“Francesco Piemontesi combines stunning technique with an intellectual capacity that few can match”
Damian Thompson, Spectator
Born in Locarno, Francesco Piemontesi rose to international prominence with prizes at several major competitions, including the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition. Between 2009-2011 he was chosen as a BBC New Generation Artist. He is regarded as one of the new great Mozartian pianists; in the words of the Daily Telegraph, “Piemontesi’s playing on this disc identifies a Mozartian of rare refinement and wisdom.” But he consciously seeks to balance this both in recital and in the concert hall with other, post-classical repertoire – Debussy, Ravel, Liszt, Dvořák, Bartók, as well as the composers of the great German repertoire. Following his BBC Prom in August 2014, the Financial Times wrote, “What the Burleske does have to offer is a virtuoso piano part, and Francesco Piemontesi sparkled with dashing insouciance, only to contrast that with playing of lyrical beauty in Mozart’s Rondo in A major, K386, after the interval.”
Piemontesi’s playing is characterised by consummate technical skill, a wide and rich palette of colour and a refinement of expression. Of one of his great teachers and mentors, Alfred Brendel, Piemontesi says that Brendel taught him “to love the detail of things”.
In 2012, Piemontesi was announced as Artistic Director of the Settimane Musicali di Ascona, by his hometown Locarno.
Francesco Piemontesi now appears with major ensembles worldwide, the Cleveland Orchestra, DSO and Berlin Radio Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony, London Philharmonic, Philharmonia, BBCSO, Israel Philharmonic and the Orchestra of the Maggio Musicale. He has performed with such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Marek Janowski, Sakari Oramo, Vasily Petrenko and Charles Dutoit and has also established a close musical partnership with, for example, Sir Roger Norrington, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, David Afkham, Nicholas Collon and Andrew Manze.
Piemontesi is a natural and keen chamber musician and plays with a variety of partners – the Emerson Quartet, with Antoine Tamestit and Jörg Widmann in trio, with Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Clemens Hagen, Yuri Bashmet, Angelika Kirchschlager, Daniel Müller-Schott and during his formative years, with Heinrich Schiff.
In solo recital, he has appeared in many prestigious venues including Wigmore Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Rotterdam De Doelen, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York, Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus and Musikverein, Tokyo Suntory Hall and in Rome, Zurich, Paris, and Brussels. Festival invitations have come from the Edinburgh International Festival, La Roque d'Anthéron, New York Mostly Mozart, Chopin International Music Festival in Warsaw, Lucerne Festival, Aix-en-Provence Festival, and Schleswig-Holstein Festival.
Forthcoming engagements in 2014/15 will see Piemontesi return to the City of Birmingham Symphony, Hallé, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and the Swedish Radio Symphony. He is soloist on tour with the Royal Philharmonic and Charles Dutoit and will make his debut performances with NHK Symphony, Sao Paolo Symphony, NDR Radiophilharmonie and Helsinki Philharmonic, and further ahead with the Danish Radio Symphony and Leipzig Gewandhaus.
Francesco Piemontesi has released a number of fine recordings, including Schumann Sonatas and a mixed recital of Handel, Brahms, Bach, and Liszt for Avanti Classics and more recently, three recordings for Naïve Classique - Mozart Piano Works, Schumann and Dvořák‘s Piano Concerti with BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, and the Debussy Preludes, to be released later in 2015.
Piemontesi studied with Arie Vardi before collaborating with Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia, Cécile Ousset and Alexis Weissenberg.
Francesco Piemontesi is represented by Intermusica.
February 2015 / 542 words. Not to be altered without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.
Concert reviews Recording reviews
CBSO with Lahav Shani / Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4
“Every once in a while, given the right acoustic conditions in ideal concert halls, an apparent vacuum of sound is created from the collective holding of breath by an expectant audience... It was precisely this kind of silence that greeted the opening chords of Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, brought into existence by pianist, Francesco Piemontesi, [who] went on to deliver one of the most assured performances of the piece I can recall hearing. Piemontesi’s conception was mobile, almost daringly so, and unfussy. Yet, he rendered this concerto’s uniquely rhapsodic elements with a deeply-felt intensity and, at times, an ecstatic quality… In the substantial first movement cadenza, the pianist once again commanded an awestruck silence, astonishing in his maintainance of clarity and accuracy even at daredevil tempi.
[In the second movement] the CBSO strings were muscular in their declamatory statements and Piemontesi’s pianism appropriately tender and semplice. Brief interlude it may be, but this movement is where the emotional heart of the concerto lies. Perhaps the most anguished moment is the pianist’s sustained trill just before stunned, soft strings rejoin just before the movement’s close. It was clear here, as elsewhere, that Piemonesi really feels this music in his soul; those spread minor chords have rarely sounded so dark.
There was yet more urgency in the third movement rondo… Soloist and orchestra worked hand in glove by generating real energy in the development, generally storming through the movement and yet bringing out Beethoven’s periodic oases of calm. A tremendous artistic success, then, enthusiastically received and with no encore to divert attention from what had come before.”
Peter Marks, Bachtrack, five stars, November 2014
BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Thomas Søndergård at BBC Proms / Strauss, Mozart
“What the Burleske does have to offer is a virtuoso piano part, and Francesco Piemontesi sparkled with dashing insouciance, only to contrast that with playing of lyrical beauty in Mozart’s Rondo in A major, K386, after the interval.”
Richard Fairman, Financial Times, August 2014
“The touch of this Swiss-Italian pianist remained deliciously light through all the work’s technical difficulties. Brilliant cascades shot out to dazzle us. He even generated appreciative chuckles as he jumped down to the lowest register in a chain of abrupt, knotty chors as the work’s whimsical end approached. The jewellery became more polished still after the interval in Mozart’s A minor Rondo, K.386, despatched with just the elegant ease and clarity this composer needs. Piemontesi’s exquisitely poised encore, a limpid sliver of a Mozart sonata, proved the ideal icing on the cake.”
Geoff Brown, The Arts Desk, August 2014
Cleveland Orchestra and Brett Mitchell / Mozart Piano Concerto No.27 K595
“A stellar Mozartean, an artistic temperament both soulful and playful, whose sound Sunday was crystalline and yet not weightless or too ethereally pretty. Hios was Mozart of shape and substance”
Zachary Lewis, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 2014
Berlin Konzerthaus / Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy, Schubert
“When the young Swiss pianist Francesco Piemontesi played the late Mozart Sonata in F Major in a full Kleine Saal of the Konzerthaus, he took his listener to a wonderland where everything sounds new and unheard, without this appearing somehow forced or calculated. Piemontesi takes the listener with him on his own discovery journey through this music.
Martin Wilkening, Berliner Zeiting, May 2014
Wigmore Hall London / Mozart, Beethoven, Ligeti, Debussy, Schubert
“His excoriating, electrifying performance of Schubert’s C minor Sonata… I loved the care and discretion Piemontesi lavished on the pedalling, so that you were never at the mercy of mere blasts of sound, but most memorable was the surge of possession that brought the finale to melting-point hysteria. This was drama and tragedy… and all from a coolly undemonstrative performer. There was a different but no less potent spirit of possession at work in his encore, a dazzlingly virtuosic and extrovert performance of [Debussy’s] Feux d’artifice…”
Peter Reed, Classical Source, May 2014
Wigmore Hall London / Debussy, Schubert
"Francesco Piemontesi, at 30 a fully fledged master, played four Debussy Preludes in a manner to rival Pollini’s, while his account of Schubert’s D960 Sonata was both ravishing and original."
Michael Church, International Piano, May 2014
Scottish Chamber Orchestra and David Afkham / Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1
"The night belonged to the astonishing Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi for his dazzling and amazingly fleet performance of Mendelssohn's First Piano Concerto, one of those rare performances that reveals the mastery and genius of a composition and asks why we hear the piece so infrequently. The playing of the slow movement, which threw a spotlight on the lower strings of the SCO, was breathtakingly tender and beautiful.
And then, having stopped hearts with his own pristine, exquisite playing in the slow movement of the concerto, Piemontesi went on to break them with an encore of a slow movement from one of Schubert’s Piano Sonatas: music so simple it could be played by a capable student; music so profound it could have been uttered by a philosopher."
Michael Tumelty, Herald, January 2013
International Piano Series / Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy
“At 29, the Swiss-Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi is still at the beginning of his career, but his recitals and recordings attest an artistry which is world-class in its mature refinement. His training with the distinguished pianist Cecile Ousset is reflected in the way he moves his hands and arms with a relaxed awareness of their weight; Alfred Brendel has taught him, he says, ‘to love the detail of things’…
After a finely-calibrated performance of Chopin’s Barcarolle came Debussy’s Preludes Book 2, and there his playing took the breath away. He combined the black and white notes of Brouillards to create soft grey tonalities, and went on to dazzle us with a wonderful range of effects in which a flawless technique was put to the service of some very original interpretations.”
Michael Church, Independent, five stars, November 2012
“With some young pianists, native brilliance and joy in sheer digital dexterity sometimes runs ahead of musical intelligence. That’s never the case with Italian pianist Francesco Piemontesi. At the age of 29 he’s already a superbly self-possessed artist. He has technique to burn, but the striking moments in this recital – and there were plenty of them – owed nothing to the “wow” factor…
The first thing one noticed was how well matched Piemontesi’s small perfectly-formed sound was to the essentially classical frame of the music. And yet there was never any sense of deliberate “holding back”. The operatic quality in the slow movement of Mozart’s sonata was beautifully caught… In Schubert’s slow movement, Piemontesi gave the dry bass a touch of pedal, just enough to lend its martial outline a mysterious quality (Piemontesi is as much a poet of the pedals as he is of the keyboard).
After the interval came music by Chopin and Debussy, and a sudden blooming of the piano sound… It’s often said of Debussy that he dissolved musical line into sheer colour, but as Piemontesi’s performance showed the truth is more complicated… Every one of the 12 pieces came up fresh, even the modest ones like Canope (Canopy) which nestled tenderly inside its opening and closing frame. Finally came Feux d’artifices (Fireworks), which whirred and crackled and finally erupted with a frenzied energy, in a way I’ve never heard equalled.”
Ivan Hewett, Daily Telegraph, five stars, November 2012
Mozart Piano Works / Naïve Classique V5367
“While this entire disc testifies to his finesse and close affinity with the spirit of the music, there is a telling moment at the end of the D major Rondo K485, where the final three chords, each slightly softer than the preceding one, are gauged with minutely diminishing weight. Piemontesi has thought meticulously about such matters of expression and colour, and also possess the natural artistic stimulus to be able to convey his interpretative ideas with ear-catching spontaneity… Piemontesi’s playing on this disc identifies a Mozartian of rare refinement and wisdom.”
Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph, five stars, April 2014
“[Francesco Piemontesi] manages to do here, what is granted to only a few artists: to transcend Mozart’s music outside its historical context, and to enwrap it in a garment of endless beauty.”
Frank Siebert, Fono Forum, five stars, July 2014
Schumann, Dvořák piano concertos / BBCSO and Jiří Bělohlávek / Naïve Classique 5327
"What is clear, from the first bar, about this live-recording of the Schumann Concerto from the Barbican in London, is its strikingly beautiful piano tone: full and without hardness, warm and yet unshrouded. But Naïve’s new CD has something to offer also musically: the noticeable thoughtfulness and control, with which Francesco Piemontesi plays into the Op.54 from year 1845, marks the beginning of a music making of constant exemplary seriousness, discretion and precision – also of the alert BBC orchestra under the lead of its honorary conductor Jiří Bělohlávek”
Ingo Harden, Fono Forum, October 2013
“Francesco Piemontesi is a very gifted young player and his account of Schumann’s original masterpiece ranks highly – always intensely musical and respectful of the score, deeply felt, producing a performance that will give much pleasure… [In the Dvorak] Piemontesi is to be highly commended for playing the composer’s original published solo part and not one of the many alterations or “improvements” that have been foisted upon it”
Robert Matthew-Walker, International Record Review, September 2013