• 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

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.


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.


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.’


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

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

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

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.


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

13 November 2018 Classicalsource.com

London, Royal Festival Hall, 14/11/2018, with London Philharmonic Orchestra

What an extraordinary concert. Rarely have I entered a hall with such a buzz going on around the stage, though one glance was enough to see what warranted such attention: the towering edifice that is a pedal piano. It’s like a Steinway smash up: one piano, with legs only knee-high under a second smaller piano supported by a wooden gantry at the back. At the keyboard end a large footplate of pedals connects to the lower keyboard. To all intents and purposes it looks like a double-decker piano.


16 October 2018 Corrierebit

Schumann: Piano Concerto op. 54, Milano, Sala Verdi, 15/10/2018

Ottima l'interpretazione del pianista laziale, ben coadiuvato dalla valida direzione di Somogyi-Toth. Prosseda ha espresso con incisività e con rigore timbriche luminose, sottolineando molto bene i frangenti di maggiore rilevanza melodica ben evidenziati nei contrastati piani sonori. La sua prospettiva analitica, certamente dovuta da un attento e costante studio, ha rilevato ogni dettaglio del celebre concerto evidenziando con grande lucidità la sua bellezza coloristica. Fragorosi gli applausi al termine e due splendidi bis quali Träumerei di Schumann e il Notturno postumo di Chopin, lavori tanto celebri quanto meravigliosi, eseguiti con una perfezione di dettaglio stupefacente ed espressività di alto valore estetico. Bravissimo! Fragorosi applausi. Da ricordare.

1 September 2018 Audiophile Sound

Gounod: Piano Works (Decca)

giudizio artistico: ECCEZIONALE

La maggior parte dell'opera di Charles Gounod converge ovviamente sul teatro musicale e, dopo la sua crisi spirituale, sulla musica sacra, quindi i quaranta pezzi che fanno parte del corpus pianistico rappresentano poco più che una curiosità, tenuto conto che il compositore francese non fu propriamente un virtuoso di questo strumento. Eppure, ascoltandoli adesso, non mancano di una loro grazia, di un loro perché (Six romances sans paroles - Six préludes et fugues - Sonate pour piano à quatre mains), oltre a pagine particolari (come non citare la Marche funèbre d'une marionnette?) e all'onnipresente Ave Maria. Ma se l'ascolto è reso sempre compartecipe e attento è soprattutto merito della lettura che ne fa uno specialista di territori poco battuti, oltre che di pagine sconosciute di grandi autori (vedasi capitolo Mendelssohn), come Roberto Prosseda, che ha saputo entrare tra le note di queste pagine restituendo non solo il loro suono, ma anche e soprattutto l'epoca che si cela dietro queste composizioni, giocando sul fraseggio, ammiccando sagacemente sulla scelta dei tempi (ancora Marche funèbre d'une marionnette), penetrando nella loro psicologia come pochi interpreti oggi sono in grado di fare. Punto di riferimento.

30 July 2018 Volksfreund

Pedalpiano recital at Mosel Musikfestival, 29/7/2018

So viel Klavier auf einem Fleck hat es in Machern noch nicht gegeben. Da stehen zwei Flügel übereinander – ein Konzertinstrument mit orgelähnlicher Pedal-Tastatur und ein zweiter Flügel darunter. Der wird von der Tastatur gesteuert und hat, wie sich zeigte, die gleiche Funktion wie ein Turbolader im Auto-Sport. Das ganze Instrumentarium musste per Kran in den Barocksaal gehievt werden und die erste Besucherreihe verlief in respektvoller Entfernung. Sonst, so Tobias Scharfenberger vom Mosel Musikfestival, hätten die Statiker nicht mitgespielt. Klar, dass viele der 150 Besucher das Klang-Objekt mit Interesse betrachteten und die Smartphones zückten.

Das Konzert begann denn auch verheißungsvoll. Pianist Roberto Prosseda demonstriert schon zur Einleitung mit drei „kanonischen Etüden“ von Robert  Schumann, was dieser Doppelflügel mitbringt an Klangfülle und -glanz. Die Formulierung vom Turbolader ist zwar  übertrieben. Aber das Instrument beeindruckt vom ersten Akkord an. Die wuchtige Tiefe des  Flügelpedals löst eine Vielzahl von Obertönen aus, die dem Klang eine erstaunliche Brillanz verleihen. Es ist eine akustische Expansion in zwei Richtungen – nach unten in einen markanten Bass und nach oben in feinste Klangfarben – mit einem umwerfend brillanten Resultat. Leider hat die Klangfassade Tücken. Anders als bei der Orgel betätigt der Pianist hier auch noch das klassische Pedal und hat nur noch einen Fuß  frei für die Pedal-Tastatur. Damit muss er wählen: Entweder er drückt das Klavierpedal mit rechts und begnügt sich für die Pedal-Tastatur mit dem linken Fuß. Dann sind melodische Linien im Bass nicht realisierbar. Oder er verzichtet aufs klassische Pedal, was zu einem trockenen Resultat führt. Wahrscheinlich hat Roberto Prosseda deswegen bei Mendelssohns „Liedern ohne Worte“ und in „Introduktion und Rondo Capriccioso“ des Romantikers aufs Flügelpedal verzichtet. Was allerdings wenig Sinn ergibt. Warum baut man ein solches Monstrum in Machern auf, um es dann doch nicht durchgehend zum Klingen zu bringen?

Im zweiten Teil zeichnete sich bei Kompositionen von Charles Gounod und Valentin Alkan ein Kompromiss ab: An markanten Stellen, wo es wirklich ankommt auf Bass-Tiefe und -Prägnanz, setzt sich das Flügelpedal in Szene, und im Übrigen belässt man es beim klassischen Klavier. Damit feierte Prosseda bei Franz Liszt Triumphe. Die Dante-Sonate aus Liszts „Annés de Pèlerinage“ wuchs sich aus zu einem virtuosen Gipfelsturm. Ohne seine Transparenz zu verlieren, weitete sich der Klang zu überwältigender Größe – ein Klavierspiel, so überzeugend, dass die Besucher aufsprangen und Zugaben unvermeidlich wurden. Am Ende überreichte Scharfenberger die obligate Flasche Moselwein – auch an Orgel- und Klavierbauer Claudio Pinchi, der sich bescheiden im Hintergrund gehalten hatte. Er hat das Mammut-Instrument konstruiert. Und hat jetzt allen Grund, stolz zu sein.

27 July 2018 Classicstoday.com

Gounod: Complete Piano Works (Decca)

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Everyone knows about Charles Gounod’s operas and choral works, but who knew that he also wrote solo piano music? I certainly didn’t, until this release came to my attention. It offers a judiciously contrasted representation of the composer’s keyboard output, starting with two beautiful charmers: a barcarolle entitled (what else?) La Veneziana, and an Impromptu that’s actually a peach of a waltz. The E-flat Nocturne may not dig deep like Chopin, but there’s no doubting Gounod’s disarming gift for cranking out lovely tunes. Once past the Funeral March for a Marionette’s quirky introduction, veteran TV buffs will have an “aha” moment when the main theme kicks in: “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”!

As you might gather, the six Songs Without Words are akin to Mendelssohn’s in that they’re alternately saccharine (Nos. 1 and 2), and inspired (Nos. 3 through 6). Gounod also wrote a solo piano version of his (in)famous Ave Maria based on the first Prelude from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book I, where the pianist has to balance the vocal line and accompaniment in clear and effortless perspective. The Six Preludes and Fugues are basically academic studies, yet quite tuneful and unpretentious. The previously unrecorded Sonata for Piano Duet, however, is a minor masterpiece. Its first-movement Tarantella rivals Rossini for invention and wit. The Schubertian Adagio makes full use of the piano’s registers without ever sounding too thick, while the Presto Finale (sound clip) features dashing unison octave runs, surprising harmonic detours, and dramatic use of dynamics that foreshadow Gounod’s future prowess as a man of the theater.

Roberto Prosseda is no stranger to Gounod, having previously recorded the composer’s complete works for pedal piano and orchestra, which my colleague David Hurwitz praised highly. Needless to say, Prosseda’s masterful technique and innate idiomatic flair bring each and every piece to characterful life. And let’s not forget the marvelously attuned ensemble repartee and precision between Prosseda and Enrico Pompili in the Sonata. Decca’s resplendent engineering and Gounod biographer Gérard Condé’s informative booklet notes further seal my enthusiastic recommendation.

1 July 2018 Fanfare Magazine

CD Review: Mozart Piano Sonatas 7 - 12 (Decca)

With the second volume of his chronological survey of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas, Roberto Prosseda reaches what might be considered Mozart’s “middle period” keyboard works. It contains the three Sonatas published in 1782 in Paris, Nos. 7-9, along with three from the following year, Nos. 10-12, published in Vienna. These are more familiar works than the six early Sonatas contained in Prosseda’s Volume I. I would have been interested to hear the unfinished Sonata movement in G Minor, K 312, had it been included, but Prosseda does offer the unfinished Sonata movement, K 400, a tantalizing fragment, completed by Maximilian Städler, and the familiar, unfinished Fantasia in D minor, which he links to the D Major Sonata K 311; its final D major chord serving as the sonata’s first beat. (Prosseda endorses the idea put forward by the fortepianist Krystian Bezuidenhout, a kindred Mozart interpreter, whose Mozart Concerto recordings offer some of the most engaging, dynamic, HIP Mozart interpretations that I’ve heard, that the Fantasia was conceived as an introduction to the Sonata).                                                            

Here, as in Volume I, Prosseda’s Mozart Sonatas are the most musically engaging, and best recorded that I know. The clarity and the exquisite, focused tone of his piano, a Fazioli tuned with “Vallotti” unequal temperament—which my ear doesn’t distinguish from equal temperament—are great assets. While his booklet notes are scholarly and coolly precise, Prosseda’s playing is spontaneous-sounding, and not without humor. As Huntley Dent has written of Piotr Andersweski, whose Mozart playing is comparably nuanced, “He can’t play three notes in a row without turning them into a phrase…and his touch is both natural and refined.”                                                                

Prosseda’s range of expression, achieved through imaginative variety of sound, precise articulation, and flexibile pacing, adds interest to these works, most of which are not among Mozart’s most profound. From his gentle, expansive take on the Andante of K. 330, through his urgent traversal of K. 310’s impassioned first movement, Prosseda savors and enhances the music’s inherent character. In K 332, the abnormal number of themes, or musical “topics’—I count seven—in the first movement’s exposition emerge with the panache of separate characters in a comic opera, though I think his suggestion that the fourth theme (dotted rhythms, minuet-like) inspired Verdi’s “La donna e mobile” is far-fetched.     

Where melodic lines suggest the potential for elaboration, such as in K 309, Prosseda’s embellishes cleverly, and unpredictably. He doesn’t hesitate to insert his own cadenza at the appropriate harmonic moment in the showy finale of K. 332. The taking of artistic license culminates in an entertaining performance of K 331’s “Turkish” Rondo, taken at a proper Allegretto tempo, with increasingly lavish melodic variants, not just ornaments, added on repeats. It’s audacious, but adheres to practices that Mozart would have recognized, and reclaims the piece from the dazzling antics of Volodos and Yuja Wang.     

Volume I of Prosseda’s cycle was on my 2016 Want List, and this Volume will likely appear on 2018’s.