Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Well, the way a human being expresses itself is not only because of innate talent, but more the context in which it grows. As for me, it was a natural following of my papa’s passion – a doctor who fell in love with music – and the work of my mama, a professor at an Italian Conservatoire. They encouraged me and my achievements are thanks to them.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I believe that when you are a teenager, it’s healthy to have ambitious dreams and set yourself big goals. The first challenge I set myself was after my debut performance of Rachmaninov’s Concerto No.2. I became passionate about this composer and began to study his music more intently, until I wanted to play all his works for piano and orchestra, which took me a long time during those years. More recently, I’m approaching the idea of recording the complete works of another Russian composer, and this will take up all my energies.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I’m not sure I am proud of any particular interpretation as I will always want to improve on what I have done before, making constant progress as a pianist. However to date there has been something that has required more work, and I was happy to have accomplished it, and that was the recording of Rachmaninov’s First Sonata Op.28, a monumental work and probably one of the most difficult sonatas, in every sense, of the entire piano repertoire. I don’t think beauty is directly proportional to the difficulty of a piece, but complexity often means the manipulation of a kaleidoscope of elements, as in a large cauldron, and the pianist as sorcerer. Among the live performances, in addition to Rachmaninov’s First Sonata, the one I remember with most pleasure is the first time I performed Tchaikovsky’s Second Concerto Op.44 in Romania, a concert often forgotten, a twin in the shadow of the other famous concert but equally valid, indeed perhaps more cohesive and formally balanced.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I really don’t know, but from the first time I played the piano and heard music, I felt a special bond, emotion and desire for the music of Scriabin. He is certainly my favourite composer and I think I give all of myself when I play his works, as in the Fantasie Op.28, Sonatas, Etudes, Preludes…
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
I like to share and receive comments with my closest friends about the music I am about to play because I feel it helps me to enrich the range of concepts that I have about that work.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Well, some years are obviously dedicated to tributes and celebrations, but generally I am drawn to traditions and the essence of a composer,; also Spanish, Russian, French and obviously Italian music in turn for about a year each. Also I need to give time to myself to find new ideas and motivations on styles. Personal evolution requires time and patience.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Generally I don’t like playing in a concert hall except with an orchestra, as I consider the direct relationship with the audience to be more important, to feel it close, to see it, as if it were playing with me. In the concert hall with the orchestra one feels less ‘alone’ and one experiences sharing, but one cannot feel the presence of anyone, the darkness around does not allow the perception of the public. If this promotes concentration (which should already be an absolute requirement in a professional) and a certain solemnity in the atmosphere, on the other hand it sometimes reduces the rapport between the artist and audience. Any place is nice to play as long as you can interact with others.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?
The audience does not want to and cannot be educated. My teacher Aldo Ciccolini, after a career of 80 years, said that the public wants to dream. Of course, we are not exclusively entertainers or circus performers. As in all things, a good balance of approachable music with more challenging repertoire might help. I fear that the main problem is the format of the events. Times change and with it the ‘fashions’: unfortunately we all know that music goes hand in hand with the fashion of the time: for example, a symphonic composition of complex language with an average duration of 40/50 minutes, in the ‘smart’ and hurried era in which we live, can be the preserve of amateurs almost exclusively. There are things that can be done easily, and things that cannot be done at all, the rest is no use, indeed a harmful forcing. Perhaps streamlining the formats would help. At the time of Anton Rubenstein the piano recitals could last for hours… perhaps today they could be reduced, and also to help meet the costs of running an event, to promote some ‘light’ activities before the show. It is not easy to give a clear answer because a theatre’s organisation and location will produce and meet different needs, and maybe we should look at drawing up a new organisation and concert format more attuned to today’s audience.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
A performance of Rachmaninov Concerto No.3 in the George Enescu Festival, Bucharest. There were 95 people in the orchestra and the other part of the programme was The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. The big orchestra is a magnificent rainbow of colours and powerful; it expresses like nature!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
The silence of the audience during your performance.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
I could differentiate the commitment between soloists and other genres, or look for differences between the various instruments, but in reality we all have the same difficulties and sacrifices to face. For this reason, a concept that can sum up everything could be that to be a musician “you must first be stubborn!”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I can be happy, I think, understanding that I live by having to tolerate myself and others, and thanks to this everything will be in harmony. Without this we would only live in an endless swing between acceptance and renunciation.
What is your most treasured possession?
The only possession to treasure in life is health: you can listen, look and feel the world and things/beings around you in the best possible way. Money, career, technique/singing-tone (the usual obsessions for pianists), beauty and other things you can conquer or encounter sometimes more, sometimes less, or not have at all.
Alfonso Soldano’s recordings of music by Rachmaninov are on Divine Art’s Russian Piano Music Vol.13 DDA 25155
Alfonso Soldano was born in 1986 in the Puglia (Apulia) region of southern Italy. He completed his five year bachelors and postgraduate courses at the Conservatory “N. Piccinni” in Bari, gaining his Degree in Piano Performance with Honors. He also obtained the High Performance Diploma in Concert Piano Performance at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome, under Benedetto Lupo. His mentors throughout his artistic life are Aldo Ciccolini and Pierluigi Camicia. Mr. Soldano has attained first place in many piano competitions and is regularly invited to competitions both as artist and juror in Italy and throughout Europe. He also gives masterclasses all over Italy and has played with a substantial number of major orchestras.