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Having been part of the international piano scene for more than a decade, Mattia Ometto is clearly an artist whose career moves at an exciting pace.  In the 2008-2009 season alone he will play concerts on three continents, in addition to making his Carnegie Hall debut. 

Ometto is no stranger to rave reviews wherever he performs.  One critic describes him as “an artistic figure with exuberant virtuosity,” while another proclaims he “takes advantage of a palette of timbres of extraordinary diversity.”  Even his teacher, Aldo Ciccolini, maintains he is a “pianist with a marvelous sensitivity, one of those artists that has the commitment to make the audience understand what having talent means.”  Barry Alexander, the Executive Director of the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, recently sat down with Mr. Ometto to interview him as Bradshaw & Buono’s Artist of the MonthTranslation from the Italian is by Johan Sartori. 

For more information on Mr. Ometto, please visit his web site, www.mattiaometto.com.

This is clearly an important season for you: in the course of just a few months you will perform in Europe, have a multiple city tour of China, and then make your debut at Carnegie Hall.  How does it feel to have so much success at once?

Being a musician means being blessed with the most rewarding job in the world. The way life unfolds and unexpected opportunities such as the ones that happened to me this year make it all the more exciting. Receiving phone calls that announce engagements of this importance certainly makes one feel that his work is being valued. In my mind, this is the most important reward to my efforts. Being represented in three different continents by three different agencies who decided to trust my work has also been exceptional. I believe my success derives from this trust as well.

You always associate yourself, and your music, with your life in Venice.  Describe to us exactly what you think there is about Venice that influences your music, and your performances.

Venice is indeed an important part of my life, and its influence cannot be underestimated in terms of my art. It is unique not only for its history and enormous quantity of architectural beauty that it reveals, but also for its particular, surreal atmosphere. It is almost like living in a dream: you walk in a city that Ruskin and the travelers of the 19th century depicted so brilliantly right after the fall of the Venetian Republic – La Serenissima. The city is very much like their vivid descriptions. To a young musician looking for new ideas and inspiration, Venice offers limitless sources. For instance, while studying Bach’s English Suites as a teenager, given my young age I did not possess the adequate maturity to comprehend their meaning. One day however I was at the Church of the Scalzi and felt completely overwhelmed by the magnificence of its polychrome marble columns and golden statues. In them I found the austerity and extravagance that I felt was necessary to grasp the meaning of Bach’s music. This is only an example, but I could cite many others to corroborate the fact that a young musician should immerse himself in anything that can stimulate creativity: from art to history, from the great museums to the churches, from the stages of concert halls to the ones of theaters. Music feeds on all these things, and for those who have the great privilege to live in contact with a city like Venice, these are all things that one can expect just around the corner.

Every single one of your reviews describes you in superlative terms.  However, one thing continues to be a constant:  that you are not only a true virtuoso, but someone who knows how to interpret music in order to maximize the intentions of the composer.  How do you go about this?

In my mind, these are concepts that are inseparable. The idea of dissociating artistry from craftsmanship reminds me of how critics in England had welcomed John Singer Sargent's work: flashy but without content. They were obviously unable to see how, in his art, pure virtuosity was at the service of expression. A virtuoso who limits himself to flashy displays without being able to penetrate in the deepest meaning of music offers a ludicrous account of a work of art, as much as an actor expecting to show his skills by reciting some tongue-twisters at a very fast speed, and leaving the stage immediately afterward. When an artist solicits a reaction it's because the content, be the audience aware or not of what generated it, is touching them, is telling them something that they hadn't heard felt, experienced before. We could label this “power of communication without barriers.” Audiences feel a connection, no matter what the repertoire or the vision.

You have an enormous amount of repertoire at your disposal.  How do approach a piece when you first begin to study it, and what is your particular process for getting it ready for performance?

This unfortunately I cannot really disclose. It is as if you went in the kitchen of a restaurant and saw how they prepared your food: you would never eat it! Jokes apart, it is rather difficult to answer this question because there are as many approaches as there are pieces in the repertoire. The truth is that each piece has its own way of developing: I could list periods in which relatively easy pieces came to me with great difficulty and pieces that I considered demanding were learned with great facility, but the bottom line remains in the words of my great mentor Aldo Ciccolini: “practice as if you were completely untalented, without taking anything for granted.” What I think this message reveals is a basic humility that has to permeate the long hours of works spent at the piano. Nothing replaces the humbling experience that comes from comprehending that, no matter how rich your baggage is, when it comes to a new work you invariably find yourself alone, lost in the woods, having to find your way out.

While you have studied with may great teachers, you are now working with Aldo Ciccolini, who can best be described as legendary.  How do you think this collaboration has helped your understanding of the piano, and what you want to express as an artist?

Aldo Ciccolini has been an extraordinary mentor during a very difficult moment of my life. After graduating from the conservatory, I inevitably fell into a trap: a long period of studies at the conservatory came to an end, and a sense of void took over. I felt that an era came to an end: no one was there to help me understand what the next steps would have been. Aldo Ciccolini has been filling that void for the past years, offering his life-long experience. He opened his house and shared his art with me. Aldo Ciccolini is such a fundamental point of reference because he represents the best of both worlds: his music, wisdom, support; but also what he was able to bring out from me as a person, and how he made me understand what I desire my own life to be. Seeing him interact with his environment, spending days at his house making music and having endless conversations about life and the arts, is something that will never leave me and that will always be a point of reference. I will always treasure his presence in my life both for his contribution as an artist but especially for the extraordinary human being that he is.

What role does an audience play for you as an artist?  Once you sit down to play a performance, what exactly are you trying to give them, and what do you want them to leave the auditorium thinking and feeling about the music?

This is possibly the most terrifying question one could ask! I recall an interview with Radu Lupu in which he said that when he thought he had played horribly, somehow audiences and critics welcomed the performance favourably. On the contrary, when he thought that he had played decently, somehow that's when he received the worst reviews. He claims that that's why he doesn't pay attention to them anymore. This is besides the point, but in a way it is a reflection of us as artists: there's a fundamental inability to accept that fact that what people perceive about what we do on stage may be different from what we expect, and in many ways this is the great beauty of our art: the thrill of unpredictability. In my experience, adrenaline is generated by that more so than by the fear of failing! In the end, what I try to offer to my audience through my music is done with great humility.

Tell us exactly what were the steps leading up to your Carnegie Hall debut, and how do you feel about taking your place alongside all the other pianistic greats who have played there?

As a prize winner of the B&B International Piano Competition this past June, I had the opportunity to play at the Kosciuszko Auditorium in New York City. My performance had such a positive impact on Cosmo Buono, the Artistic Director of the competition, that he immediately invited me to appear at the Annual ABC Gala, to be held at Carnegie Hall on March 30, 2009. This is obviously a great responsibility! Carnegie Hall is somewhat of a myth: the idea of stepping on the same stage as some of the great names of the past century gives me the shivers. I don’t think that there's a real way of preparing myself: in many ways, it is like anticipating what happens when you jump from an airplane with a parachute for the first time! The only thing I can say is that I'm extremely excited to have been chosen to be part of that experience. I am aware that this might represent an important turning point in my career. The real challenge will be to conquer it. It will be overwhelming, for sure! There will be a lot of rehearsing, and I'm certain that the days prior to the concert will be possibly the most exciting days of my life! This is what I can tell you so far.

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