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Pietro Scarpini (Piano)

Born: April 6, 1911 - Rome, Italy
Died: November 27, 1997 - Florence, Italy

Pietro Scarpini was an Italian pianist, His mother was a pianist and his father an army officer. Scarpini studied in Rome at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, where his major teachers were Alfredo Casella for piano, Ottorino Respighi for composition, Alessandro Bustini for conducting, and Fernando Germani for organ. In June 1934 Scarpini was chosen to be the final performer in a recital by pianists from A. Casellaís piano perfection class. Although a student of music, Scarpini also studied at the University in Rome from which his father wanted him to graduate. In 1934, while still at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Scarpini married his fellow student Teresita Rimer.

At his graduation concert in 1937, Pietro Scarpini was to conduct the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at the Teatro Adriano in Rome, but since the soloist was indisposed Scarpini himself became the pianist in a performance of W.A. Mozartís Piano Concerto in E flat major K. 271. It was a great success and led to an offer of three concerto performances with the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Philharmonie in Berlin. The reviews referred to Ďan eminent pianistí and Ďa new star in the international sky of pianistsí. Thereafter began an international career, first taking Scarpini to Budapest, Berlin and Lübeck for recitals in 1938, when critics described him as Ďa soloist of the highest stature whose playing is exceptionalí. During the war Scarpini was appointed to the Parma Conservatory on A. Casellaís recommendation but requested a transfer to the Cherubini Conservatory in Florence a year later. In 1938 in Florence, Scarpini played W.A. Mozartís Piano Concerto in E flat K. 271 with the Maggio Musicale Orchestra conducted by Karl Böhm. Richard Strauss was in the audience and congratulated both the conductor and the soloist after the performance.

In the early 1930s Pietro Scarpini met Paul Hindemith, with whom he had an important working relationship for some years, also giving concerts for viola and piano. Scarpini had a close friendship too throughout his life with composer Luigi Dallapiccola.

Before World War II, Pietro Scarpiniís programmes contained many staples of the repertoire: L.v. Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Bach-Busoni, Sergei Rachmaninov, Debussy, Scarlatti, Johannes Brahms, Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Igor Stravinsky, Francis Poulenc and P. Hindemith. After the war his programmes reflected his interests in contemporary music and the music of Ferruccio Busoni, but he would also programme major works of J.S. Bach such as the Goldberg Variations BWV 988, Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 and both books of Das wohltemperierte Klavier (BWV 846-869, BWV 870-893).

In 1948 at the Salzburg Festival Scarpini programmed a work which he would champion throughout his career: Arnold Schoenbergís Pierrot Lunaire. As both conductor and pianist of his specially-formed ensemble, he performed this work in most of the important cities of Europe. He also gave the first performance in Italy of A. Schoenbergís Piano Concerto, conducted by Franz André in 1948. The following year Scarpini played Pierrot Lunaire in London for the BBC: this was the twenty-first time he had performed the work publicly. Scarpini was becoming known as an interpreter of contemporary music, leading an Italian critic to write, ĎScarpiniís extraordinary interpretation of contemporary music has risen to the level of international excellence and his recital of last night is a rare, and perhaps unique, example in the musical world of our time.í By now Scarpini was playing many works by F. Busoni including his version of the Don Juan Fantasy.

In the early 1950ís Pietro Scarpini obtained a copy of the manuscript score of Gustav Mahlerís incomplete Symphony No. 10 and prepared a performing edition for two pianos. In 1952 he met Bruno Walter to discuss the possibility of preparing an orchestral score, but this came to nothing. A performance of Prokofievís Piano Concerto No. 3 in Geneva in 1950 prompted Alfred Cortot to write Scarpini a letter of appreciation, and when Wilhelm Furtwängler toured Italy in the years after the war, Scarpini had the opportunity of playing L.v. Beethovenís Piano Concerto No. 4 Op. 58 with him in Rome in January 1952. In November of that year Scarpini was in Germany playing Pierrot Lunaire and F. Busoniís Fantasia contrappuntistica at Darmstadt.

A meeting with conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos in Florence led to Scarpini being invited to perform in New York. With Dimitri Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Scarpini gave three performances of Prokofievís Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 16 at Carnegie Hall. Olin Downes, in the New York Times, called Scarpini Ďa pianist of prodigious capacitiesí. A year later in November 1955 Scarpini returned to New York to give three performances of W.A. Mozartís Concerto in E flat K. 482, again with Dimitri Mitropoulos. He then had further engagements with the orchestras of Montreal, Toronto, Baltimore and Dallas.

After an exhausting tour of America in 1956 Pietro Scarpiniís health began to fail when diabetes was diagnosed, but in January 1957 he was in San Francisco playing the Weber Konzertstück and I. Stravinskyís Piano Concerto with Enrique Jordá conducting. Still looking for contemporary works, Scarpini was in Germany and Italy in April 1957 performing the new Piano Concerto of Roger Sessions and in 1959 the composer Roberto Gerard asked Scarpini to play his Concerto for Harpsichord, Strings and Percussion, but unfortunately Scarpiniís state of health prevented him from performing the work, both at the time of its completion and thereafter. During the late 1950ís and early 1960ís Scarpini performed J.S. Bachís Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080 at universities throughout Italy and performed Das wohltemperierte Klavier complete at the 1960 York Festival in Britain.

During the mid-1950ís Pietro Scarpini began to be interested in the music of Scriabin. In 1963 at the International Festival of Contemporary Music in Venice he gave a memorable recital of Scriabinís works, prompting one to write, ĎAlthough Scarpini is already known for his dedication to rediscovering a number of musicians, absorbing them into his innermost being before presenting them to the public, this occasion was an unparalleled revelation. The Scriabin we listened to was on a higher plane than the over-praised interpretations by Sviatoslav Richter, and with this performance Scarpini has joined the restricted circle of the greatest pianists of the century.í

In 1966 Pietro Scarpini was invited to America by George Szell to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra. As it was F. Busoniís centenary year he played F. Busoniís Piano Concerto Op. 39 in Cleveland and New York. During the centenary year he played a recital of F. Busoni (including the Fantasia contrappuntistica) at the Wigmore Hall and also performed the Indianische Fantasie with the New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. From 1964, Scarpini played both harpsichord and piano in his recitals.

During his career Pietro Scarpini had performed with conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Pierre Monteux, Hans Rosbaud, Hermann Scherchen, Ferenc Fricsay and Karl Böhm. After his retirement from the concert platform in the late 1960ís he continued to give master-classes; from the early 1950ís the Fulbright Foundation had given scholarships for American pianists to study in Florence with Scarpini and he taught also in Siena and Darmstadt. After a heart attack in 1982 he had a triple by-pass, a new operation at the time. In 1988 he had a pacemaker fitted, and almost until the end he was still able to play the piano at home. He died in November 1997.

Pietro Scarpini was that rare combination: a highly intellectual pianist with a virtuoso technique. He was a dignified and solitary person with a serious approach to music, single-mindedly following the course of his artistic convictions without compromise.

Pietro Scarpini recorded at home, and these recordings and some of his live performances are to be issued by the Scarpini Foundation, for Scarpini made only one LP of Béla Bartók and I. Stravinsky for the Durium label that was reissued in America on the Colosseum label when he was touring there. He did, however, also appear on one side of an LP made for Italian Columbia in 1973-1974 of works by his friend L. Dallapiccola, accompanying violinist Sandro Materassi in Tartiniana seconda and Due studi. A private recording from the late 1930s of F. Lisztís Étude díexécution transcendante díaprès Paganini (or ĎPaganinií Étude) No. 2 in E flat shows that Scarpini had a tremendous technique. It is hoped that recordings both private and from radio broadcasts will be issued. These include Scarpiniís arrangement for two pianos of G. Mahlerís Symphony No. 10 with an overdubbed Scarpini playing both parts, Prokofievís Piano Concerto No. 2 Op. 16 from Scarpiniís New York debut, his performance of F. Busoniís Piano Concerto with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, his Scriabin, and his W.A. Mozart with Dimitri Mitropoulos. Meanwhile, Arbiter have issued the performance of L.v. Beethovenís Piano Concerto No. 4 Op. 58 with Wilhelm Furtwängler from 1952 and the Scarpini Association has issued a private home recording of J.S. Bachís Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080.

Source: Naxos Website; Italian Wikipedia Website (February 2011)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2011)

Pietro Scarpini: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works

Links to other Sites

Pietro Scarpini - Bio (Naxos)
Scarpini Edition Vol. I - Liner Notes (Arbiter Records)

Pietro Scarpini - Biography (AMG)
Pietro Scarpini (Wikipedia) [Italian]

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