Luca Buratto, an Italian Pianist in Toronto
by Sebastiano Bazzichetto
[Translation by J. Granata]
TORONTO – In 2015, young Milanese pianist Luca Buratto won the prestigious Canadian Honens Piano Competition. This weekend [April 22-23, 2017] will mark his debut in Toronto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). We met with him a few days before the event to ask him a few questions and satisfy our curiosity.
Dear Luca, how was your passion for music born?
I don’t come form a family of musicians, but music was always part of my family in some way. My mother’s grandfather, Renzo Massarani, was a renown composer and orchestra director before the advent of Fascism, which forced him to emigrate to Brazil and begin a career as a music critic. Instead, my father studied the violin and the piano at the Conservatory in Milan, later deciding to become a computer science engineer. Then, upon returning home after a year of working abroad, my father decided to buy a new piano, and it seemed a waste not to have me learn (my brother was already studying the violin). I was four years old at the time.
I don’t remember much about how it all began. What I do know is that the piano was always a part of my upbringing. I never “lived” it in a way that precluded me from other possibilities, or as an obsession for which I absolutely had to reach a certain career. I always tried – and still try – to have a very healthy relationship with the instrument, so that I can live my relationship with music and the world of sound as part of my present, as a way to communicate with reality, as an area of research and inquiry.
What does “being a musician” mean?
The career of a musician is very different, in a way, but also very similar to the careers of many other freelance professionals. In my opinion, the foundation for a solid career can only be achieved through daily contact with the instrument, and many hours spent in front of the keys dedicated to study. This, in my opinion, is a condition sine qua non to always being up to the task, and to possess the necessary skills to conquer moments of great pressure when performing.
Being a musician is very similar to being an athlete: preparation is the most important aspect of the work. In regards to continuance and development, that depends on many variables that are often out of our control.
Without a doubt, in my case, the visibility that I have received thanks to the Honens Prize is an important vessel through which to develop relationships, contacts, events, and important debuts that all compose a very delicate mosaic. The most important thing, however, is always to be, and always to prepare yourself for your moment: this may sound cliché, but it is very true.
In 2015 you won the prestigious Honens Piano Competition Prize. What were the emotions you experienced in that moment?
Surely winning the Honens Prize is life-changing professionally and personally. First, it is a great responsibility: you must always try to maintain the expectations that a competition of this nature brings. For me, winning a competition is never the end in and of itself: competitions are so unpredictable that I consider them a testing ground to evaluate your ability to communicate, to communicate an idea, or a thought that may or may not be received by the juror. Moreover, all the participants are nearly irreproachable, thus much rests of the taste of the juror.
Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that Honens was the right competition for me: a contest where much space is given to the imagination of the contestant, beginning with the choice of program, where the type of virtuosity appreciated is not the standard, but a more intellectual virtuosity, where great emphasis is placed on the chamber music, and similarly on the very way in which the contestant thinks about and sees the music and the art. Not by chance, two interviews with journalists were given during the contest.
The following describes the prize: “The competition aims to discover The Complete Pianist – a 21st century artist for 21st century audiences”. What do you think the judges saw in you? Do you see yourself as a 21st century pianist?
I don’t know if I am a pianist of the 21st century, but certainly I try to draw myself to music with the spirit and the sensibility of a man of today, for whom ridden myself of certain habits and traditions is absolutely necessary. Playing an instrument does not have to be isolating, nor do we have to position ourselves as bringers of knowledge or guardians of mystical secrets, as if we were a hermetic sect. What I believe is that an artist, today more than ever, has the good fortune of always being in contact with great works of the human genius and, having this good fortune, can only share it in the simplest and most natural way possible: playing, involving, drawing people near, and not pushing people away or creating a disparity (both intellectually and emotionally) between us and the public. Without the public we could not even do this work. It is simply a coincidence, in my opinion, that I was given the opportunity to do this through music: it could have been through any other work; it is because of this that I refute the idea that making music is a type of vocation.
What are your career expectations since your victory?
As I mentioned, the victory changes the prospects for someone young like me. The best way is to take full advantage of the possibilities that this victory offers. I am a grounded young man, so I try to work with great dedication and to create a very fertile groundwork for these opportunities. Playing is my way of communicating and I try to do so in the best ways possible.
In practical terms, in the short term, I would say that I would enjoy continuing to travel and play, expectations which I am realizing thanks to this victory, as well as deepening other work opportunities not necessarily connected to independent practice, such as chamber music or teaching.
At the current moment, where do you live, study, and work?
At the moment I live in Milan, after having spent a semester studying in the United States, a country that is very different from Italy, where the freedom of the individual does not reconcile very much with the (rigid) rules and structures of the scholastic system. I have understood how Europe is more attuned with my way of seeing, especially in our current times. It definitely was a moment of growth and refelction that I do not regret.
How do you see the future of music in Italy?
Italy, perhaps as always, lives in a great moment of paradox. Surely in the population/talent ratio (if we can use this comparison) it is the country that continues to produce frighteningly high numbers of quality and results. I am thinking only of the pianists of my generation that have won a national competition: there are at least seven of us! Not to mention the young orchestra directors. No other European country (not to mention the United States) can boast these results. In my opinion the merit is in the uniqueness of the Italian education system: it is not a strong system in and of itself, but, within it is has characteristics with very unique qualities. It is for this reason that I don’t understand the continual whining that accompanies us. We absolutely do not tolerate the evolution of the public, but this is a very common factor today, and although education in music is lacking, beginning with elementary education, I believe that culture in Italia is an integral part of our country and of our sensibility. We are entirely surrounded by art throughout the country, and, living in Milan, I can only say that we are spoiled by choice. It is almost impossible to keep up with all of the cultural (and musical) initiatives of the city. I do not view the future as completely depressing as many present it to be.
Last, what can you tell us about the program you will present in Toronto?
In Toronto I will play Mozart’s Concerto K. 505. Like many of Mozart’s last piano and orchestra concertos, it is a work that poses many interpretative questions and difficulties. First and foremost one must consider that Mozart wrote these works for himself, thus the piano parts are almost very rough outlines in respect to that which philology tells us were the final musical results. The practice of improvisation was fundamental in works of this gnre and Mozart was, without a doubt, one of the greatest virtuosos. I listened to many recordings of pianists who have a more fantastical and free approach in respect to the musical tradition influenced by Romanticism, and I hope the audience will be able to perceive all of this.