Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

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Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli at the piano (1960)

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (Italian: [arˈtuːro beneˈdetti mikeˈlandʒeli]; 5 January 1920 – 12 June 1995)[1] was an Italian classical pianist. He is considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.[2] According to The New York Times, he was perhaps the most reclusive, enigmatic and obsessive among the handful of the world's legendary pianists.[3]

Early life and studies[edit]

Michelangeli was born near Brescia, in Italy, and his date of birth is usually given as 5 January 1920.[4] He himself once said that he was born 'during the first hour of the morning of 6 January 1920'. His father, who was a count, and a lawyer by profession, was also a musician and a composer. His father began teaching music to Michelangeli before he was four years old. He began learning the violin at the age of three and studied that instrument at the Venturi Institute, in Brescia,[5] but soon switched to piano under Dr. Paulo Chimeri who accepted him into his class following an audition.[6] He also studied organ and composition. When he was nine, he began having private lessons with Giovanni Anfossi [de] in Milan.[7]

Michelangeli was ten years old when he began his formal studies at the Milan Conservatory, and he graduated from that institution with honours at the age of 14.[1] Although Michelangeli's family were passionate music lovers, they did not want Arturo to become a pianist. In view of the attitude of his family, Arturo became independent when he was fifteen.[8] However, at the request of his family, he still studied medicine for several years. Michelangeli said he had always been playing somewhere: in his home town as a boy, and later — especially after his competition successes — throughout Italy and abroad.[9]

Professional career[edit]

Michelangeli (1969)

In May 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.[10] A brief account of this competition, at which Emil Gilels took first prize and Moura Lympany second, is given by Arthur Rubinstein, 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 Music 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. Upon winning the competition, Benito Mussolini gave Michelangeli a teaching position at the Martini Conservatory in Bologna, Italy.[11]

The outbreak of World War II interrupted Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's career just as it had begun. Despite the efforts of Maria Jose di Savoia (later Queen of Italy) to exonerate him, Michelangeli was also drafted into the army. He joined the Italian airforce, but as soon as the war was over, he returned to the concert platform.[12] After a long break, his first concert was held in Warsaw during the 5th Chopin Competition, where he was one of the jurors. At the competition, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli left the jury in protest. Vladimir Ashkenazy, whom he believed should have won, received the second prize and lost to Adam Harasiewicz by a small point.[13] Michelangeli first toured the United States in 1948, making his orchestral debut at Carnegie Hall in November. He played Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54 with the New York Philharmonic and Dimitri Mitropoulos and made his solo debut at Carnegie Hall in January 1949.[14] As early as 1939, Michelangeli was offered a post as a piano teacher at the conservatory in Bologna.[15] His teaching activity also took in conservatories in Venice, Berlin, Geneva, Budapest, and Bolzano. However, cramming music teaching into a school setting did not fit in with his concept of preparing students for the profession of artist. For his work as a teacher, then, he preferred to opt for the form of piano courses. He conducted these for several years in winter in Bolzano, and in summer from 1952 to 1964 in Arezzo (with a break caused by ill health between 1953 and 1955). The courses were to be crowned by the founding of the Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli International Piano Academy, which was to be organized by the city and provincial authorities in Arezzo, in cooperation with the 'Amici della Musica' Society. Unfortunately, the project did not come to fruition. The Maestro conducted further courses in Moncalieri, Siena, and Lugano, and from 1967 he began giving private tuition at Rabbi in the province of Trento, in his Alpine villas.[16]

In 1988, he had a serious heart attack during a concert in Bordeaux.[17] After more than seven hours of surgery, he overcame this health issue.[18] A few months later, On 7 June 1989, he played Mozart concertos Nos. 20 & 25

External video
video icon Michelangeli performing Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major (London, Apr 1982) accompanied by Sergiu Celibidache and the London Symphony Orchestra.

under the baton of Cord Garben with the Nord Deutsche Rundfunk orchestra.[19] In 1990, he again recorded two Mozart concertos, KV. 415 and KV. 503 in Bremen.[20] Michelangeli's last public performance was held in Hamburg on May 7, 1993.[21]

As a composer, Benedetti Michelangeli arranged 19 Italian Folksongs a cappella for the Coro della Società Alpinisti Tridentini, a men's chorus from Trento (Italy). A recording of these pieces can be found on the DIVOX music label.

As a teacher, his students included Maurizio Pollini, Martha Argerich, Ivan Moravec, Paul Stewart, Aldo Antognazzi, Vladimir Krpan, Lucia Passaglia[22] and Carlo Dominici.[23]

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."[24] Celibidache also considered Michelangeli the "greatest living artist".[25]

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.[26]

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.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Michelangeli lived in Switzerland during the 1970s, and refused to perform in, reside in, or visit his native Italy for over a decade.[3] On 20 September 1943 Benedetti Michelangeli married pianist Giulia Linda Guidetti, who was a pupil of his father. She shared time with her husband at their villa in Bornato, near Brescia, or in Bolzano or Arezzo. They separated in 1970.[3]

From 1970 on, his secretary, and later his agent and partner, Marie-José Gros-Dubois organized concerts and dates for him, and also presided over his financial affairs.[3]

In an interview, Gros-Dubois 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."[28]

Michelangeli was a three-time competitor in the Mille Miglia road race.[2] Benedetti Michelangeli was a connoisseur of the mechanics of the piano and he insisted that his concert instruments be in perfect condition. His last concert (all Debussy) took place on 7 May 1993 in Hamburg, Germany. After an extended illness he died on 12 June 1995 in Lugano, Switzerland.[10] He is buried in nearby Pura.[29]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • Queen Elisabeth Competition: Seventh Prize (1938)[30]
  • Geneva International Competition: First Prize (1939)[31]
  • 15th Annual Grammy Awards Best Classical Performance – Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (Without Orchestra): Nomination (1972)
Debussy: Images, Books 1 And 2 and Children's Corner Suite (Album)
  • 18th Annual Grammy Awards Best Classical Performance – Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (Without Orchestra): Nomination (1975)
Schumann: Carnaval, Op. 9 (Album)[32]

Michelangeli was chosen by an international panel as the official pianist for the 100th anniversary of Chopin's death (1949).[33]

The International Piano Festival of Brescia and Bergamo[edit]

Founded by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli in 1964, the International Piano Festival of Brescia and Bergamo is one of the major world events dedicated specifically to the piano, intended both as a solo instrument and as a prestigious orchestra interlocutor.[34]

In 1962, the 'Amici della Musica' Society in Arezzo organized the First Benedetti Michelangeli Festival. Michelangeli's pupils would take part, giving concerts in various charming locations in Tuscany. The festival concluded with a performance given in Arezzo by Michelangeli himself. A similar event took place the following year.

From 1964, the festival moved to Brescia and Bergamo, and Michelangeli remained its artistic director for about three years.[35]

Not only the greatest pianists appeared at the festival, from Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, protagonist of the first five editions, to Magaloff, from Richter to Arrau, Pollini, Ashkenazy, Radu Lupu, Zimerman, Brendel, Martha Argerich, Evgeny Kissin, Grigory Sokolov, but also instrumentalists, singers and conductors of the calibre of Mstislav Rostropovich, Mischa Maisky, Uto Ughi, Luciano Pavarotti, Riccardo Muti, Claudio Abbado, Gergiev, Giulini, Sawallisch, Solti, Maazel, Chung.[36]




  1. ^ a b Bryce Morrison (20 January 2001). "Michelangeli, Arturo Benedetti". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.18592.
  2. ^ a b Tommasini, Anthony (13 June 1995). "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Reclusive Pianist, Is Dead at 75". The New York Times. p. B7. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Gruen, John (21 August 1977). "Michelangeli Will Play Here Again Next Year Maybe". The New York Times. p. 85. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Legends: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". ABC Classic. 5 June 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Obituary: Arturo Michelangeli". The Independent. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  6. ^ "Paolo Chimeri on Treccani". Treccani (in Italian).
  7. ^ "Giovanni Anfossi on Treccani". Treccani (in Italian).
  8. ^ "Radio Swiss Classic - Banca dati musicale - Musicista". (in Italian). Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  9. ^ Kozubek, Lidia. Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli as I knew him. pp. 99–101. ISBN 978-3-631-66524-4. OCLC 911518790.
  10. ^ a b Blackwood 2014, p. 408
  11. ^ "Interview with Giuliana Michelangeli". New York Times. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Detail". (in French). Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  13. ^ McCormick, Lisa. "Pogorelich at the Chopin: Towards a sociology of competition scandals". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  14. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli- Bio, Albums, Pictures". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  15. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  16. ^ Kozubek 2015, p. 101-102
  17. ^ "Michelangeli, Arturo Benedetti: Early Recordings, Vol. 1 (1939-1948)". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  18. ^ Kozubek 2015, p. 33
  19. ^ "Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos. 20 & 25". Presto Classical. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  20. ^ Kozubek 2015, p. 102
  21. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  22. ^ "Nazzareno Carusi: la mia vita per il pianoforte, sognando Celano". Il Centro (in Italian). Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  23. ^ "Ricordando Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, "Ogni nota una goccia di cristallo"". la Repubblica (in Italian). 10 November 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli: Hobnail Boots & Angel's Slippers". The Albion Beatnik Bookstore website (or how to change a light bulb in a tight space on a ladder). 18 August 2015. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  25. ^ "Radio Swiss Classic - Music database - Musician". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  26. ^ Dubal, David (1989). The art of the piano : its performers, literature, and recordings. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-49238-1. OCLC 19353405.
  27. ^ Dubal, David (1989). The art of the piano : its performers, literature, and recordings. New York: Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-49238-1. OCLC 19353405.
  28. ^ "Musicians Gallery Tribute - Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli pianist". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Detail". (in French). Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  31. ^ "Arturo Bendedetti Michelangeli (Piano) - Short Biography". Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  32. ^ "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". 23 November 2020. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  33. ^ Staff. "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Renowned Pianist, Is Dead at 75". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  34. ^ Giulia. "Piano Festival - Donizetti Theatre Bergamo". Teatro Donizetti - Bergamo. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  35. ^ Kozubek 2015, p. 101
  36. ^ Giulia. "Piano Festival - Donizetti Theatre Bergamo". Teatro Donizetti - Bergamo. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  37. ^ Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano Recorded: 1948, Bach-Busoni Chaconne – from Partita for Solo Violin No. 2 BWV 1004, retrieved 18 February 2021
  38. ^ Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano Recorded: 1948, Brahms Variations on a theme by Paganini Op. 35, retrieved 18 February 2021
  39. ^ Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli; William Steinberg: New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1988), Beethoven: Piano Concerto #5, Internet Archive, Nuova Era, retrieved 18 February 2021
  40. ^ a b Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli; Philharmonia Orchestra; Ettore Gracis; Maurice Ravel; Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff (1958), Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Minor | Piano Concerto In G Major, Internet Archive, Angel Records, retrieved 30 October 2021
  41. ^ Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano Recorded: Live in Lugano 1981, Brahms 4 Ballades Op. 10, retrieved 18 February 2021


  • Blackwood, Alan. (2014). "Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli". In Stacey, Lee; Henderson, Lol (eds.). Encyclopedia of Music in the 20th Century. Routledge: Taylor & Francis. p. 408. ISBN 9781135929466.
  • Kozubek, Lidia. (2015). Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli As I Knew Him. Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 9783631665244. OCLC 911518790.

External links[edit]