Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Italian: [arˈtuːro beneˈdɛtti mikeˈlandʒeli]; 5 January 1920 – 12 June 1995) was an Italian classical pianist. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.
Born in Brescia, Italy, he began music lessons at the age of three, initially with the violin, but quickly switched to the piano. At ten he entered the Milan Conservatory. In 1938, at the age of eighteen, he began his international career by entering the Ysaÿe International Festival in Brussels, Belgium, where he was placed seventh. (A brief account of this competition, at which Emil Gilels took first prize, is given by Arthur Rubinstein,[where?] who was one of the judges. According to Rubinstein, Benedetti Michelangeli gave "an unsatisfactory performance, but already showed his impeccable technique.") A year later he earned first prize in the Geneva International Competition, where he was acclaimed as "a new Liszt" by pianist Alfred Cortot, a member of the judging panel, which was presided over by Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
The music critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote of Benedetti Michelangeli:
His fingers can no more hit a wrong note or smudge a passage than a bullet can be veered off course once it has been fired...The puzzling part about Michelangeli is that in many pieces of the romantic repertoire he seems unsure of himself emotionally, and his otherwise direct playing is then laden with expressive devices that disturb the musical flow.
On the other hand, the Romanian conductor Sergiu Celibidache always saw in Benedetti Michelangeli a colleague, and not merely another competent pianist: “Michelangeli makes colors; he is a conductor." The teacher and commentator David Dubal argued that he was best in the earlier works of Beethoven and seemed insecure in Chopin, but that he was "demonic" in such works as the Bach-Busoni Chaconne and the Brahms Paganini Variations.
His repertoire was strikingly small for a concert pianist of such stature for he gradually reduced it to concentrate on specific works. Owing to this obsessive perfectionism, relatively few recordings were officially released during Benedetti Michelangeli's lifetime, but these are augmented by numerous unauthorized recordings of live performances. Discographical highlights include the (authorized) live performances in London of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit, Chopin's Mazurkas and Sonata No. 2, Schumann's Carnaval, Op. 9 and Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26 as well as various recordings of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5, Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Totentanz, and the piano concertos of Robert Schumann, and Edvard Grieg. In addition, his playing of Ravel's Piano Concerto in G and Gaspard de la nuit set standards for those works. His reading of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4 is comparable to that of Rachmaninoff himself. His Debussy series for DG is something of a benchmark, even if it is sometimes accused of being a little unatmospheric ("swimming in cool water," in Dubal's words). He is also credited with the rediscovery of some works of Catalan composer Federico Mompou.[by whom?]
As a composer, Benedetti Michelangeli arranged 19 Italian Folksongs a cappella for the SAT men's chorus from Trent (Italy). A recording of these pieces can be found on the DIVOX music label. As a teacher, his pupils included such world-class artists as Martha Argerich, Ivan Moravec, and Maurizio Pollini.
On September 20, 1943 Benedetti Michelangeli married Giulia Linda Guidetti, whom he had met in Brescia, and who had later been a pupil of his. She was a valued counselor and secretary to her husband. She lived quietly, sharing time together at their villa in Bornato, near Brescia, or in Bolzano or Arezzo, and almost never appeared in public together with her husband, so that hardly anybody knew that he was married.
From 1970 on, his secretary, and later his agent and lover, Marie-José Gros-Dubois, twenty years younger than he, was faithfully near his side. Despite his longtime marriage, Marie-José was his lover for 25 years. Benedetti Michelangeli reputedly did not enjoy giving concerts. Marie-José Gros-Dubois was his agent. She organized concerts and dates for him, and also presided over his financial affairs. In an interview, she remembered that he could not believe that his concerts were worth so much money. After a concert, she reported that he gloomily said: "You see, so much applause, so much public. Then, in half an hour, you feel alone more than before."
Benedetti Michelangeli was a connoisseur of the mechanics of the piano and he insisted that his concert instruments be in perfect condition. Whenever possible he took his own Steinway piano with him on tour. His last concert (all Debussy) took place on 7 May 1993 in Hamburg, Germany. After an extended illness he died in Lugano, Switzerland. He is buried in nearby Pura.
- Schonberg, Harold (1987). The Great Pianists. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 424–425. ISBN 0-671-63837-8.
- Dubal, David (1989). The Art of the Piano. New York: Summit Books. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-671-49238-1.
- "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: 1920 – 1995". Musicians Gallery. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
- Giuseppe, Angilella. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- Kaiser, Joachim (1972). Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit. Munic and Zurich: R. Piper & Co Verlag, München. pp. 154–164. ISBN 3-492-02385-1
- Garben, Cord (2002). Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Gratwanderungen mit einem Genie. Hamburg: Europaische Verlagsanstalt.
- Richter, Sviatoslav (1998). Bruno Monsaingeon, ed. Ecrits, conversations. Editions Van de Velde. pp. 260, 289, 310, 312. ISBN 2-85868-255-0.
- Garben Cord, "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. In bilico con un genio", Zecchini Editore, (2004), pag. 222 e illustrazioni, con discografia e videografia a cura di Stefano Biosa, CD allegato con inediti, ISBN 88-87203-24-5.
- Rattalino Piero, "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. L'asceta", coll. Grandi Pianisti 4, Zecchini Editore, (2006), pag. 164, con discografia e videografia a cura di Stefano Biosa, ISBN 88-87203-41-5.
- Literature by and about Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in the German National Library catalogue
- The «Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli» Documentation Centre (Biography, articles and events)
- Jacques Leiser & Ates Orga 'Fifty Years of Music with my Husband, Arturo Michelangeli', Clavier May/June 2002