Immediately with her first CD the Italian pianist Pina Napolitano made a splash in early 2012: Norman Lebrecht featured her recording of Arnold Schönberg’s complete piano works as his “CD of the week”, shortlisting it for his Album of the Year on Sinfinimusic.com, Guy Rickards in International Piano Magazine called the CD simply “outstanding”, citing the “tensile strength to her playing that is distinctly hers”, and Calum MacDonald in BBC Music Magazine gave it five stars for its “rare penetration, understanding, grace and elegance.”
Pina Napolitano is, through her teacher Bruno Mezzena, a grand-student of Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, and has experienced huge successes with performances of Liszt, Ravel and Bartók. For some time now, though, the center of her attention has been the music of the Second Viennese School. Unlike many performers, she considers this music not to be a primarily intellectual adventure, but a highly emotional and expressive one – “wholly saturated with expression” (Österreichische Musikzeitschrift), a “perfect conjunction between microcellular dissection and almost heartbreaking expressive sensitivity” (Ritmo), a “heady romanticism both irresistible and unsettling” (Arts Desk).
She is especially interested in the retrospective view looking from today, via early modernism, at the works of the romantic and classical period. She enjoys programming the music of Schönberg, Berg and Webern alongside works of Mozart and Brahms for instance. Not only does she impress her public with intellectual clarity, elegance and beauty of tone, but also with her virtuosity and an unusual feat of memory: she plays everything by heart – not to impress her public, but to create an atmosphere of utmost concentration, that, in her own experience, captures the public’s intense attention throughout.
Pina Napolitano performs extensively in Europa, United States, and Russia. With the Philharmonic Orchestra of Pescara she performed Liszt’s 2nd Piano Concerto and Bartók’s 3rd. With an ensemble of the same orchestra she played in Ivan Fedele’s “La chute de la maison Usher”, directed by Marco Angius. Her music has been broadcast by Radio France Classique and presented live by Rai Radio 3.
After studying with her first teacher, Giusi Ambrifi, in her native Caserta, near Naples, she attended masterclasses in piano with Tibor Egly, Bruno Canino, and Alexander Lonquich, and in musical analysis with Giacomo Manzoni and Hugh Collins Rice (Oxford University). She then entered the Pescara Music Academy, where she graduated in Piano Solo Performance and in Twentieth-Century Piano Music with Bruno Mezzena.
While studying piano, she earned two B.A.s from the University of Naples “L’Orientale” in Classical Philology and in Slavistics, both times with top marks and lauds. In 2010 she received her doctorate in Slavistics with a thesis on the poetry of Osip Mandel’štam, which won the 2011 Italian Slavists’ Association prize. She published an article on the Šostakovič cycle Op. 143 “Six poems of Marina Cvetaeva” in which she explored the connections between the poetic and musical text, and recently translated for the first time into Italian the notebooks of poetess Marina Cvetaeva for the Italian press Voland Edizioni. This translation was awarded the 2014 “Premio Italia-Russia. Attraverso i secoli” for “best debut translation” at a ceremony at Villa Abamelek, the Russian Embassy, Rome. A book developed from her thesis on Mandel’štam’s late poetry was published by Firenze University Press in the Studi Slavistici series in spring of 2017.
Her second disc with Odradek Records, featuring the Schönberg Piano Concerto Op. 42 coupled with Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Sz. 119 was recorded with the Liepaja Symphony Orchestra (Latvia) in 2016, in the city’s recently inaugurated concert hall, the Giant Amber, with Atvars Lakstigala directing. In early 2018 her next solo CD will be published with music of Brahms, Berg, and Webern.
Her enthusiasm for the Schönberg concerto has led to the commission of a chamber reduction of the work, arranged by Hugh Collins Rice, which she will premiere at the Ehbarsaal in Vienna this February with the New Vienna International Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Georgi Nikolov. The arrangement is programmed for this fall in Italy and next year in England.
As of this year Pina is represented by MGAM for North America. In the near future, she will perform and record solo and concerto programs with works of American composers Elliott Carter and Jeffrey Mumford.
Alongside her performance activity, she teaches pre-academy courses at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome and academy courses at the Braga Conservatory in Teramo, as well as regular masterclasses in Europe and Russia. She frequently serves as a jury member to international competitions.