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?
I began learning to play the piano at the age of 6. We had a piano at home, and just like my older brother before me, it was very natural to grow curious and start taking lessons. One summer, at the age of 12, suddenly something about the music of Beethoven and Schubert spoke to me with such urgency that I felt a deep need to study those pieces. It was then that I started to practice much more intensively, and entered the conservatory in Bergamo. My teacher there, Maria Grazia Bellocchio, was, and is still, the musician who shaped my ideas the most and gave me the tools over the years to express them at my best. Everything good that there is in my playing comes from her.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
In terms of career – not musicianship – I think there have been two main hurdles. Entering the concert scene is certainly the main one; this requires a good deal of luck even when entering competitions with the utmost preparation beforehand. Once that happens, the big challenge is to maintain or raise that level while your life is changing enormously: less time to practice, less quiet, much more travelling, meeting people in the music business, irregular sleep and eating habits… settling in a completely new lifestyle while being at the same time more exposed to criticism is even dangerous, in some ways.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
I am quite happy with my CD recordings for Alpha Classics, which I dedicated to the late music of Beethoven and Bach. I know how much care and commitment I put into these, and they do represent me at my very best. Amongst live performances, a concert in Hannover with the Hammerklavier Sonata, one at the Schubertiade Festival with the Schubert B Flat Sonata, and my performance of Beethoven’s last sonata in Seattle are the concerts I remember most happily.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
I am at my best in works that require deep concentration, a good sense of long structures and continuous, unbroken tension. I am least comfortable with miniatures and character pieces.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
The people I meet, the cities I visit and their art, the books I read… everything I do in my life enters my music making. If someone were to listen to more than one of my performances of the same work, you would be able to tell very clearly my state of mind in that period.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Mostly it’s not easy to express this process rationally… it has to do with the same sense of urgency with which some musical works spoke to me when I was 12. Even now, my main choices in repertoire come from the same deep need to start working on a certain specific piece at one particular moment.
There are of course practical requests from promoters and festivals that one must accept some times, but mainly my repertoire is whatever I feel most strongly about in a certain season. Sometimes I wish I could choose the repertoire on the day of the concert, instead of having it approved two years before… but these works that I love usually stay with me for many years anyway!
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
It is hard to point to a single venue… I perform at my best in halls with a capacity of 500-1000 people and good acoustics. A hall such as the Boulez Saal in Berlin is the kind of venue I dream to perform in… I hope it happens soon!
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?
We need to constantly be sincerely engaged with the music we are playing or presenting, to believe in it with unbroken faith, and not try to make it more entertaining. Most classical music works are not born as entertainment, and when we try to attract people to them by making them lighter, or creating mixed programmes with other genres of music, I feel there is a grave danger of betraying them and giving a false message. In terms of pure entertainment (meaning an easy, pleasant experience, even sometimes an emotionally intense experience but with little effort) other genres of music are clearly better, and I believe we should courageously present classical masterpieces for what they really are: peaks of human creativity and expression, to be absorbed over a lifetime and with great concentration. And everyone in the music scene should have total faith in these works, their ability to move the public, and their importance for humanity – presenters, managers and performers. I do not fear a half-empty concert hall, I fear a concert hall full of half-empty music.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
One trio where I had to play a recital in Istanbul and the Emperor Concerto in Seoul 36 hours later. For reasons I cannot comprehend, I actually played well in both concerts despite the intensive travelling and the shock of jetlag!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Having the economical and practical chances to spend your life with the works you treasure most. When you have enough recognition not to struggle financially and to be allowed to perform the repertoire you choose, with the musicians or orchestras you like the most, then you are definitely successful!
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
To make sure that music making comes from a deep, vulnerable place in the heart, and not from arrogance or narcissism. This can only happen if there is selfless love for the music we are performing.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
I would like for my career to be more and more international, instead of being mainly centred in Europe, and to include concertos with bigger orchestras.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I suppose the dream is for personal life and musical career to go hand in hand, allowing me to spend my days with the people and music I love most.
What is your most treasured possession?
My Steinway B piano from Angelo Fabbrini.
What is your present state of mind?
As I write this, I am in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival for 5 weeks, spending this time rehearsing and performing chamber music at an incredibly high level of detail. The peace and inspiration in the air here are a gift, as is the company of many passionate musicians after many months of solitude.
Bach: The Art of Fugue / Filippo Gorini is released on 27 August 2021 on the Alpha Classics label and is the beginning of a long project exploring Bach’s last unfinished masterpiece through live performance, a documentary series with some of the world’s greatest minds, film and more.
Since winning the First Prize and Audience Prize at the Telekom-Beethoven Competition in Bonn in 2015, Italian pianist Filippo Gorini has enjoyed a steadily rising career. His concert appearances have drawn unanimous acclaim on many prestigious stages such as the Wigmore Hall London, Tonhalle Zurich, Meany Hall Seattle, Vancouver Playhouse, Berlin Konzerthaus, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Munich Herkulessaal, Società del Quartetto di Milano, and the Samsung Concert Hall in Seoul.