The Malta Independent 20 March 2018, Tuesday

De Maria back in Malta for double bill with the MPO

Tuesday, 13 March 2018, 13:49 Last update: about 7 days ago

Denise Rejec speaks to Italian pianist Pietro De Maria prior to his performance in the ‘Russian Masters’ and ‘Piano and Strings’ concerts alongside the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra and its String Quartet in the coming days (March 17 and 21).

You've already performed in Malta on a few occasions. Which were they, and how was your experience?

The first time was many years ago during a recital held by the Italian Cultural Institute at Teatru Manoel. Following that, I was invited by the Malta Arts Festival on two occasions: In 2007, I performed in a chamber music concert with cellist Enrico Dindo, and in 2008 I gave a piano recital in the Grand Master's Palace courtyard - a beautiful setting for an open air concert! I found that the festival was very well organised and all participating musicians were treated like royalty.


What are your thoughts on the music scene in Malta?

When I came over for the Malta Arts Festival, I was impressed by the festival's high level. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra has now established itself as a music institution that holds high-quality concerts featuring renowned artists in greater numbers than ever; it is very adept at considering every detail with regard to the organisation of music events. I think this is a very good reflection of a very lively music scene on the islands.


When was your first encounter with the piano, and what got you started?

I'd always wanted to be a musician. Though my parents aren't so, they both love music, and I remember listening to their LPs with recordings of pianists Arthur Rubinstein, Alexander Brailowsky, and the violinist Henryk Szeryng. I was quite a rascal, so when I told my parents that I wanted to have a piano they didn't think much of it. But one evening I saw one in the apartment where my parents had been invited for dinner, and I immediately rushed to it. I wasn't a pianist back then, so after a few minutes of plonking away, the owner of the house locked the instrument, which got me bursting into tears! That's when my parents realised that I was really passionate about it. I received a little pianola for Christmas when I was six years old and, as I quickly learned all the tunes by heart, my parents bought me an upright piano the following year.


Who and what inspires you?

Everything inspires me: people, friends, nature, good cuisine, compelling books. Life is inspiring, we play what we are and what we are is the result of all that we do, so it is important to not only focus on the instrument.


Malta will soon see you again in two performances as soloist, one alongside the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the 'Russian Masters' concert, and the other with its String Quartet in 'Piano and Strings'. How does it feel to be collaborating with the orchestra's musicians?

I think it's a great idea to have chamber music concerts in which orchestra members can participate. The more opportunities the musicians of an orchestra have to collaborate, the better the orchestra becomes, so I'm looking forward to meeting a first-class orchestra in Malta!


You'll be performing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major, Op. 26 on March 17, and Shostakovich's Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57 and Brahms' Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 on March 21. What strikes you about these pieces? Any interesting points you'd like to convey to your audience?

Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 is a virtuoso piece, and very demanding for the pianist and orchestra alike. It is brimming with energy, wittiness and humour. I regard the 'winds' theme in the Meno mosso of the third movement to be one of the most beautiful lyrical inventions of the 20th century! It undergoes a series of variations and the one where the orchestra and the pianist play pianissimo has a particularly magical atmosphere.

Shostakovich's music has a tremendous communicative tension that reflects his tormented life in a country and time where, due to Stalin's tyranny, it was almost impossible for an artist to follow his own inspiration. Yet his music mocks the regime and military parades, and we find lots of march-like motifs full of forced and false cheerfulness; in reality they are full of despair.

The Brahms Piano Quintet was the first quintet I ever played, and I also did the version for two pianos! I love the Andante, un poco Adagio, which is so beautifully lyrical, and the Scherzo, which is so energetic, not to mention the powerful Presto, non troppo at the end of the fourth movement, a glorious ending for the quintet, and for the concert too!


We certainly are looking forward to seeing you here again. Would you like to share a message with your Malta audience before your performances?

I certainly am looking forward to being back - I always love being in Malta! I'd been here on vacation several times long before coming for my concerts. That's when I got to experience not only the beauty of the sea surrounding the islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, but also the incredible art treasures one can admire on dry land. One of Caravaggio's most beautiful and striking paintings can be found here. When I first came with my wife (at the time we weren't yet married), I remember having to wait for her almost every day for a few hours while she practiced one of her favourite hobbies: scuba diving. I decided to join her, and that's what led to my achieving a first-level scuba diving certification!

The Russian Masters concert will take place on March 17 at 8pm at the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta, under the baton of Michalis Economou, also featuring Mikhail Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila Overture, and Dmitri Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony.

Piano and Strings will be held at San Anton Palace on 21 March, starting at 7.30pm, and will see De Maria joined by an MPO string quartet made up of violinists Emilia Wiśniewska and Philipp Orlovm, violist Aiveen Gallagher and cellist Peter Flanagan.

Tickets for both concerts can be booked through

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