Presented by the esteemed Keyboard Trust on October 10th, the Italian pianist Daniele Rinaldo impressed with a thoughtfully programmed performance, one of the last ones to be held at historic Steinway & Sons Hall, which is soon to be demolished.

The audience’s stormy applause was asked to be held back until the end of each part of the program, so as not to interrupt the special harmonic interrelation and correspondence of mood revealed through the progression of Rinaldo’s chosen works, which alternated between Claude Debussy (Etude No.8, “Pour les agreements,” Etude No. 5, ”Pour les Octaves,” and Etude No.10, “Pour les sonoritiès opposeés”) and Domenico Scarlatti (Sonata in C-major, K.132 and Sonata in G-minor, K.105).

With this unusual combination, Rinaldo deliberately created a unique correlative flow, which is again pointed out through his decision to link Liszt’s Verdi Transcription of “Misèrere” from Il Trovatore, Olivier Messiaen’s Prelude No.2, “Chant d’Extase dans un Paysage Triste,” and Robert Schumann’s Sonata in F-sharp minor, No.1, Op. 11, in the ambitious second half of his program. At the core of this pianist’s edifying program choices lies the motivation to make musical context audibly accessible to his audiences.

Rinaldo, who also studied mathematics and is currently entering a doctorial program in Geneva, feels compelled to guide his listeners toward a comprehensive understanding of music.

“I enjoy learning,” he says, and this translates into something he likes to share with his audience. “The main misconception of presenting classical music today may be based on the assumption that classical music is for everybody. But indeed, it may be universal only in its message. But one can educate one’s audience,” says the pianist, “which means one has to guide the audience in a very comprehensive understanding of music.”


Another factor is the presentation of classical music: “Today, classical music needs to be offered in a way it appeals to its audiences. It can be channeled in an interesting way, away from its old-fashioned image and with a taste for its contemporary application and relevance. I don’t believe that anybody who is listening to Björk would not enjoy listening to Bartók or Stravinsky.  No wonder classical music today, aims to be heard in buzzing scenes and new venues internationally, like the warehouse concerts in Berlin, Paris and London. As long as one does not take away classical music’s substance, it’s natural to realize that there may be different criteria of promoting it today….”
Rinaldo makes sure that the music’s substance does not suffer in his presentations, whether he is performing in one of the grand international concert halls, or at a venue that caters to a “special scene,” as he describes the Chelsea Music Festival (now in its fourth season), where he performed a Britten program this summer. It was held at the Dillon Gallery, one of the Chelsea Festival’s Venue Partners, owned by the artistic directors of the festival, Ken-David Masur (Kurt Masur’s son) and Melinda Lee Masur. The “spiced up” theme of the festival, according to Rinaldo, was showcasing a mix of musical genres fused with a neighborhood experience of local art and cuisine. “Music itself creates interesting connections,” says Rinaldo, whose career did not start out meteoric, but rather developed “[in] its own time,” as he says. “I always knew music [was] going to play an important part in my life, but I did not give concerts [at] 8. I rather found myself into music.”

Rinaldo connected with Keyboard Trust in 2011 through a coincidence that was brought about through a mutual friend and led to his performing for the eminent piano pedagogue, Noretta Leech. “I play regularly for Noretta,” whose sound advice he appreciates. “She is always straight to the point, and has great ideas for new fingering suggestions. And she encourages great, free playing that conveys everything that’s in your mind and projects through performing without tension,” Rinaldo says. It was not long before he got taken under the wings of Keyboard Trust, who boosted his performance opportunities.
Rinaldo indicates that his mentors have given him many gifts over the years.  His deep understanding and appreciation of a broad spectrum of repertoire goes back to many important influences to which he was exposed. Among his teachers are Sergej Schepkin and Sergio Perticalori, both renowned for their Bach interpretations, Ines Scarlino at the Conservatory Pollini, an enthusiast of the modern repertoire, and Christopher Elton at the London Royal Academy of Music, also a great chamber musician.  Elton, who has been declared a huge influence by his student, the prodigious Benjamin Grosvenor, a younger classmate of Rinaldo at the Academy, and especially Claudio Martinez have been singled out as Rinaldo’s most inspiring teachers. For seven years now, Martinez has taught Rinaldo in Basel, Switzerland, having served for three years as the pianist’s main mentor. “I owe everything to him,” Rinaldo says of Martinez, beginning to get excited. “I met him at the Dino Ciani Festival in Madrid; he was Dmitry Bashkirov’s assistant. When he invited me to come to his house, I was blown away. When he points out the nature of the music at hand, its world just starts to open up for me. He teaches you how to look at music, what’s missing. And you know when it’s true, when the musical substance is there. Many accomplished musicians in their own right come to see him and to reconnect. He considers Ferenc Rados (aslo András Schiff’s teacher) his musical don,” shares Rinaldo. “You need someone to give you this honest feedback, someone you trust and whose judgment counts for you. I have my own take of performance, as a consequence of what goes on in your brain and ears. You present what is happening if you have a clear idea and emotional connection, passing it on.”

Partly because of his relationships with both Elton and Martinez, Rinaldo has inherited a poignant enthusiasm for chamber music. “I especially enjoy chamber music, the best emotions I have ever had were playing together, with the right guys, of course. The connection with your partner(s), enjoying myself on stage…that reveals something to the audience, as well. Sometimes the rehearsal is already exciting, and I like to share that intense experience with partners, I already made a good team with.”  One such partner is violinist Lisa Ueda, with whom Rinaldo received the British Tunnel Trust award; another is his compatriot violinist Davide de Ascaniis, with whom he has performed regularly since 2008 as the Duo De Ascaniis-Rinaldo.
In performance, Rinaldo projects his ideas with great enthusiasm and consistent virtuosity. The many interesting facets of the stylistic nuances in his presentation of Debussy and Scarlatti represent an intellectual tour de force, expressed with the most sensitive pianistic touch, artistically differentiating the sound worlds of both composers.
“The chronological ritual of presenting composers according to their stylistic area from earliest to latest seems a bit outdated,” Rinaldo comments. “I rather highlight a certain influence: one composer – despite the stylistic differences—connecting to another.” The reason behind the Scarlatti–Debussy connection, according to Rinaldo, is that, “Scarlatti highlights the baroque influence in Debussy, especially in the late Debussy, in his works dedicated to the harpsichord player Couperin… They both start with some of the same gesture of vocal ornamentation: the cantabile in these pieces really can show a strong reference. In the Schumann and Messiaen, there is no stylistic reference, but rather a mutually strong, tonal structure. I find the match successful, which shows itself in the same leap of fourth….”

I personally found his performance even more enjoyable when he was not concentrating on following these precise correlations, and instead expressing purely indulgent submission to his refined virtuosity, which came to its fullest realization in Liszt’s paraphrase of “Misere.” The piece impressed with its enormously rich palette of sound and sustained phrasing.  Listen to music performed by Daniele Rinaldo’s at the 2012 Santander Competition here: listen to Daniele Rinaldo playing:
Leoš Janáček – Piano Sonata 1
Robert Schumann – Fantasiestücke, Op. 111
Domenico Scarlatti – Sonata K.135, in C-major;
Claude Debussy Etude No.8 ‘Pour les agréments’ ;
Domenico Scarlatti – Sonata K.105, in C-major;
Claude Debussy Etude No.5’Pour les octaves’ ;
Claude Debussy Etude No.10 ‘Pour les sonorités opposèes’ ;
Guiseppe Verdi/Franz Liszt ‘Miserere, Il Trouvatore‘