Of Keyboards and cravats: Federico Colli
3 September 2015
With the 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition in full swing, we thought we’d take a look back at the 2012 winner. Federico Colli – the curly-haired, cravat-wearing Italian – thrilled judges with his performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, beating runner-up Louis Schwizgebel. Colli was featured as our ‘One to Watch’ in the January/February 2015 issue, and you can read the full article below.
Of keyboards and cravats
Federico Colli’s career received a boost when he won the Leeds International Piano Competition, and his recent Southbank Centre debut confirmed his original artistry. By Michael Church.
With his silk cravat and perfectly cut suit, Federico Colli walks on stage like a dandy. But as his Southbank Centre debut last April revealed, there’s a singular artistry underpinning his performance. Mozart’s Sonata No 5 in G is regarded by many pianists as downright trivial, but in Colli’s hands it opened up like a spring flower, its outer movements shot through with brilliant lights and its andante exquisitely shades. Colli tended to brush the keys rather than strike them, and he was sparing with the pedal. He was faithful to the architecture of Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’ and white hot throughout. Colli wound up with an account of Schumann’s First Sonata so original that it might have been a brand new piece, yet it still felt true to the composer’s spirit. Colli’s ultimate gift is absolute clarity of intention.
Colli, 26, started playing the piano for fun when he was four, but insists that even at ten he wasn’t thinking about a career as a musician: maths, physics and philosophy were just as interesting to him. He played Fur Elise in his first concert; a video shows him bursting into tears after playing it because he was unhappy with his performance: ‘I felt I had a duty to the music, and I had let it down. From that moment on, I became a perfectionist.’ Growing up in Brescia – the birthplace of his hero Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli – he was taught by Sergio Marengoni, and left the Milan Conservatory at 16 with flying colours. He then went to study under the Russian pianist Konstantin Bogino, by which he was practicising for eight hours a day. Colli won the Cantu Piano Competition at 20, but got knocked out of the London International Piano Competition in the first round. ‘I was sad,’ he recalls of that event. ‘I decided to concentrate on chamber music and studying the solo piano repertoire in depth. I decided to grow up as a man.’ Three years later, in 2012, Colli won the Leeds International Piano Competition, aged 24.
‘And a new chapter of my life began. I started to think philosophically about what I played. I recently talked at length to the Italian philosopher Emanuele Severino, and we discussed the Kathekon, a benign force [defined by the ancient Greek philosophers] that can counteract all the evil in the world. The way I play Schumann’s first Sonata is my attempt to get expression to that power. I am also looking for ways in which I can apply Nietszche’s philosophy to music, and Kierkegaard’s; reading his work for me was a life changing experience.’ He observes that the philosophy of Hegal – an exact contemporary of Beethoven – can be seen reflected in the opening phase of the ‘Appassionata’, and he makes a neat case for that view, adding sternly that ‘he who does not think in this way, does not deserve to be a musician.’ His other big concern is ‘actuality in music – when a thing is complete in its essence. If you look at my performance of Shubert’s Op 142 Impromptu on Youtube, you will find my attempt to realise this.’ Chopin doesn’t interest him much, and Liszt not at all: ‘There is no mystery in them.’ He says he is still too young to understand Bach and Brahms: ‘Finding the right sound for Brahms is very hard: you need to have physical strength, be a big Genghis Khan – and also quite arrogant’. For Brahms, Radu Lupu is his exemplar. And Stravinsky? ‘Petrushka is too virtuosic for me. I am a virtuoso, I can play anything I want, but at this moment in time we don’t need more virtuosos. We need the philosophy of music.’
So where does the dandyism fit in? ‘A dandy is a man who loves beauty. I am an artist, and I love beauty and truth. And yes, I collect jackets and cravats. I counted with my girlfriend a couple of days ago – 36 cravats in my wardrobe. For jackets, I love Yashimoto and Christian Dior. But they are expensive, so I wait for the sales.’
To coincide with his debut at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2014, Colli released his first solo CD, entitled Pictures at an Exhibition, featuring music by Beethoven, Scriabin and Mussorgsky. Find out more and buy here.
Find out more: www.federicocolli.eu
The 2015 competition
The 2015 Leeds International Piano Competition takes place from 23 August to 13 September. The finals will take place on 11 and 12 September, with the Prize Winner’s Gala Recital on 13 September.
Find out more: www.leedspiano.com
Casio announces launch of new Celviano Grand Hybrids
2 September 2015
Benjamin GrosvenorValentin Behringer
Casio is to launch its new Celviano Grand Hybrid models in October this year. A product of the company's collaboration with C. Bechstein, the new instruments combine features of digital and acoustic pianos while replicating the touch of a grand piano.
Benjamin Grosvenor, who been appointed as the brand ambassador for the range, said: 'I’ve really enjoyed my time so far playing the Celviano Grand Hybrid, and I’m very impressed with the quality of the instrument and the depth of touch it has, as well as its unique features - for example, the choice of three of the world’s most renowned piano sounds. Being able to play silently with my headphones in the comfort of my own space, while experiencing real piano action is a great benefit. I think this instrument would be a fantastic learning tool for aspiring young pianists, given the inclusion of a real piano action, and also something for those professionals who might need to practise during non-social hours. I’m delighted to be involved in the project.'
The release of the Celviano Grand Hybrids mark 30 years of Casio making digital pianos.
International Piano September Issue is out now!
2 September 2015
Celebrated for his prowess on the fortepiano, Ronald Brautigam speaks to International Piano about the differences between ancient and modern pianos and the sense of curiosity that drives his quest for musical completeness; going for gold at the 15th International Tchaikovsky Competition; and, with a growing repertoire and accomplished practitioners all over the world, we explore the art of the toy piano. Plus, Rolf Hind’s Occupy the Pianos festival returns to London; Boris Giltburg introduces his latest solo recording exploring the complexity and depth of three Beethoven piano sonatas; Benjamin Ivry considers the extent to which pianistic talent is innate or acquired; IP’s pick of the top five apps for serious piano students; Nikolai Lugansky discusses his favourite recordings; the life and legacy of Percy Grainger; festival highlights from Verbier and the BBC Proms; free sheet music of Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s Dream and Bagattella; and your chance to WIN festival passes to Occupy the Pianos at St John’s Smith Square.
Bu Buy the Print here - just £7.50
· Buy the Digital Print here – just £2.49
· In selected newsagents and WH Smiths stores from 25th August.
Concert pianist Natalia Strelchenko killed in Manchester home
2 September 2015, Andrew Green
Gramophone award winners announced
27 August 2015
The recordings which have won Gramophone Awards in each of the 12 main categories have been announced.