Gabriele Baldocci, pianist

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music

My father. Although he had nothing to do with music (he was a street cleaner), he bought an old upright piano, years before I was born. He is an extremely sensitive man, an obsessive music collector and an avid consumer. When I was a child, I was exposed to a wide range of music, through a route that went from progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, King Crimson and Gentle Giant to Beethoven Symphonies, Chopin Ballades and Mozart Violin Concertos, via songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

Music was always part of my life, without boundaries. That old piano became my favourite toy, and the rest is history

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career

When I was seven, my first piano teacher introduced me to the recordings of Martha Argerich. She slowly became an obsession of mine, for the beauty of her sound, her instinctive approach to music, her flamboyant technique and her personality.

Around the same time, I remember watching a music programme on TV with dad and becoming mesmerised by a man wearing a crow in front of thousands of people in ecstasy. The man was Freddie Mercury.

Today, at almost 40, I am blessed to be one of Martha Argerich’s best friends. I have performed with her more than 30 times in duet, I have recorded an album with her and she is a very important part of my life. I became a better musicians by learning from my childhood heroine. At the same time, I have been working on a very special project based on the music of Queen, which is rapidly becoming one of my most successful accomplishments, through which I’m breaking the barriers of genres and audiences (the official debut taking place on October 13th at The Stables, in Milton Keynes). The two main figures of my musical life and career and now closer to me than ever, and this is my personal case of Serendipity, for which I am particularly thankful

What have been the greatest challenges of your career?

I do not blend particularly well with certain stereotypical environments within the classical music world. This is mainly because I always felt a certain heaviness during the years of my development as a musician due to the gap between my working class origins and the snobbery of my wealthier colleagues (the majority of them).

When I was seven, I developed an autoimmune condition which forced me at home (and in bed) for several years. My only solace was playing piano and reading books from my mother’s library. What effectively stole a big part of my childhood  also made me a very mature and cultivated child.By all means, this process was completely natural and never forced, so I did not really  feel the need to show off my knowledge. When, in my teens, I started to attend important music academies (thanks to the many extra hours of work my father put in, and to the many sacrifices we all went through), I also realised how snobbish, self-referential and classist the classical music world was. The favourite occupation of many of my colleagues was to exhibit their wealth and their “knowledge” by engaging in endless empty discussions about historical records, Greek philosophers,  Italian painters etc. Being a member of the “lower class”, I wasn’t part of these erudite exchanges, as they gave it for granted that I was just a poor ignorant. As I grew up, I realised how most of my peers were buying their own careers by hiring famous concert halls and by paying to have their records released by well-known labels. Most importantly, they simply had a certain more “commercial” way of approaching the musical business because their families knew “how to do things” while my family did not have the slightest idea about how to manage a talented young pianist.

Today, being a professional musician, I realise how challenging it was to get to the place where I am now and I am both proud of myself and, most importantly, I am thankful to my family for having supported my through a tough and classist environment.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of? 

Definitely my Liszt/Beethoven complete Symphonies and my latest album, “Sheer Piano Attack”. (For more information, visit www.sheerpianoattack.com ).

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

I am particularly at ease with works with long and tense melodic lines. While I feel particularly nervous withcomposers such as Mozart and Haydn, I am totally at ease with Romantic composers (starting from Beethoven) and I maintain a special connection with Schumann.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I always choose the repertoire according to what I would love to perform at any particular time. For instance, I have been working on the complete set of Symphonies by Liszt/Beethoven for a number of years and, this year, I have given a lot of attention to my Sheer Piano Attack project, which I m particularly proud of.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Every concert venue is special for me. I particularly focus on the relationship with my audience, so the venue is not the most important priority.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

Every time I play with Martha I realise how blessed I am for being able to make music with such a phenomenal pianist. Out last recital together, last year at the Palau della Musica Catalana, was especially inspired and I will remember forever the emotional intensity I have experienced during our performance, which luckily was filmed (visit this link to watch the entire recital:

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Being able to make a living by doing what we love is already an accomplishment by itself.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

1) Learn from everyone, absorb everything, be open to anything.

2) Do not follow dogmas, only follow your real self.

3) Prioritise quality of sound, structural integrity and clarity of the message over virtuosity,  flamboyance and useless originality.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A world where unconditional love is not just a mirage.

What is your most treasured possession?

My perfect pitch!

What is your present state of mind?

Curious and relaxed.

Gabriele Baldocci’s new album, ‘Sheer Piano Attack’ reimagines the hits of Queen in a romantic classical style and receives its live premiere at The Stables, Milton Keynes on 13 October. With special guests Peter Straker, soprano Barbara Luccini and jazz vocalist Serena Rose Zerri, Sheer Piano Attack is the perfect encapsulation of Gabriele’s astonishing skill on the piano, his remarkable arrangements and, of course, Queen’s legacy of staggering songs. More information


Pianist and conductor Gabriele Baldocci was born in Livorno in Italy, a child prodigy at the piano, he started giving public concerts at the age of nine and has maintained a successful career since, winning prizes in numerous piano competitions such as the Casagrande in Italy and the Martha Argerich Competition in Buenos Aires. Baldocci is official Ambassador of the Martha Argerich Presents Project and for many years he has played in a piano duo with the Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich, regularly hailed as the world’s greatest living pianist, as well as forming a stable partnership with the Argentinean pianist Daniel Rivera. He has performed around world and received rave reviews for his recordings of Nino Rota’s complete works for strings and piano as well as Beethoven’s Complete Symphonies transcribed by Liszt for solo piano.

A very active educator, Gabriele is often invited to give Masterclasses at some of the most important universities and academies and he is often a jury member in various international piano competitions. Gabriele Baldocci is a piano professor at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

 

 

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