Italian pianist thrills China with lots of improvisation

Updated: 2016-10-31 07:52

By Chen Nan(China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small

Whistling, playing the piano and tapping the cover of the instrument, Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell gave the audience an entertaining experience when she performed at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing recently.

It was the pianist's last stop on her first tour of China, which kicked off in Shanghai on Oct 22 and also covered Tianjin, Harbin in Heilongjiang province and Xiamen in Fujian province.

"Maybe next time I can do a concert with lights, colors and smoke, which is like a theater play, creating a totally different atmosphere from other piano recitals," the 29-year-old says.

The pianist, who has been classically trained since the age of 3 and made her debut appearance at 11, attributes her ideas about music to the late German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen known for his groundbreaking music.

 Italian pianist thrills China with lots of improvisation

Pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell is known for her interpretations of works by the late German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Matteo Nicolai / Provided to China Daily

It all started in 2006, when the composer heard Mosell, then 19, perform The Klavierstucke, a set of 19 compositions by him, on the radio.

Stockhausen then wrote to her and invited her to study with him in Germany.

From then on, until his death in December 2007, Mosell worked closely with the composer, receiving much critical acclaim and prizes for her musical interpretations.

She describes how it was "instant love" when she heard Stockhausen's music at a recital by Italian classical pianist Maurizio Pollini at Carnegie Hall in New York when she was 11.

"It (the time spent with Stockhausen) was, for sure, the biggest change in my life, which completely influenced me and my tastes in art, music and everything," she says.

"He taught me things that are not in the texts. To have his imprint on my scores is extremely valuable and important. It is also important to know that his personality enabled me to better understand his music."

The experience also left a legacy. Her debut album in 2015, Revolution/Evolution, was a juxtaposition of Stockhausen and Stravinsky, which was followed by her second album in 2016, Light, another interpretation of Stockhausen's music.

Stockhausen was once quoted as saying that "Vanessa Benelli Mosell has the power to let people appreciate my music".

For the pianist, it's a challenge to play Stockhausen's pieces as his works are sometimes difficult to follow, she says.

"His music is very technical, with lots of jump. For example, from the bass to the high notes," says Mosell.

"For me, music from the '50s is very special. To better understand contemporary music, we have to go back."

Mosell not only studied the composer's piano pieces but also his other works, such as electronic works for other instruments.

She was also inspired by the composer's avant-garde vision for stage performances.

When the six parts of Stockhausen's five-hour epic, Mittwoch aus Licht (Wednesday from Light), was performed for the first time by Birmingham Opera Company in London four years ago, the composer's vision was brought to life with four helicopters carrying string quartet performers, two choirs, octophonic sound and musicians.

"His vision was dramatic and grand. And he was very picky and demanding with performers," says Mosell.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Stockhausen's death in 2017, Mosell will participate in events celebrating the composer in Amsterdam and Milan.

Another mentor for her is Russian violinist and conductor Yuri Bashmet, who inspired her with great Russian musical traditions.

Bashmet invited Mosell to study at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory in 2007. Now, he regularly invites her to perform with his musicians in Moscow.

Early next year, she will release her debut concerto album of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

(China Daily 10/31/2016 page20)