Sicilian prizewinner wins hearts with warmth, passion
Music for the audience, not the ego or the critic
Blessed relief from modern focus on technical triumph
The prizewinning 27 year old pianist from Sicily, Salvatore Gitto, who performed for a select audience at the Italian Cultural Institute last night (Feb 10 Mon), not only ran through a quartet of palatable sonatas by post Beethoven 19 Century composers with Beethovian impetus and conviction but clearly had the engaging intention of playing directly for the audience, rather than with self conscious introspection for himself or for critics.
Gitto’s generous spirit and flair for melodic messaging was the kind of approach which lulls and absorbs the listener into the music as a full partner of the performer, and his style, bred in his native Sicily with further studies in Rome, seemed in the context quintessentially Italian, a matter of playing with social feeling where the listener is brought into the work as it unfolds with not the slightest distraction from technical difficulties or bravura.
Here it was the music that was played and irresistibly conveyed rather than the notes, contrary to the preoccupation of too many young pianists for the past half century in America, as technical accomplishment has become ever more dazzling. Gitto’s winning grasp of the music was more along the lines of the great Romantics of the piano such as Corot or Rubinstein who would sacrifice a wrong note to the right music without a second thought, a tradition evidently still respected in Messina by Gitto’s well known teacher and mentor, Gaetano Induco.
Spirit of the composer
But Gitto was not inaccurate. On the contrary, given the fact that the piano clearly had its faults – it began clicking in unison with the keys at one point – his strong fingered control was all the more admirable for being no issue at all. If he wished for a more subtle keyboard response in reflective passages, it was not apparent to this listener. The always romantic and intriguing Mendelssohn, Schumann and Schubert sonatas and even the occasionally more jagged Prokofiev flowed both forte and pianissimo with uninterrupted concentration into the ears and the hearts of the audience. It is rare to hear such Romantic works played with such dedicated and energetic musicality that the listener is carried along by the life and meaning of each bar, with both performer and audience taken by the spirit of the composer.
It may have helped that Gitto though not tall looks quite the romantic charmer in the 18th Century manner, his features harking back to the Naples which under Bourbon rule sacrificed the flower of its nobility to a shortlived revolution. There is something aristocratic about his longish sideburns and receding hairline (even if not brushed forward in the Napoleonic manner) which is reminiscent of portraits of Napoleon and the Enlightenment nobles that Admiral Nelson ruthlessly executed. Suitably one of his recent recitals was for King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége in September.
But there was nothing aloof in Gitto’s modest manner, and his playing was full of the warmth and vigor of his Sicilian heritage, shining through a keyboard mastery and a musical momentum undeterred by the recalcitrant piano. For this the setting was ideal. The intimate and very personable hospitality of the Italian Cultural Institute – Gitto was introduced by Fabio Troisi the Attache for Cultural Affairs as part of his ongoing hosting of young Italian musical talent – was enhanced by the many members of the audience from the same Mediterranean background, including Salvatore’s Roman born American aunt, with whom he was staying, his cousin Jean Paul, a composer of electronic music, and their friends. “I am not an expert and I don’t know the technicalities, ” his aunt, Mafaldo Cento, a painter, said, confiding that she had last seen Gitto when he was 13. “But I love his music. He is very warm, very passionate.”
Gitto himself afterwards said it was unusual for him not to select some Liszt to play. “I like Liszt so much, ” he said. “He is a fighting horse.” The noted Sicilian born mosaic craftsman Anthony D. Schiavo, a friend of his aunt, said he admired Salvatore’s technical grasp, especially since he and his wife had found the ICI hall so cold they had to go back down the curved staircase to retrieve their coats and gloves before he began.
Playing with heart
Photographer Frank Santoro, at whose home in Brooklyn Gitto had played the previous evening, said “Last night he played in my house. We invite him over. He played Mendelssohn. We were about ten. (“We had our own private recital!” said his wife. “And it was nice and warm!”) I just bought the piano – it’s a year old Yamaha. And you know what? I enjoy it more and more and more.” He laughed expansively. “I love music. I love music! I come from the same place, Sicily. Italians play with heart. Because music has to be felt. Actually felt. I took music lessons many years ago and that’s what they used to tell me. You have got to feel music. Same thing with dancing. If you feel the music when you dance, then you are better than the next person.”
In the US for the first time, Gitto was due to play an audition the next day at Carnegie Hall competing for a featured performance later, and then return to his Sicilian home in Milazzo, the seaside village outside Messina. Told that he seemed to leave technicalities behind to devote his playing to communicating the music, the young pianist said that “for me, that is the best report I can receive. It is my objective. I want to reach the people. To connect. Otherwise it is a failed mission.”
The Italian Cultural Institute is pleased
to invite you to:
Monday, February 10th
Italian Cultural Institute
686 Park Avenue
Winner of numerous prizes in more than twenty national and international piano competitions achieving success with audience and critics, Salvatore Gitto performed in important Halls and Festivals all over Italy. In September 2013 he was invited to give a concert in honor of King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége. He worked with composers Carmelo Chillemi, whose some piano works he gave the premiere in 2012, and Giuseppe Azzarelli, whose original scene music Gitto performed in collaboration with the famous stage director Eugenio Monti Colla at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
Fantasy op.28 FELIX MENDELSSOHN
Drei Romanzen op. 28 ROBERT SCHUMANN
Sonata op. 120 D-664 FRANZ SCHUBERT
Sonata op. 14 n. 2 SERGEY PROKOFIEW
Sicilian pianist born in Milazzo (Messina) in 1986. He grew up artistically in the pianistic school of Gaetano Indaco at the Conservatorio “A.Corelli” of Messina, where he passed the Level II Academic Diploma for piano interpretation-composition with top marks and a special mention.
In 2013 he took the Master Course for piano at the prestigious Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome with Sergio Perticaroli and Stefano Fiuzzi.
A significant contribution to his artistic formation the meeting with the musicologists Francesco Scarpellini Pancrazi and Mario Musumeci. They let Salvatore analyze the lisztian repertoire presenting as degree theses “Saggio di traduzione specializzata dall’inglese in ambito musicologico: Liszt: Sonata in B Minor by Kenneth Hamilton” and the essay “The devil in music and the epic of Faust: thematic metamorphosis and visionary rhetoric in Mephisto-Walzer”.
He won numerous prizes in more than twenty national and international piano competitions achieving success with audiance and critics. The concert career has seen him perform in a lot of Halls and Festivals all over Italy such as Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome, Sala Laudamo and University in Messina, the Roman Festival Musicale delle Nazioni at Teatro Marcello and Villa Torlonia, Taormina in Musica, the Festival Eolie in classico (Aeolian Islands), for Dolomites Unesco Foundation, Rotary International Sicily – Malta, “Giuseppe Verdi” foundation in Milan, Festival Internazionale Dino Ciani in Milan and Venice.
Salvatore debuted young as soloist with the Orchestra Giovanile di Messina playing Mozart’s Piano Concerto KV 414. He was also the winner of the Special Prize “Piano and Orchestra 2010” at XV Premio Benedetto Albanese in Palermo for the best execution of Mozart’s Piano Concert KV 467 allowing him to perform with the Orchestra Giovanile Mediterranea.
In september 2013 he was invited to give a concert in honor of King Albert II of Belgium and Queen Paola of Liége.
In 2012 he realized with pianist Silvia Tessari the musical twinning “Vette e vulcani su un pianoforte”, a successful concert tour among Unesco World Heritage sites of Dolomites and Aeolian Islands, in the presence of the Italian Minister of education Francesco Profumo.
In 2012 he gave the premiere performances of Sicilian composer Carmelo Chillemi’s piano works, as Atmosfere op. 25/C, Est mihi in animo op. 36/C, Rapsodya op. 69/C and the symphonic poems Angelica e Medoro op. 75/C and Anno Domini 2010 op. 76/C.
He has collaborated with the famous stage director Eugenio Monti Colla performing Giuseppe Azzarelli’s original scene musics directed by Simone Genuini at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
During his studies he took part to several masterclasses and international piano meetings with acclaimed Professors as Nathalia Trull, Violetta Egorova, Andrea Lucchesini, Sergio Perticaroli, Stefano Fiuzzi, Vsevelod Dvorkin held at Villa-Medici Giulini in Milan, Accademia Pianistica Siciliana and Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence.