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January 4, 2010

Blast from the Past: pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Please forgive the recent breaks in manic blogging; I slipped away for the holidays and am only now returning to reality, ready again to expound, pontificate and whine with regularity.

I happened to noticed that three eminent pianists share a January 5th birthday: Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini and one no longer with us, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. And thinking about the latter instantly suggested the next candidate for my internationally clamored-for Blast from the Past feature.

Talk about your patrician artists. Michelangeli was the epitome of the musical aristocrat, a pianist who maintained extraordinary standards of stylistic integrity and taste. His playing could reach a level of exquisite poetry, with a wealth of subtle coloring and perfectly judged rubato (that art of rhythmic elasticity seems in particularly short supply today). Michelangeli, who died in 1995, was, like the other true keyboard giants, in a class by himself. Here are just a few reasons why (the third Chopin clip starts with the last couple notes of another piece, but the performance I want to share starts a few seconds later):

Posted by Tim Smith at 6:54 PM | | Comments (1)


I enjoyed reading your blog regarding Michelangeli Benedetti
I never understood why his name is not well known in the US. This was a pianist of immence integrity, who preached his parish. (music is a right for people who deserved it) and never charged for his classes. Pollini was one of his students.
There appear to be a renewed interest about this amazing pianist. His wife (Giluina) wrote a biography about him and tthere are at present 5 with unpublished clips of his concerts available in Italian only. The note perfect dynamic range, colours nuances he uses in even the most difficult composition is remarkable.
He also wrote a few Capellas as well.


Thanks very much for the comments and the encouraging prospect of renewed interest in this pianist. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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