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Studies with Vincenzo Vitale and the first concert

Studies with Vincenzo Vitale and the first concert - Sandro De Palma

Sandro De Palma started playing piano at the age of three.  At six he began his studies with Massimo Bertucci and Vincenzo Vitale, and he performed for the first time at the age of nine, playing Bach, Schubert, and Chopin.



This is an extract of the review of that time:


”The phenomenon of the child prodigy is often bittersweet, beginning with exhilaration and amazement but more often than not ending in disappointment.  De Palma defied the usual pattern.  A lively, intelligent, well-mannered, and somewhat introverted boy at the piano, he would transform into an introspective musician of expressive maturity that was well-beyond his years.  Within just four years of study with Vicenzo Vitale, De Palma was described as playing with a clarity of sound, brilliant technique, exquisite phrasing, and thoughtful interpretation.

(click on the picture to listen to recording)


In 1968, during a concert given by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli at San Carlo Theatre in Naples, De Palma decided to commit himself to a career as a pianist.

“…I was so impressed that I could not sleep for a week.  I had already heard other pianists, but nobody impressed me as he did.  Many years later I heard him perform again in a concert  held at the Vatican, and my impression was quite the same."


Nikita Magaloff heard De Palma perform some time later.  Magaloff was so impressed that he agreed to give him lessons, and and was his advisor until his death in 1995.

De  Palma:  “Nikita Magaloff was in Naples for a concert and Vitale accompanied me to the hotel where Magaloff was staying, where I was introduced.  ‘What is your name?’ the famous Russian pianist asked me.  ‘Sandro De Palma,’ I replied.  And he said to me ‘Nice name for a pianist.’ 

The day after  he  listened to me and he gave me some suggestions about the pedals and he made me listen to a Debussy prelude and something from Chopin, in order to show me his approach.  Every year would come to Naples  to play  a concert and each time he wanted to listen to me.  Later I went and saw him in Geneve and Vevey.  When I played all the Chopin Études,  he encouraged me a lot, giving me precious suggestions on how to interpret Chopin Études in front of the audience.” 


(Quotations are from an interview from "Il Mattino", Naples 1978)



After Vitale’s death, De Palma followed Piero Rattalino’s suggestion and he studied for two years in London with Alice Kezeradze-Pogorelich.



Career Development (1971-1999)

On 15 February 1971, Nikita Magaloff arranged for him to perform, on February 15th, at the musical academy of Naples.  The recital was well-received and included several Études by Chopin, including Op. 25 No. 6 (click here to listen).


After winning first prize at the Casella Competition in 1976 (in a tie with Gerhard Oppitz), De Palma began a long career in which he appeared at many of the most important concert halls and prestigious festivals.


In 1978 he was awarded the first prize by the Bruce Hungerford Memorial Foundation of New York; in the following year he performed at the Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and in Boston.


Also in 1979 in Prague, he played the Liszt Concerto No. 1 under the direction of the well-known director Vakhtang Jordania.


He toured throughout East Germany in 1980, playing in Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig, and other cities.


In 1981 De Palma performed Liszt’s 1st Concerto under the direction of Yuri Ahronovitch, and completed a long tour with the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Beethoven Concerto No. 4.


In 1983 he performed the Études by Chopin in various cities, and most notably at the Festival “Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli” in Brescia.  The music critic Piero Rattalino, after hearing the performance, wrote “…De Palma has few rivals in the public execution of the Etudes by Chopin: no more than can be counted on the fingers of one hand, maybe less.”  (Click here to listen to the recording of Étude Op. 10, No. 1.)


In 1988 he performed solo works and concerti by Chopin with the RAI Orchestra of Naples, directed by Franco Caracciolo.  That same year he performed at the Festival Michelangeli, in which the works of Russian composers of the 19th century were featured, performing pieces by Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Lyadov, A. Rubinstein, and Mussorgky.  (Click on Lyadov to listen to a recording.)


De Palma played at the Puccini Festival of Torre del Lago in 1989, with music by Giulio Ricordi, Francesco Cilea, Alfredo Catalani, and Ferruccio Busoni.  He recorded the world premier album of piano compositions of Cilea, including the Berceuse (Op. 20) and a previously unknown piece, “C’est toi que l’aime.”  (Click on the song titles to listen to a recording.)


In 1990 he played the Piano Concerto by Grieg under the direction of Junichi Hirokami with the RAI in Rome.  After touring in Rumania, he wrote a report describing riots in Bucharest against the repressive government.


In 1991 De Palma toured Spain with the Chamber Orchestra of Santa Cecilia.


In 1993 he performed at the Ravenna Festival, featuring Hexameron by Liszt, Liszt and Tausig transcriptions of Wagner, and Liszt transcriptions of Bellini.  The Hexameron would also be performed some years later, in a transcription for piano and orchestra with Donato Renzetti, at the Teatro Bellini in Catania.


De Palma suspended his concert activities in 1996 for a year of intense study in London with Alice Kezeradze Pogorelich.


He resumed his performances in 1997, playing a program of music by Schubert and Brahms at the Festival Michelangeli in Brescia.  He performed for the first time at London’s Wigmore Hall in 1998, with the 24 Préludes by Chopin.  (Click here to read the review.)


Career Development (2000-2011)

In 2000 De Palma participated in the Chopin Festival in Nohant, and then played in New York's Bargemusic Festival and in Mexico.  At the invitation of Yuri Temirkanov he played with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and held a recital in the Small Hall. He founded the Association “Muzio Clementi” in Rome, whose goal was the diffusion of Italian music and especially, of course, that of Muzio Clementi.


In 2001 he toured with the horns of the Berlin Philharmonic. He performed world premieres with Ilia Kim and Andrea Bocelli, with Donato Renzetti conducting “Melanconia, ninfa gentile” by Azio Corghi for voice, two pianos, and string orchestra, which Corghi dedicated to De Palma and Kim.


In 2002 De Palma toured Japan for the first time, and took part in various festivals in France and at the Festival of Flanders.


In 2003 he participated in the Beethoven Festival in Bonn and he toured with the strings of the Berlin Philharmonic.


In 2004 he achieved great success with the Franck Quintet with the Amarcorde Quartet at the Berlin Philharmonic.


In 2005 he participated for the first time in the Festival “La Folle Journée” in Nantes, with three concerts of music by Moscheles, Hummel, Clementi, Czerny, and a rare piece by Liszt, “70 Bars on Themes from the Cantata No. 1 by Beethoven.” (Click here to listen to a recording of the Clementi.)  He participated in the Festival of Ljubljana and French festivals such as La Roque d'Anthéron.  In October he played the Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and String Orchestra, Op. 35, by Shostakovich, with the first trumpet and strings of the Berlin Philharmonic in various Italian cities.


In 2006 he participated in La Folle Journée in Nantes again with three programs featuring rare works by Respighi, Scarlatti, and the Vivaldi concertos transcribed by Bach, and Scarlatti sonatas transcribed by Tausig (click here to listen to the Vivaldi recording).  In Tokyo he presented a program entitled “Clementi: A Quack Like All Italians” that featured the famous challenge between Mozart and Clementi held in Vienna in December 1781.  He also played in Catania, under Donato Renzetti, the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra composed by Michele Dall'Ongaro.


In 2007, at the invitation of Krzysztof Penderecki, De Palma toured in Poland with music by Beethoven.


In 2009 he played the Concerto in C Major by Salieri with the Arena di Verona Orchestra conducted by Boris Brott.


In 2010 he had a great success performing the Piano Concerto No. 2 of Brahms at the Musikverein in Vienna, conducted by Ola Rudner.  De Palma is the first Italian pianist, after Maurizio Pollini, who played this concerto in this hall.  In July he held three concerts at the universal exhibition of Shanghai and played at the Festival Piano en Valois and the Festival Chopin of Marienbad, Czech Republic.(Click on the Festival Piano en Valois to listen to an interview.)


In 2011 he was awarded the prize Domenico Cimarosa for diffusing the works of the Neapolitan composer and presented some of his sonatas for the first time in Shanghai and other cities during a tour in China (read the reports from China).