How I Met Michelangeli
I first came into contact with the art of this great pianist many years ago — long before his visit to Poland. It was on the occasion of a radio broadcast of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor. I was struck not only by his beautiful name — evoking the great artists of the Renaissance, but also by the unusual warmth of the performance, especially as at that time I was under the influence of ‘objective’ performance aesthetics. A further encounter with Michelangeli’s art came with the con- certs he gave in Warsaw in 1955. He was then one of the jurors for the International Chopin Competition. We were all riveted by the very first bars of Bach’s Chaconne, as adapted by Busoni. Then we heard a dazzling version of Beetho- ven’s Sonata in C major Op. 2, passed through a vigorously youthful and fiery rendering of Schumann’s Carnival Pranks in Vienna Op. 26, to be finally enraptured by Brahms’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini! I remember how a silent shiver ran through the balcony of the National Philharmonic Hall, where I had my seat directly behind the jurors, all famous artists who gave their own recitals after the auditions for the competition contestants. One after the other, they expressed their ecstatic joy and undis- guised amazement that such a thing as Arturo Benedetti Michel- angeli’s pianism could exist on this earth. It was a reaction of astonishment mixed with absolute rapture. The artist was called back many times, and gave...
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