The versatile Italian pianist Gloria Campaner is enjoying a flourishing and varied musical life, with collaborations in spheres ranging from chamber music and contemporary works to jazz, dance and fashion
Gloria, what are your earliest musical memories? How did you first get interested in music?
When I was three years old my aunt brought me a little red toy piano as a birthday present and, as my parents are not musicians, that was the first musical instrument in our house.
My mother says that from the very beginning I was playing it with a particular dedication, harmonic sensitivity and elegant gestures (of course I don’t remember all this very well!). I do, however, remember playing it and pretending to play ‘concerts’ for my family or for an audience of dolls! A year later, following my best friend Augusta, I was attending a weekly music workshop for children – we sang, danced, learnt the names of the notes and experimented with different musical instruments and I immediately loved it!
You have such a varied career, with collaborations in contemporary music, with jazz musicians, with dancers, with fashion houses…. How did you get involved in all this?
I truly believe in following our own strongest passions. In my case, as part of classical piano playing, I’ve been always attracted to and passionate about contemporary art and music, jazz, classical ballet and tango, which I studied and practiced for long time. I was then very lucky to meet some amazing jazz musicians, composers, choreographers and DJs who were happy and willing to collaborate with me in several different ‘fusion’ projects. After being on stage with a Techno DJ I discovered that Beethoven or Prokofiev were already ‘rock’n roll’ centuries ago, and that classical music is really at the root of everything!
What projects are you most looking forward to in the rest of 2015?
I was very excited about a world première of a piano and dance show featuring the music of Wolfgang Rihm, Jörg Widmann, Márton Illès and Vittorio Montalti and the choreography of Joost Vrounraets from Holland – this production has just concluded with a performance in the Teatro Olimpico, Rome.
There will also be regular piano recitals and orchestral collaborations, and I am looking forward to my outreach project in the Favela Rocinha of Rio de Janeiro in May, where I do regular workshops with children. I will also be taking part in a documentary for SKY Arte dedicated to Scriabin in the year of his anniversary, together with the great Italian sculptor Pinuccio Sciola. I will return to Japan in December, do a South American tour as part of the Year of Italian Culture 2015 in South America and do my first tour of South Africa, which is a country I’ve never visited but which has always interested me.
Do you like playing chamber music? Do you have any regular collaborations with string players?
I adore playing chamber music and working with chamber musicians and ensembles. I find it the best way of sharing and communicating through music – it’s a dialogue which isn’t spoken but played, where there is no need for words or verbal communication, which is sometimes full of pretentions and misunderstandings. Music is pure and cannot lie!
I have been lucky to work with great violinists who teach me a lot through their playing and their musical experience, which is different because piano is a fundamentally percussive instrument, it doesn’t ‘breathe’. As pianists we only start understanding the power of silence, breathing and pauses while playing with other musicians or singers.
I play regularly with the Russian violinist Sergey Krylov and with the young Romanian-Italian Anna Tifu. I also have regular musical collaborations with the great Quartetto di Cremona and am really looking forward to a new collaboration with cellist Johannes Moser.
Which musicians/teachers have influenced you the most, and how?
All my teachers have been fundamental for my artistic development and I’m grateful every day for having met them. I couldn’t be the musician I am today without their help and constant support.
My first piano teacher was Daniela Vidali, who believed in me when I was still at kindergarden; then Bruno Mezzena, a pupil of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, guided me for almost ten years and encouraged my love of contemporary music when I was a teenager. He used to say that a good musician should always know well the music of his or her time. Konstantin Bogino, the pianist of Tchaikovsky Trio from Moscow, encouraged me to to discover the pleasure of playing and the freedom of musical interpretation, and Fany Solter, my Brazilian Professor while I was taking my diploma in Karlsruhe University, also gave me much. Recently, after being awarded a Fellowship for the Borletti- Buitoni Trust in 2014, I have been gifted with the possibility of working with Mitsuko Uchida, who is not only the great pianist and musician we all know, but also a fantastic person.
Which musicians (alive or dead) do you most like listening to, and why?
I am a big fan of Richter, Benedetti Michelangeli, Schnabel, Arrau, Horowitz, and among musicians of today I greatly admire Radu Lupu, Grigory Sokolov, Ivo Pogorelich and Martha Argerich. However, since I rarely listen to classical music (!) I have learned a lot from artists like Frank Zappa and Miles Davis – and from and Chet Baker, since the trumpet is my favourite instrument.
You’ve done heaps of competitions. How do you feel about them? What advice would you give to contestants about how to tackle them?
I competed in dozens of competitions when I was much younger, but today I regret not dedicating more time to regular studies and building a diverse repertoire. However, I have since discovered that all those contests helped me fundamentally in learning to tackle and control stage fright and in understanding vulnerability in performance. The important international prizes later helped me a lot, especially as they guaranteed media exposure and artistic openings in new countries. But I think the best way to make competitions useful is first of all to take it as a way to develop your skills finely, to get to know your physical and psychological limits and to learn how to control them under circumstances of high stress. At the end the real benefit of competitions is what we can personally learn from them – this is the real ‘victory’.
What have been your happiest and/or proudest moments so far and which events have made most difference to your progress?
I will never forget when I first played with a symphony orchestra – I was only 12 and I felt like I was embraced by a big bubble of sound. I just felt very lucky and grateful to be able to share my music with an entire orchestra.
Later on, what really made me proud and happy, much more than some of the big debuts I was preparing or some of the technical problems I was finally able to resolve, is the feeling of great joy when I receive letters from people telling me how they felt while listening to my concerts, and how their lives changed because of that. Ultimately, I became a better person when I started to share music with underprivileged children, hospital patients, or simply a disadvantaged community that’s never had access to art. Whenever I play in hospitals and I see that the patients actually seem to feel relieved from their pain, or start to smile again, that has become my biggest reward. I now believe very strongly that music is a healing power.
Do you think classical music needs to be “saved”? If so, what would you do to save it? If not, why not?
I don’t believe classical music needs to be “saved”, but I do I believe that young people in particular need to discover that classical music and the concert experience can offer something that you cannot find in any other circumstance: really focusing on one thing, not being able to resort to your mobile phone for meaningless tweets, but allowing your emotions, imagination and fantasy to go to any place they desire, while enjoying something that is ‘hand-made’ only for that unique moment. A lot of young people are alienated by the fact that you need to sit quietly for such an extended amount of time, but in my experience with outreach work, I am always astonished that once young people understand the concept of silence and its fascination, listening suddenly becomes an active experience rather than passive consumption. This is the way that classical music saves itself – or rather saves all of us!