Before MusicFest Vancouver 2011, the gorgeous brunette gracing the festival guide was largely unknown to Vancouver—and Canadian—audiences.

But when the festival draws to a close on Sunday, you can be sure the name Mariangela Vacatello will be on the lips of many.

The dazzlingly virtuosic young Italian pianist, whose interpretations of Franz Liszt have gained her fans across Europe, played her first two Canadian concerts this past week: the first was a bold all-Liszt program on Wednesday (August 10), and her second was this morning, where she shared the Christ Church Cathedral stage with Vancouver’s Vetta String Quartet.

Here's a shot from the Swingle Singers concert on August 6 at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts—a gig that was proof the a capella masters are just as swinging as they were in the '60s.

The group's off-the-hook scats got two standing ovations not only at the end of the show, but also at intermission.

Any doubts as to Sarah McLachlan's ability to still pull in a crowd evaporated this evening when the Vancouver-based songstress took to the Orpheum stage to kick off MusicFest 2011, backed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and her band. The place looked to be completely sold out, which has got to have the festival organizers feeling chipper about doing away with their traditional opera gala opener in favour of the queen of melancholy pop.

Some pianists you just have to hear; others, it helps to see them.

It's with this in mind that we post the lightning-fast fingerwork of Mariangela Vacatello attacking Franz Liszt's gruelling Sonata in B Minor at the 2010 International Keyboard Institute & Festival.

As we told you in a recent Straight article, the Italian artist has never been to Canada, but she's a huge sensation in Europe--especially in her homeland. Here's a little taste of why. And no, we haven't sped up the footage.