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Life and career
Ponti was born in Germany, but has lived in the United States for most of his life. He studied piano in Washington DC with Gilmour McDonald from 1954 to 1955, McDonald having been a pupil of the legendary virtuoso Leopold Godowsky.
From 1951 to 1953 Ponti attended DeMatha Catholic High School. He graduated from Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, in 1955. Then he studied with Erich Flinsch (who had been a pupil of and an assistant to Emil von Sauer) in Frankfurt from 1955 to 1961.
In 1964, Ponti won first prize in the Busoni Piano Competition in Italy. Soon afterward, he made his Vienna debut by performing the solo part in Bartók's 2nd Piano Concerto, with Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting. Since then, he has toured quite widely, including a 1977 visit to Australia. Also in 1977, he founded his own trio (with violinist Robert Zimansky and cellist Jan Polasek).
Recordings and reputation
Ponti is fondly remembered by a generation of music lovers for his wide-ranging recordings of the unknown romantic repertoire on the Vox and Candide labels. He recorded a series of concertos, many of which had never been recorded before, and some of which have been unrecorded since, by such composers as Clara Schumann, Ignaz Moscheles, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Sigismond Thalberg, Moritz Moszkowski and Hans Bronsart von Schellendorff. In addition, he committed to disc the complete piano music of Scriabin, much of which was otherwise unavailable then, though it has since been recorded by Vladimir Ashkenazy and Piers Lane. He also recorded the complete piano music of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. His output amounts to more than 80 discs, and much of his output has been released on CD.
In the late 1990s, his performing career was ended by a stroke that left him without the use of his right hand and arm. Despite extensive rehabilitation, he has been unable to return to concertizing or recording. He continues to live in Bavaria with his American-born wife.
- Liner notes for Vox Box CDX 5024
- Ponti's biography on the Naxos site
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