• Features

1 October 2016 Fono Forum

Mozart: Piano Sonatas No. 1 - 6 (Decca)

The 40 year-old Italian, known by his commitment for the pedal piano, has made another attempt to slip into his play anything which could be found in Mozart’s statements passed on to us, in autographs and first editions and in our knowledge upon historical performance practices and instruments.

And that lead him to a performance  which sets, more uncomprimisingly than all his spiritual predecessors, on sensible articulation and phrasing, colourfulness, agility and flexibility.

However, the instrument he chose was not a historical fortepiano, but a Fazioli grand piano from 2015, delicately tuned in one of the historical unequal temperaments, which allowed him to realize amazingly well Mozart’s piano writing in a lean way, with an extreme richness of nuances and a soft piano down to a breathed-like pianissimo.

Thus, he realized an interpretation of these 6 works of the Salzburg teenager which is free from professoral or historicizing rigidity, but still less from the smart ‘modern’ one-track-ideology with which Mozart can still often be heard.

On the contrary, I have the impression that, here, it has been succeeded to convey the whole musical wealth of these Sonatas more lively and more powerfully than ever.

Prosseda always remains close to the text, but presents it by a colour palette applied in an excitingly imaginative way and constantly opening new perspectives:

A recording which has to become a new reference.

 

Ingo Harden
 
Read

1 March 2016 Gramophone

"Mendelssohn: Complete Works for piano four hands and for two pianos" (Decca)

Is there another single-disc recording of all five of the complete original pieces composed by Mendelssohn for piano duet and two pianos? If so, I doubt if it’s as good as this with Roberto Prosseda, tireless champion of the composer, joined here by his wife Alessandra Ammara.

Read

20 April 2012 Wall Street Journal

Article about Roberto Prosseda and the Pedalpiano

Roberto Prosseda is a concert pianist of the old school who typically performs in white tie and tails. But for his most recent spate of concerts, he pairs them with slippers—five-fingered rubber-coated slippers that look vaguely amphibian. That's because Mr. Prosseda plays with his feet as well as his hands.The Italian pianist is on a one-man mission to revive the music of the pedal piano, a monstrous double-decker grand piano that was popular in the late-19th century but has long since fallen out of fashion.

Read

1 July 2014 International Piano

The Multitasking Pianist

While undertaking some research on Mendelssohn, one of his favourite composers, pianist Roberto Prosseda came across the Gounod Concerto for Pedal Piano, which had been neither performed nor published for decades. The work inspired him to study the instrument, a piano with a pedal keyboard that is usually connected to a second set of hammers and strings. As the music critic Norman Lebrecht has written: ‘It’s a piano that thinks, deep down, it’s an organ.’

Read

1 December 2013 Gramophone

"Gounod: Works for pedal piano and orchestra" (Hyperion)

Gounod's complete works for pedal piano and orchestra is not something the musical worls has been waiting for with bared breath. Yet, lile an item in one of those gift cataloggues full of things you never knew existed but suddenly seem essential, it proves to be a real winner. It is also among the jolliest of piano-and-orchestra recording to come my way for some time. [...] Hyperion's cast is top-drawer. The Concerto (1889) is a charmer with an especially touchin, Schubertian slow movement, beautifully pòayed by Prosseda. The finale and the 1888 Danse Roumaine give the hands and feet plenty to do. Given exactly the right light touch and deft execution, abetter by Howard Shelley's stylish accompainment, Gounod's box of bonbons is an unexpected delight. 

Jeremy Nicholas
 
Read

1 November 2014 American Record Guide

"Da Capo al Fine" (Decca)

“One of the best Mendelssohn recordings I have reviewed…An invaluable release”. 

In the final installment of his project to record Mendelssohn's complete oeuvre, Prosseda stresses rarely heard, newly published, and yet unpublished repertoire. His scholarly acumen (he wrote his own liner notes), impeccable technique, and good taste leads to one of the best Mendelssohn recordings I have reviewed. The Baroque legacy recurs in the more familiar Variations Sérieuses, with his admirable attention to its dense textures and contrapuntal moments. He supplements the variations with four additional variations excluded from the definitive version. The 7 Charakterstücke, an earlier srt, are short, charming works performed with sensitivity and gusto. Also lively are the poised and brilliant 3 Etudes. An invaluable release for the Mendelssohn enthusiast or scholar. 

Sang Woo Kang
 
Read

16 February 2015 Suddeutsche Zeitung

Im Forte-Gewitter

Deshalb sind auch die Etuden op. 56 und die Skizzen op. 58 von Robert Schumann eher diskrete Experimente mit ein paar zusätzlichen Grundtönen. Doch danach legte Roberto Prosseda mehr Wert auf den pianistschen Überbau. Bei einer Uraufführung von Luca Lombardi eighte er, mit Themen von Mendelssohn und jüdischen Melodien, subtilen Piano-Minimalismus sowie dramatische Fort-Cluster-Gewitter als Schreckensbeschwörungen von Aushwitz. Auf diesem Weg zeighte Prosseda sämtliche Möglichkeiten seines Instruments. Zum Höhepunkt wurde jedoch der alte Klaiertitan Liszt - ohne Pedal, nur mit ein paar sparsamen Basstönen als Verstärkung der orchestralen Fantasien. In der gewaltigen Dante-Sonate nach Sonetten von Petrarca spielte Prosseda alle Register von Liszts Klavierkünsten aus, sein unermüdliches Narrativ, die thetorische Überwältigung, die facettenreiche Tonmalerei un das wogende Aud- un Ab gestischer Beschwörungen. Nach so viel Piano pur blieben nur noch zwei Zugaben von Alkan und Gounod für die Demonstration der exotischen Pedalkünste an diesem Abend.  

Klaus P. Richter

Klaus P. Richter
 
Read

1 January 2014 Fono Forum

CD Review "Gounod: works for pedal piano and orchestra" (Hyperion)

Charles Gounod hat insgesamt vier Werke für Pedalfliügel mit Orchester geschrieben, von denen das Konzert in Es-Dur sicherlich das eindnacksvollste Stück ist. Virtuose Figuren, nicht nur für die Hände, sondern von allem für die Füße, werden dem, Solisten hier abverlangt, und Roberto Prosseda bewältigt diese bravourös.

Read

9 April 2013 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Review: Gounod's Pedalpiano Concerto with Staatskapelle Weimar and Leopold Hager

Der Pedalflügel gehörte zu den ausgestorbenen Dinosauren im Musik-instrumenten-Zoo. Nun hat sich der Pianist Roberto Prosseda ein neues Pedalflügel-System bauen lasen, es wurde in Weimar mit einem Gounod-Konzert eingeweiht. [...] Delikat ist das Adagio, darin der Pianist die traurig-trüben Akkorde der Hände mit dem Nachhallpedal binden und gleichzeilig mit den Füssen eine Basslinie spielen muss, was Prosseda, der in der Staatskapelle Weimar und in Leopold Hager überhaus sensible und präzise Partner hatte, eindruckswoll gelang.

Jan Brachmann
 
Read

30 March 2017 Corriere Adriatico

Ancona - Teatro Sperimentale, 28/3/2017

Una serata all'insegna della piacevolezza e della seduzuione d'ascolto. Ci è molto piaciuto lo stile colloquiale dato all'esecuzione, intelligente e arguto, nello spirito mendelssohniano di una melodia che fluisce intensa e brillante al contempo. Bravissimi tutti gli interpreti.

Fabio Brisighelli
 
Read

24 March 2017 Rheinpfaltz

Concert with Nürnberger Symphoniker in Frankenthal, 22/3/2017

...performed with a dreamlike accuracy and harmony by Roberto Prosseda and his wife Alessandra Ammara ... perfect the interaction between orchestra and soloists, who said good bye with a small but fine encore - a piano sonata written by Felix Mendelssohn at age 10."

Alois Ecker
 
Read

20 March 2017 L'Arena

Verona, Mozart's Concerto K271 with Virtuosi Italiani

"Prosseda, un raffinato Mozart Scatenato"

Sonorità bellissime, tempi veloci e dinamica ampia. Il suo pianismo si avvicina alla varietà di colori e sfumature che probabilmente Mozart aveva in mente.

Giovanni Villani
 
Read

7 February 2017 Zurich OberLand

Pedal Piano Recital, Zurich, Klavierissimo, 5/2/2017

Dem italienischen Pianisten Roberto Prosseda ist es zu verdanken, dass wir heute in den Genuss kommen, ein solches Unikat zu hören und zu bestaunen.
Er ist einer der wenigen Pianisten, die diesen Flügel überhaupt spielen können, und zurzeit der Einzige, der damit konzertiert.
Aussergewöhnlicher Klang Am vergangenen Samstagnachmittag kam das Wetziker Publikum in den Genuss von Prossedas Spiel und der aussergewöhnlichen Klänge des Pedalflügels.
Das reich befrachtete Konzertprogramm zeigte die vielen klanglichen Möglichkeiten des Instruments auf. Der Beginn mit der «Passacaglia» BWV 582 von Johann Sebastian Bach gelang sehr eindrücklich. Das war ein virtuoser Tanz mit Fingern und Füssen. Wenngleich es für die Ohren von Organisten vielleicht gewöhnungsbedürftig klang, zeigte es eine Variante von Spielfarben.
Robert Schumann hat eine Anzahl Studien und Etüden für
Pedalflügel geschrieben und war begeistert über die zusätzlichen  Ausdrucksmittel, die das Instrument ihm bot. Das Ergebnis sind originelle klangfarbige Charakterstücke. Neben einigen anderen Originalwerken für Pedalflügel hat Prosseda das «Konzert für Pedalflügel und Orchester» von Charles Gounod neu entdeckt, erstmals seit Gounods Zeiten wieder aufgeführt und sogar eingespielt. Brillant und mit Spielwitz interpretierte Prosseda daraus den zweiten Satz.
Der französische Komponist Charles Valentin Alkan war ein hoch angesehener Virtuose, geriet aber als Komponist in Vergessenheit, obwohl sein Freund Chopin ihn als seinesgleichen achtete. Seine «Grand Préludes» op. 66 für Pedalflügel sind phantasievolle Bravourstücke und zeugen von raffinierter Virtuosität.
Dagegen bestaunt man bei den «Études pour les pieds seulement» vor allem die spieltechnische Hochleistung, die der Pianist erbringen muss, was Prosseda meisterhaft gelang.
Ein eindrucksvolles Werk ist das Stück des Italieners Luca Lombardi, das Roberto Prosseda 2014 im Jüdischen Museum Berlin uraufführte. Es ist eine Hommage an Mendelssohn, dessen Musik schon zu Zeiten Wagners verunglimpft und die später zum Ziel antisemitischer Propaganda wurde.
Lombardi hat hier die Klangmöglichkeiten des Pedalflügels voll ausgereizt. Da standen sich kantable Mendelssohn-Melodien brutal gehämmerten Schlägen und Clusters gegenüber, was durchaus zu Gänsehaut führen konnte.
Eine sehr lebendige, fast bildlich musikalische Sprache zeigte der zeitgenössische Komponist Michael Bakrnchev in seinen Charakterstücken «Dusk» und «Earth Dance». Es ist begrüssenswert, dass sich zeitgenössische Komponisten mit diesem seltenen Instrument beschäftigen und es somit wieder gesellschaftsfähig machen. In Roberto Prosseda steht ihnen ein leidenschaftlicher.
Für sprecher zur Seite.

Irène Maier
 
Read

2 October 2016 Classicstoday.com

Gounod: Complete Works for pedal piano and orchestra (Hyperion)

Rating: 10/10

This is Volume 62 in Hyperion’s epic and seemingly endless series of romantic piano concertos, and I have to say it strikes me as one of the most fascinating of the bunch. In order to create a modern pedal piano, the intrepid soloist Roberto Prosseda used an Italian-made pedal gadget to stack up two Steinway grands, one atop the other, so that the pedal mechanism plays the lower instrument. It looks terrifying, and Prosseda had to learn an entirely new technique in order to do justice to this lovely and always entertaining music. In particular, you can’t use the sustaining pedal when your feet are otherwise engaged, so despite the extra sonority and range occasioned by the mechanism, the music still has unusual clarity–a sonority we might define as characteristically “French.”

The music, in any case, in marvelous. The Suite concertante has four splendidly balletic movements: Entrée de fête, Chasse (sound clip), Romance, and Tarantelle. It’s simply delightful from first note to last, full of charm, good tunes, and good fun. The Concerto, four brief movements lasting about twenty minutes, starts off like Beethoven’s “Emperor” (for one note at least) but quickly goes its own way with the ensuing scherzo, poetic adagio, and concluding march.

You’ll recognize the main tune of the Fantasy on the Russian National Anthem from its use in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Marche slave. Gounod repeats it a lot in a series of colorful variations, but the piece never turns dull. The brief Danse roumaine brings the program to a vivacious conclusion. Howard Shelley leads the orchestra in vivid accompaniments, and the sonics are first-class. This disc really does represent a revelation–and a resurrection of a repertoire thought to be utterly lost to posterity. It deserves a home in every collection of rare, but wonderful, music for piano and orchestra.

 

 

David Hurwitz
 
Read

1 September 2016 Fanfare Magazine

Mozart: Piano Sonatas No. 1 - 6 (Decca)

 

Fanfare Magazine - Sept. 2016. 

The Italian pianist Roberto Prosseda, known for his elegant Mendelssohn, is recording the Mozart piano sonatas in chronological order. The first installment of his new cycle presents Mozart’s first six sonatas, which were composed as a set over the course of a few months in 1774 through 1775. I find it an unqualified success, not only interpretatively, but in showcasing a splendid piano with recorded sound that provides the perfect clarity and ambiance. Prosseda considered recording the Mozart Sonatas on a fortepiano but, like many present-day pianists, decided to apply as much as possible of what he learned playing historical instruments to playing a modern one, in this case, a 2015 Fazioli, tuned with “Vallottti unequal temperament.” The Fazioli’s ability to subtly realize dynamic gradations, along with its bell-like clarity, and purity of tone in all registers, make it an ideally responsive vehicle for Prosseda’s highly nuanced Mozart. It’s easy to imagine the sound of Mozart’s beloved wind instruments in the contrasting character of this piano’s registers. The Vallotti tuning system, in common use in Mozart’s time, divides the octave into 12 unequal semitones, and, according to Prosseda, enhances contrasts and changes in emotional changes of character that occur with the changing of tonalities. He’s referring to subtle changes in volume and brightness that he no doubt hears, and that I have also experienced while playing fortepianos. But here, I can’t honestly say that I perceived any difference from the norm in tuning or timbre, and I suspect that most listeners will hear only a fabulously well-tuned piano. Mozart’s early piano sonatas aren’t juvenile works by any means, but the first two in particular, (K 279 and K 280) tend to be passed over by pianists. Contemporaneous with the opera La finta giardiniera, a notable early accomplishment, their quirky humor and abrupt changes of mood already reflect Mozart the opera composer. While there are compelling slow movements in the early sonatas—the grave F Minor Adagio in K 280, whose seriousness Prosseda well conveys, and the opening, church-like Adagio of the Fourth Sonata, K 282 —they are most notable for their extreme energy. What they lack, to some extent, is the memorable melodic writing that’s characteristic of Mozart’s more mature music. It comes in his subsequent piano sonatas composed not too much later, and is certainly forecast in the Andante of the Fifth Sonata, K 283. In all of these performances, I’m immediately struck by the wealth of musical detail that emerges, thanks to Prosseda’s varied palette of dynamics, careful shaping of motives and phrases, delicacy of touch, and quicksilver articulation. He brings out the music’s edginess, and quirky energy, but it comes across “con amore”, and with a coherent structural overview of each movement. It’s music making that’s far removed from Glenn Gould’s unkind jabs at these same pieces. One of Prosseda’s accomplishments is to make the repeats— and he observes all of them, not just in exposition sections—hold interest. He achieves this not only through convincing tempo choices that make one want to keep listening, but by adding sometimes elaborate ornamentation, and by varying his pacing the second time around. The most ambitious work among the first six sonatas is No. 6, K 284, in Mozart’s festive, ceremonial key of D Major, a piece of larger formal dimensions that the others, with more orchestrally conceived keyboard writing. Most likely because of the considerable length of its final movement, it’s not often heard in concert. Prosseda’s joyous performance of the finale, in which his wonderful variety of characterization of its variations is particularly scintillating, reminded me what a strong work it is. Of additional interest is his bonus performance of a discarded first draft of part of the opening Allegro that’s significantly different from the final product. Of course, Prosseda is in recorded competition with many other great Mozart pianists. Marc-André Hamelin, whose approach and response to the Classical style is comparable to Prosseda’s, has recently recorded a collection of Mozart Sonatas, but not a complete cycle. For Mozart played on the fortepiano, I recommend Ronald Brautigam’s cycle, and also individual Sonatas played by the agile, imaginative fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Mitsuko Uchida’s cycle has long been a reliable recommendation, but, unbelievably, it is now over 40 years old, and Decca’s sound for Prosseda is far better. If his next installments are of comparable quality, Prosseda’s smart, savored Mozart Piano Sonatas will be a worthy reference recording. Paul Orgel