“I consider Steinway the finest piano in existence today.”
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920–1995) began his musical training at the age of four at the Istituto Musicale Venturi under the direction of Paolo Chimeri. He subsequently went on to continue his education in Milan, where he studied piano and composition under Giovanni Anfossi.
He obtained his soloist’s diploma at the age of fourteen, and immediately launched his concert career. His extraordinary talent was first honored in 1939 when Michelangeli won first prize in the prestigious Geneva International Competition, whose jury was headed by Ignaz Paderewski, the great Polish pianist and composer. His importance as a towering figure among 20th-century pianists was stamped by pianist Alfred Cortot, a member of the judging panel, who stated: “Here is a new Liszt.”
The famous words also helped confirm his reputation abroad. He played in England in 1946, and was invited to play in the U.S. in 1948. In 1949, he was asked to take part in festivities commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Chopin's death in Warsaw. Romanian conductor and composer Sergiu Celibidache, a colleague and friend, said, “Michelangeli makes colors; he is a conductor.” Michelangeli also dedicated himself with great enthusiasm to his teaching activities. Throughout his career, Michaengeli reputedly mentioned that he did not enjoy giving concerts as he disliked how impersonal they could become. However, he did enjoy and dedicate himself with great enthusiasm to his teaching activities. His reputation as teacher quickly spread throughout the musical world and soon led to his appointment at the Bologna Conservatory and, later, to the Conservatories of Venice and Bolzano as well. He provided master classes in Arezzo, Siena, Turin and Lugano.
After a health-related pause in his career, he returned to the concert podium in 1964, when he travelled to Russia. The following year he toured Japan, then the U.S., lsrael, and Germany. He founded the International Piano Festival in Brescia and Bergamo in 1964, and remained its artistic director for an estimated three years.
After settling in a town close to Lugano, Switzerland, Michelangeli experimented and became absorbed with his search for the greatest possible interpretation of life’s meaning, which he tried to express in several grandiose concert performances — with orchestra and in solo recitals — throughout Europe (in particular, the Vatican concerts of 1977 and 1987, and the Bregenz and London concert series). After overcoming another illness break in his career, he returned to concert with renewed energy in 1989. Michelangeli's last public appearance was in Hamburg on May 7, 1993.
Michelangeli was a perfectionist and connoisseur of the mechanics of the piano. He constantly insisted that his concert instrument always be in perfect condition when touring. As a result, whenever possible he would take his own Steinway with him on tour.
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli passed away in Lugano in 1995 at the age of 75.