € 500 it is possible to adopt one of the piano’s 88 keys. Donors who will opt for this solution will receive an authentic piano key, autographed by Maestro Bartoli.

Businesses will have the opportunity to purchase publicity on Sandro Ivo Bartoli’s YouTube channel, in so doing gaining complete tax deductibility. For more information, please contact Maestro Bartoli directly at info@sandroivobartoli.com

All donors who wish to will be mentioned individually in the final documentary, to be released at the end of the restoration process.

Gratitudine / Gratitude

(For an English translation please scroll down)

Nella lingua inglese vi è un aggettivo molto bello, “humbling”, che descrive la sensazione di umiltà che si prova di fronte alle cose superiori. Qualche giorno fa ne ho avuto una splendida dimostrazione, e la sensazione è talmente bella che vorrei condividerla con voi.

Sul finire del secolo uno dei miei “cavalli di battaglia” era la celebre “Polonaise brillante précédée d’un Andante spianato” di Chopin. Ogni musicista ha in repertorio lavori cui assegna un significato particolare, non sempre legato a motivazioni musicali. Questo, per me, è uno di quelli: uno dei lavori che a suo tempo avevo fatto ascoltare a Shura Cherkassky (il quale ne dava una lettura puntualmente straordinaria), e che eseguivo spessissimo, quasi sempre come “gran finale”. Nel 2008 la incisi e nel 2010, l’anno del bicentenario chopiniano, la suonai un po’ovunque. Poi la vita mi portò verso altri lidi e differenti maestri, com’è giusto che sia.

Ora, una cosa divertente del mio lavoro è che quando arrivano inviti a suonare qua e là bisogna decidere che cosa suonare! Ognuno, ovviamente, lavora come vuole e come sa: questo scrivente s’è sempre rifiutato di suonare il medesimo programma (giammai nella stessa sala, neanche un pezzo solo!), e siccome alcuni degli inviti che ho ricevuto sono “recidivi”, beh, volevo venir fuori con qualcosa di ganzo. Dopo la valanga Scarlatti (quasi due anni di ininterrotto lavoro sul medesimo, pur geniale, maestro) ho avuto bisogno d’un paio di mesi per ritrovare quel minimo di orientamento musicale necessario a comporre i miei programmi con scienza e coscienza. Mi sono accorto che da tante stagioni non suonavo nulla di Chopin (non chiedetemi il perché: non lo so!), e la decisione di riprendere questo magnifico autore è stata facile, così come facile è stata la selezione del pezzo: se avessi suonato di nuovo Chopin, avrei dovuto giocoforza tornare alla Grande Polonaise.

A cagione di un metodo di studio ereditato da Shura, ho la fortuna di ritrovare velocemente nella mia memoria e nelle mie mani qualsiasi cosa abbia studiato, anche decenni fa, e questa Grande Polonaise non ha fatto eccezione: in tre o quattro giorni era lì; o, meglio, le note erano lì: qualcosa di misterioso mi faceva sentire scomodo, reo d’un atroce delitto che non riuscivo a mettere a fuoco. Va detto che la Polonaise è un pezzo piuttosto complesso: già l’enigmatico aggettivo “spianato” tinge il meraviglioso Andante di mistero (possibile che un maestro come Chopin chieda all’interprete di suonare in modo “spianato”, ossia “piatto”? Improbabile, mi sa), ma anche nella Polonaise vi sono sfumature di musica di difficile interpretazione. Anche in questo caso, l’aggettivo “brillante” può essere (e spesso lo è) fuorviante. Agli albori dell’Ottocento pianisti compositori come Pixis, Herz, Hummel, Czerny, Thalberg e compagnia bella avevano dato forma allo “stile brillante”: valanghe di scale, arpeggi, abbellimenti e fronzoli vari con i quali adornavano le loro Fantasie, Sonate, Concerti, Variazioni e mercanzia varia. Liszt e Chopin, i due indiscussi leoni della tastiera, in gioventù s’erano cimentati in questo stile varie volte, salvo poi involarsi verso ben più nobili manifestazioni del loro straordinario e precoce talento. Chopin, però, vi aveva dato il colpo di coda proprio con questa Polonaise, concepita come pezzo da concerto per pianoforte con accompagnamento d’orchestra (in verità, l’orchestra ha un ruolo totalmente secondario, e la Polonaise si esegue ben più spesso come pezzo solistico). Sappiamo che il giovane Chopin era affascinato dai cantanti d’opera, e che ne traeva sicuri insegnamenti per il suo personalissimo fraseggiare. In quest’opera il ventunenne maestro coniuga dunque il dettato lirico della coloratura allo smalto virtuosistico dello stile brillante, raggiungendo picchi d’espressione musicale piuttosto alti. La difficoltà principale, almeno secondo me, sta appunto nel non tralasciare l’aspetto cantabile delle varie figure, nel renderle affini al canto lirico anziché a impressionanti ma tutto sommato noiose raffiche di note, e rendere il pezzo con il giusto equilibrio d’intenti. Ebbene, ritrovate le mie note mi sono accorto che la mia lettura era ondivaga. Alla ricerca di quel benedetto equilibrio, mi inerpicavo su sentieri sempre più irti ed il risultato era una specie di minestrone sconnesso e addirittura caotico. Non ci trovavo il verso: ora troppo lento, ora troppo lesto, qui troppo forte, là troppo quieto… A vent’anni avrei risolto il problema rapidamente: avrei atteso il ritorno di Shura da uno dei suoi giri di concerti (che a volte duravano mesi), gli avrei fatto sentire il mio minestrone, e lui m’avrebbe detto un paio di cosette delle quali avrei fatto tesoro. Ma Shura non c’è più da tanti anni. Dopo di lui non mi sono sentito di andare a lezione da nessun altro, e in tutto questo tempo sono diventato il (pur modesto) maestro di me stesso, cercando di ascoltare quel che faccio ed esercitando un feroce senso critico (gli è l’unica maniera…). Stavolta, però, ero in serie difficoltà. Ed è qui che, voltando pagina, mi accorgo ancora una volta di quanto siano privilegiati la mia vita ed i miei affetti.

Quando, dodicenne, mi affacciai sul mondo del pianoforte i miei genitori mi ragalarono gli abbonamenti alle stegioni di concerti di Lucca, Pisa e Livorno. In quegli anni ascoltai di tutto, solisti grandi e piccoli, orchestre meravigliose, direttori, cantanti. Certi concerti, ma soprattutto certi musici, mi fecero tale impressione da rimanere scolpiti nella mia memoria quasi come nella pietra, ed uno di questi fu un certo pianista che ascoltai in un meraviglioso concerto nel Camposanto Monumentale di Pisa, la mia città. La vita, a volte, è curiosa: sono passati decenni da quell’occasione, e nel frattempo questo pianista è diventato mio amico. Non lo nomino perché è una persona molto privata, ma conviene dire che oltre ad una eccellente attività di concertista questo signore ha lavorato moltissimo con i cantanti, ed ha maturato anche una notevole esperienza di direttore d’orchestra. Avrete capito che si tratta di un musicista completo, uno di quegli artisti che non si fermano alle mere note ma vanno oltre, scavano, indagano, e conoscono la Musica in ogni suo minimo dettaglio. Una razza in estinzione, forse, ma finché esistono questi individui è lecito sperare. La settimana scorsa, dunque, mi sono deciso a rompergli l’anima e gli ho chiesto lumi su questa Grande Polonaise. Sono andato a trovarlo, ed ho suonato per lui. Sono andato, dopo decenni, “a lezione”! La prima cosa che mi ha detto è stata che, sotto il profilo tecnico, non aveva nulla da dire (e quando lo ho raccontato a mia moglie Debra, ella mia ha risposto con innegabile logica: “e ci credo, dopo tutte le volte che la hai suonata in pubblico, quella Polonaise”) ma poi, discorrendo sulle varie questioni interpretative, è venuta fuori tutta l’esperienza e l’umanità del personaggio. Da un tentativo d’orchestrazione dell’Andante (immaginare le figure della mano sinistra come fossero violoncelli), al sottolineare come certe note melodiche siano il registro di cambio delle voci di soprano, e che quindi possano essere “illuminate” (termine suo, meraviglioso) con più decisione, fino alla realizzazione apparentemente lapalissiana di un rigore ritmico della Polonaise che, a cagione delle diavolerie della mano destra, spesso si dissolveva in un poco convincente zum-paa-pa. Dopo due ore di lezione, son tornato a casa spossato (continua a fare un gran caldo, ed a suonare si fa fatica) ma ho voluto “ripassare” tutte le osservazioni del maestro prima di coricarmi, salvo dimenticarne qualcuna. Ed ho fatto bene: da giorni studio la mia Polonaise (si, a questo punto è “mia”, nel senso che la mia lettura ora ha un’impronta personale, rispettosissima del testo ma pur sempre originale) con rinnovati entusiasmo, vigore e convinzione. Ovviamente, non ho la minima idea di come riuscirò a suonarla ai concerti. Cercherò, come sempre, di fare del mio meglio ma l’alea è nella natura della professione: a volte funziona, altre no, e l’unica cosa da fare è studiare, studiare, studiare, e quando ci si crede pronti continuare a studiare per poi rendersi conto di quanto si è somari. E, mentre ammaestro le mie mani come faccio sempre, mi frullano in testa immagini di violoncelli che suonano meravigliosamente quegli arpeggi di Sol maggiore dell’Andante, di cantanti che sottolineano con infinita grazia il cambio di registro, di pomposi direttori che incitano la banda a scandire il ritmo di polacca con decisione. E, ogni tanto, un misterioso faretto illumina una nota o l’altra. L’altro giorno ho guardato dietro una di queste note. C’era scritto: “Grazie, Maestro”!

Ecco, questa è stata un’esperienza molto “humbling”. Impagabile.

Humbling” is a very beautiful adjective, describing the sensation of humility which we feel before superior things. A few days ago I had a splendid demonstration of its power, and the feeling is so profound that I would like to share it with you.

Towards the end of the last century, Chopin’s celebrated “Andante Spianato and Grand Polonaise Brillante” was one of my war horses. Every musician has in his/her repertoire a number of works to which hold special significance is assigned, and not necessarily for musical reasons. This Polonaise is one of those, for me: eons ago I played it for Shura Cherkassky (who used to give a punctually extraordinary reading of it), and I played it very often – usually as a “grand finale”. In 2008 I recorded it, and in 2010 (the year of Chopin bicentenary) I played it practically everywhere. Later, inevitably, life brought me to towards more exotic shores and different Maestros.

Now, one of the most intriguing things inherent to my profession is that when you ge an invitation to play you must decide what to play! Each one of us, obviously, works in different ways: I have always disliked to repeat programmes, and in the same hall I flatly refuse to play the same work again, even after years. Thus, as some of the invites I recently received are return engagements, I needed to come up with something novel. After the Scarlatti avalanche (almost two years of uninterrupted work on the same composer), I needed a couple of months to regain that minumum of orientation which I felt was necessary to compose my programmes conscientiously. I realised that I had not played any Chopin for several seasons (please don’t ask why: I simply do not know!), and thus the decision to revive this magnificent composer was easy enough to take, as it was the selection of the piece: if I were to play Chopin again, the choice would have had to fall upon the Grand Polonaise.

Practicing with a method I inherited from Shura, I am lucky enought to recall both in my memory and in my fingers practically everything I have played – even decades ago – and this Grand Polonaise is no exception: in three or four days there she was or, rather, the notes were there. Something mysterious made me uncomfortable, guilty of a terrible musical crime that I could not define clearly. It must be said that the Polonaise is a rather complex work: already the adjective “Spianato” tints the Andante with an aurs of intrigue (“spianato” means “flattened”: is it truly possible that a composer of Chopin’s ilk asks his interpreter to play “flatly”? Highly improbable, I believe), but the Polonaise also features certain charcateristics which render its interpretation problematic. In this case, too, the adjective “brillante” can be misleading. At the dawn of the Romantic era pianist-composers such as Pixis, Herz, Hummel, Czerny, Thalberg and the likes had created the “brillante style”: avalanches of scales, arpeggios, embellishments and various frills with which they encrusted their Fantasias, Sonatas, Concertos, Variations and so on. Liszt and Chopin, the two undisputed giants of the keyboard, frequented this style copiously in their youth prior to embark on much more noble manifestations of their extraordinary and precocious talent. Chopin, however, had abandoned the “stile brillante” with a final flick of his tail, embodied in this Polonaise, which was conceived as a grand concert piece for piano with orchestral accompaniment (in truth the orchestra plays such a secondary role that the piece is much more often performed without accompaniment).

We know that the youngChopin was fascinated by opera singers, and that from them he drew much inspiration for his highly personal phrasing. In this work the 21 years old maestro manages to espouse the charged lyricism of coloratura sopranos with the virtuosic enamel that the brilliant style requires, and reaches impressive pinnacles of musical expression. The main difficulty, at least in my opinion, lies in the emphatization of the lyrical figures, in the attempt to render them more similar to singing than to impressive but ultimately boring fusillades of notes, and to play the whole work with a judicious equilibrium.

Thus, as soon as I found my notes I realised that my reading of them was fluctuating. In search of that elusive equilibrium, I kept going in ever more disparate directions and the result was a kind of vegetable soup in which nothing appeared to make sense. I could not find a way out of it: too slow, too fast, too loud, too quiet… When I was twenty I would have solved the problem rapidly: I would have waited for Shura’s return from one of his concert tours (which, sometimes, were months long), I would have played the piece for him and he would have told me a couple of things which I would have treasured and adopted. But, sadly, Shura departed long ago. After his patronage I did not go to play for anybody else, and in all this time I have became the (modest) maestro of myself, and I have tried to listen to what I do at the piano deploying a ferocious self criticism (it is the only way, I believe). This time, though, I was sailing in rough seas.

It is here, turning the page, that I once again realise how privileged my life and my affections are.

When I was 12 I began playing the piano, and my parents gifted me with season tickets to the concert series in Pisa, Lucca adn Livorno. In those years I had the opportunity to listen to many different thing, great adn small soloists, marvellous orchestras, conductors, singers. Certain concerts, but especially certain musicians, left lasting impressions on my mind as if etched in stone, and one of these was a pianist whom I heard in a magnificent recital at the Camposanto Monumentale in the field of miracles in Pisa, my hometown. Life, sometimes, is curious: decades have gone by, and this pianist and I have become friends in the interim. I do not mention him, as he is an intensely private person, but it is worth noticing that as well as an egregious career as a concert pianist he worked tirelessly with singers, and ammassed a considerable experience as an orchestral conductor. You will realise that I am talking about a complete musician, one of those artists who do not stop at the mere notes but investigate farther; they dig, search, and know Music in every infinitesimal detail. A dying breed, perhaps, but until these individual exists it is worth hoping in a better future.

Last week I decided to bother him, and I asked his opinion about the Grand Polonaise. I went to his home, and I played for him. After decades, I went for a “lesson”! The first thing he told me was that, under the technical aspect, he had nothing to say (and when I told this to my wife Debra she replied with unquestinable logic: “of course! After all the times you performed that Polonaise”), but then, examining the various interpretative aspects, all his experience and humanity came forth. From an attempt to orchestrate the Andante (imagining the undulating left hand figurations as if played by a section of cellos), to the remark that certain melodic notes are the change of registers for Soprano voices, and that can thus by “illuminated” (his marvellous word) with more conviction, until the apparently obvious realization that the typical rhythmical rigour of the Polonaise can, without due attention, be obscured by the right hand virtuoso figurations, and turn into a rather undignified “zoom-pah-pah”.

After two hours I caem home extremely tired (it is uncharacteristially hot in Tuscany, and playing is more taxing than usual), but I needed to go over all of the Maestro’s observations prior to getting some rest, lest forgetting anything. It was a good decision: since days ago I study my Polonaise (yes, at this point it is “mine” in the sense that my reading of it now has a personal imprint, respectful of the text but intimate nonetheless) with renewed enthusiasm, energy and conviction. Obviously, I have absolutely no idea of how it will play out at concerts. I will try, as always, to give my best. But an element of chance is an integral part of the profession: sometimes it works, others not at all, and the only thing to do is to practice, practice, practice, and when we think that we are ready practice some more in order to finally realise how ignorant we still are. And, as I train my hands as I always do, I see images of cellos playing marvellously these G major arpeggios, of singers who underline with infinite grace their change of register,

Dopo due ore di lezione, son tornato a casa spossato (continua a fare un gran caldo, ed a suonare si fa fatica) ma ho voluto “ripassare” tutte le osservazioni del maestro prima di coricarmi, salvo dimenticarne qualcuna. Ed ho fatto bene: da giorni studio la mia Polonaise (si, a questo punto è “mia”, nel senso che la mia lettura ora ha un’impronta personale, rispettosissima del testo ma pur sempre originale) con rinnovati entusiasmo, vigore e convinzione. Ovviamente, non ho la minima idea di come riuscirò a suonarla ai concerti. Cercherò, come sempre, di fare del mio meglio ma l’alea è nella natura della professione: a volte funziona, altre no, e l’unica cosa da fare è studiare, studiare, studiare, e quando ci si crede pronti continuare a studiare per poi rendersi conto di quanto si è somari. E, mentre ammaestro le mie mani come faccio sempre, mi frullano in testa immagini di violoncelli che suonano meravigliosamente quegli arpeggi di Sol maggiore dell’Andante, di cantanti che sottolineano con infinita grazia il cambio di registro, diof pompous band leaders who incite the orchestra to beat the Polonaise rhythm with conviction. And, every so often, a mysterious spotlight illuminates one or the other note. The other day I went and looked behind one of these. There was a little inscription, which read “Thank you, Maestro”.

A very hunbling experience, indeed. Priceless.

Latest news

Sandro Ivo Bartoli is busy preparing his next engagements. Highlights for the coming months will be the official launch of a brand new festival in Gargnano, on Lake Garda, and a series of recitals in Germany. Meanwhile the Youtube Channel is growing steadily: recent uploads have featured Respighi’s Concerto in modo misolidio (live) and celebrated works by Chopin, Satie, Haydn and Malipiero’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (also live). Stay tuned for more info…

LEARNING BACH – A NEW YT SERIES

Bartoli shares his learning process with one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpieces, the “Capriccio on the departure of his beloved brother” BWV 992 in a series of videos released through his Youtube channel. The series began on January 5h, 2022 and will conclude with his concert on January 30th. The first episode, “Preliminaries and Arioso” is available online here: https://youtu.be/9abtl6rLskE

Scarlatti, the last leg of the journey.

With today’s episode #455, the “Scarlatti – All Sonatas” series enters the last 100 Sonatas to be introduced and performed by Sandro Ivo Bartoli on his Youtube channel. Many thanks to all the supporters worldwide.

SCARLATTI UPDATE

“Scarlatti / All Sonatas” reached its 386th episode today. I am amazed at the variety of expressions this great Maestro was capable of, and how easy it is to select a different Sonata each day to reflect different moods and attitudes. This is a brief message to thank all of you who support my project by subscribing to my Yourube channel, by commenting, and primarily by following the videos, I truly appreciate it! Thank you!