Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The month of June begs for a blog entry. I very proudly managed to squeeze in some of my favorite destinations into our touring schedule and had a wonderful “working” holiday.
We ended the month of May with a dream of mine. For very obvious reasons I always wanted to add a visual element to Lucille's and my performance of Stravinsky's own four hand version of the complete Petrouchka ballet. The classical ballet production is an obvious choice, but maybe not the most practical one. So thanks to our dear friend Geraldina Baca-Spross, a true visionary and our long time partner at the Bravissimo Festival in Guatemala City, we worked with Bit's 'n Pieces puppet theater in a beautiful production of the complete Petrouchka, a story about puppets, with puppets, marionettes and shadow theater. It was truly enchanting. 
So we left to Chicago for a now ritual performance at the wonderful Myra Hess Series and embarked on a month long tour of Europe that brought us to some unusual, but unforgettable destinations.
Schloss Elmau
We started off in my home town in Bari, where we had a great time visiting my parents and taking care of some fun tailoring needs (my first ever white jacket for the US summer festival season and a new performance outfit for Lucille), then left to stunning Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian alps. Schloss Elmau has gladly become a fixed destination during the year, and it's truly a magical place. The beauty of the nature, as well as the all too pleasant level of pampering one gets quickly accustomed to and, last but not least, an ideal performance space, make Schloss Elmau a paradise for musicians, music lovers, spa aficionados and just about anyone on earth, really. We spent ten days with our friends Karen Gomyo and Christian Poltera in three programs of solo, piano duos, sonatas and trios. Our residency ended in beauty with a stunning concert with the incredible pianist Grigory Sokolov. What a treat!  I can't wait to be back in January for their wonderful Chamber Music Week.

Beautiful Harpa Concert Hall in Rejkyavik

From the breathtaking Alps we left for a new destination for us. We had been invited to the Við Djúpið festival in the West Fjords of Iceland. Traveling to a totally new country is something that doesn't happen too often nowadays, so it's always exciting. After spending a week in the West Fjords I can safely say that all future travel is now officially spoiled for us. I can't think of any place that could take my breath away in quite the same way that this amazing country has. The fjords, the mountains, the black sand, the 24 hour daylight and the amazing light constantly worked their magic on us. We literally felt in the most beautiful of dreams. As usual, I took an interest in the local food. Whale meat was very interesting, and the halibut and catfish was by far the best I have ever tasted. The texture and taste of Icelandic fish is unlike anything else. The food, the warmth of the people, the great music making, Iceland's stimulating cultural life and the constant feeling that we were in a beautiful new and unspoiled world made it an unforgettable experience all together.
Sunbathing in the Midnight Sun
4am on the Fjords
Stunning views on Iceland
We then left Ísafjörður for the furthest place in Europe we could think of: the beautiful island of Cyprus. I had been to Cyprus a few times before and was always overwhelmed by the beauty of the nature, the concentrated Mediterranean-ity of the place (think southern Italy on steroids) and most importantly the amazing cultural and human environment created by our friend Garo Keheyan and his Pharos Trust. Garo is one of those amazing human beings for whom beauty and art is not only a necessity of life, but life itself. We performed a four hand program in the gorgeous “Shoe Factory” and spent countless happy hours at the “Olive Grove”, two stunning places Garo built not only to satisfy his need for beauty, but mainly to serve the arts. All our meals in Nicosia were outstanding, and made me feel right at home. A particularly familiar dish, made with fava been puree and chicory leaves, an Apulian dish hard to find outside a 100-mile radius from my home town of Bari, happens to be a staple in Cypriot cooking. It was utterly delicious and just tasted of my childhood.
The Shoe Factory
The Olive Grove
I don't know when we'll have have a chance to have a month like this past June, but I can guarantee I will definitely try!
After Cyprus, I started a back-to-back summer festival schedule, which will end only at the end of August and will let me visit home just for a week this summer. We left Cyprus for Long Island, for the Stony Brook International Piano Festival, then the wonderful Mimir Festival in Fort Worth (for my 9th year in a row!), and the Young Artist World Piano Festival in Minneapolis, where I played my first ever (!) Beethoven 1 and met over 60 incredibly talented piano students. It was a beautiful event that really made me believe in a bright future for our beloved art form. I also taped my first “Performance Today” at MPR/APM with classical music royalty Fred Child (a super-cool guy). I have to say it was probably one of the most stimulating and interesting interviews I have done in a very long time. It will be out in August in two different segments, mixed with quite a bit of playing I did in their studio.
Icelandic Horse
Now, Lucille and I are on a flight to San Francisco, on the way to my second year at Music@Menlo, the wonderful and exemplary festival run by David Finckel and Wu Han. I will be presenting my second big Carte Blanche, with over two and a half hour of music by mostly Brahms (op. 10, 35, 39 and 76) but also Bartok's Dance Suite and Enescu's Third violin sonata on the same program, as well as three more concerts spanning from Brahms own two piano version of his Piano Quintet with Lucille and my debut on the harpsichord with music of Vivaldi and Bach. Music@Menlo has very quickly become one of my summer's favorite destinations, so I can hardly wait. Then off to the Dakota Sky Piano Festival and my fifth year at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington before I embark on a rather poorly devised itinerary for September-October (New York-Rome-Taipei-Tokyo-Dallas-New York-China-New York). Right now, all I can think about the American Airlines miles. Oh, and Menlo's Carte Blanche's program, of course...
As always, you can follow the links to my Picasa's Web album for more pictures from Elmau 1Elmau 2Cyprus, and Iceland