MusicFest Vancouver: From Italy, Mariangela Vacatello brings a love for Liszt
Italian piano sensation Mariangela Vacatello has made much of her name through her love of Franz Liszt: her first concerto, at 13, was by the composer, as was the piece she played at her first international competition at 17, and all the music on her first CD. In fact, the vivacious young Neapolitan will be playing Liszt in one of two concerts for her Canadian debut at MusicFest Vancouver this week, too. So it comes as a little bit of a surprise to find out her first impressions of the Hungarian piano genius, whose 200th anniversary is this year.
“When I was around eight or nine years old, my mom gave me a book of a Liszt piece.”¦and it was not very easy but very delicate, kind of imagining water and flowing,” Vacatello says with her thick, warm Italian accent, after a recital in Perugia. “At first I hated it, because there were so many notes to read and I was too young and I didn’t want to spend so much time reading notes!
“But then, when the notes were fine, I loved it and thought it was very beautiful.”
Revealing the passion that critics repeatedly say characterizes her playing, she goes on to tell a story about being 10 years old, hearing a girl playing a Liszt waltz, and buying the score. “I really loved it and my professor was very angry because it was too difficult for me and he did not want me to play it and I was not ready,” Vacatello relates. “But I did it. Of course it was not perfect, but I was very happy. So, from that moment, I started to learn more about Liszt.”
The stories speak not just to her early attraction to the composer, but to the drive and talent that have pushed her along her fast-rising career. It didn’t take long for her musical family, including an organist father, to recognize her aptitude as a toddler in Naples. “I was two and my father was playing ”˜Happy Birthday’ for me, and I starting singing it to myself, and because he’s very funny, he was changing the pitch and the tempo. I could follow him perfectly, with perfect pitch. But they did not think it would lead to anything so big and international!”
Vacatello has gone on to play famous theatres from the Konzerthaus Berlin to Carnegie Hall, consistently praised for her expressivity and magnetic presence. And amid the busy touring schedule, she has managed, somehow, to feed her other passion, one that may even rival her penchant for Liszt: that of cooking pastry. “When I’m older, I hope to have more time—I hope to go to not a piano master class but a pastry master class,” she says with a laugh.
Mariangela Vacatello plays the Liszt Anniversary Piano Recital on August 10, and with the Vetta String Quartet on August 12, both at Christ Church Cathedral.