Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli at Close Quarters
‘He is an unfriendly person. Cold, withdrawn, laconic — so much so that it drives others to distraction. He hates interviews and takes great pleasure in avoiding autograph hunters, journalists and press photographers poking their noses everywhere’. This is how an article by Candida and Giancarlo Scalfatti begins. (39)1 However, such assessments are characteristic only of those people with whom Michelangeli did not wish to maintain contact. His stiff and unapproachable manner was a protective shield serving to ward off the uninvited and unwelcome. And when he found himself in the company of people he did not know very well, he was reticent, and even gave the impression of not being present, though he heard and observed almost everything. The cause of such reserve lay hidden in unhappy experiences from the past, while Michelangeli’s aversion to the kind of wasting of time to which humdrum company could subject him also produced this sort of reaction. He regarded as lost every moment which he failed to devote to his music.
Michelangeli avoided both the aristocratic salons and grand official receptions or international banquets. Despite this, the rich and powerful, as well as crowned heads, accorded him their favour, and often their friendship, too. The Italian princesses, for instance, would arrange to visit the great pianist whenever they made a tour of the country. Other admirers were Queen Elizabeth of Belgium (with whom Michelangeli used to play as a young ← 12 | 13 → man), Pope John XXIII and Pope...
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