Ongaku No Tomo (Japan), May 2018, by Takayoshi Nakamura

Christian Leotta, who quite overwhelmed the Japanese audience two years ago thanks to his great technique and deep music understanding of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas, has come back to Kyoto to play “The Schubert Project”.

Although Leotta declared that Schubert is the spiritual heir of Beethoven, it has to be noted that the musical demands of the two composers are quite different. I had the chance to listen to Christian Leotta's second recital. The program presented was very big, including the Four Impromptus D 899 and the Piano Sonatas No. 14 and No. 16, both in A minor.

As I expected knowing his playing, Christian Leotta produced a beautiful sound, and that gave already so much to Schubert’s music. He also created a lyrical and dramatic music world and thanks to his marvelous sonorities he made the audience feel like as his playing was falling from heaven.

Listening to Christian Leotta, I understood the great complexity of Schubert’s late works. I was especially impressed by his performance of the Impromptus D 899. Christian Leotta was able to highlight their “Biedermeier” style, as well as their deep and lyrical world, succeeding in a task not simple at all.

Ongaku Gendai (Japan), May 2018

Christian Leotta performs "The Schubert Project" in seven recitals

Italian pianist Christian Leotta, who caused quite a sensation in Kyoto’s audience while performing the cycle of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas in a series of nine recitals in 2015 and in 2016, has come back to Kyoto’s ALTI hall and started to play “The “Schubert Project”.

This time, Christian Leotta is presenting, in a series of seven recitals, an unprecedented big program, including Schubert’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, the “Wanderer Fantasy”, the Four Impromptus D899, the Four Impromptus D 935, the Drei Klavierstücke D 946, the 13 Variations on a theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner D 576 and the Allegretto in C minor D 915. 

Christian Leotta’s sensitive interpretation of Schubert showed the great spirit of this composer and of his music, rather than his feebleness, which could be an echo of his ill-health condition. While listening to him, we immediately recognized that special “Romantic” sound, which made us prompt instantaneously the thought: “This is the real Schubert!”, as it happened especially listening to the second movement of the last Piano Sonata, the No. 21 D 960. 

It should be noted that the programs are not presented in a chronological order. Christian Leotta has divided Schubert's Piano Sonatas in three groups that include the Sonatas composed in the early, the middle, and the latter period of Schubert’s life, performing at least two Sonatas from different creative periods in each recital, along with other relevant works. Thanks to such combinations, the audience is able to appreciate and enjoy, in each concert, the whole image of Schubert’s music.

Next November and December, Christian Leottta will come back to Kyoto to conclude “The Schubert Project", performing the second part of this seven-recitals cycle and will play the Piano Sonatas Nos. 7, 9, 15, 18, 19, 20 and 21, plus other important works such as the “Moments Musicaux”, the “Four Impromptus” D935 and the “13 Variations on a theme by Anselm Hüttenbrenner” D 576, this last piece being rarely performed in Japan.
 
Rivista Musica (Italy), No. 292, January 2018, interview by Alberto Cima

Christian Leotta, fra Beethoven e Schubert
 
Christian Leotta, nato a Catania nel 1980, ma comasco d’adozione, e' un pianista in costante ascesa: e' stato tra l’altro il piu' giovane pianista al mondo, con Daniel Barenboim, ad affrontare le 32 Sonate di Beethoven, avendole presentate in pubblico, per la prima volta, nel 2002 a Montreal. Ora si accinge a intraprendere un’altra titanica impresa: il ciclo delle Sonate per pianoforte di Franz Schubert, in sette recital che terra' a Kyoto nei mesi di marzo, novembre e dicembre del 2018. E' il primo pianista italiano a cimentarsi in questo progetto. Le sue interpretazioni si distinguono per una grandiosita' epica, ampi contrasti di intensita' e qualita' di suono, una profonda espressivita' del «cantabile», il rilievo del legato e la tecnica virtuosistica, con un tocco molto particolare. Ho avuto l’opportunita' di incontrarlo a Villa Carlotta, in Tremezzina, al termine della sua ennesima performance dell’integrale delle Sonate beethoveniane.

- Il prossimo anno, in Giappone, iniziera' a suonare un ciclo di sette recital interamente dedicato a Schubert. Dopo l’integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven, cosa rappresenta per lei questo eccezionale evento? 

Il coronamento di un sogno che avevo da moltissimo tempo, quello di poter presentare l’opera di uno straordinario compositore come Schubert. Una serie di concerti che, essendo eseguiti in un arco di tempo molto ristretto, possono mettere in luce ancora di piu' le particolarita' compositive e la straordinaria creativita' di questo musicista.

- Rispetto alle Sonate beethoveniane, quali difficolta' si presentano? 

Schubert e' sicuramente l’erede spirituale di Beethoven e nelle opere schubertiane ci sono innumerevoli segni del suo genio, tuttavia ci sono in lui un’emotivita' e una personalita' completamente differenti, pertanto bisogna essere in grado di penetrare questo spirito e di coglierlo nelle sue infinite sfumature. Questo e' molto difficile, poiche' le sue composizioni racchiudono abissi dell’animo umano a volte imperscrutabili. Sono innumerevoli gli elementi della sua scrittura che mi sono risultati piu' chiari solo dopo avere studiato l’opera nella sua totalita', come del resto e' stato per Beethoven. La differenza fra i due e' che uno, oltre a essere un grande compositore, e' anche un grandissimo pianista, mentre l’altro utilizzava il pianoforte come uno strumento espressivo per esprimere il proprio genio. Usava l’orchestra oppure, da un punto di vista strutturale, il Lied, ma non aveva nessuno strumento prediletto. Beethoven invece era un pianista vero e proprio, il piu' grande virtuoso della sua epoca. E' facilmente comprensibile che la scrittura di Beethoven fosse quella di un compositore-pianista; non altrettanto si puo' dire di Schubert. Paradossalmente, quindi, puo' essere piu' difficile, da un punto di vista pianistico, eseguire Schubert cercando di realizzare la sua volonta'. In questo caso, pertanto, e' necessario analizzare a fondo lo spartito, e cio' richiede molto tempo. Una volta pero' che si entra nel suo mondo tutto risulta assolutamente coerente, meraviglioso. E' una scrittura difficilissima, pero' se si riesce a penetrare in quell’universo e' sublime.

- Ma le Sonate di Schubert si integrano con quelle beethoveniane o appartengono a un mondo del tutto diverso? 

Non si integrano in quanto Beethoven ha un suo mondo ben definito. E' un cosmo per certi versi molto vicino, per altri assai lontano. E' chiaro che Beethoven era il modello di Schubert, ciononostante la personalita' era completamente differente e, di conseguenza, il risultato estetico e musicale e' ovviamente molto personale.

- Nel ciclo schubertiano, oltre alle Sonate, inserisce gli Improvvisi, le Variazioni su un tema di Huttenbrenner (D 576), i Drei Klavierstucke D 946, i Momenti Musicali e l’Allegretto D 915. Quindi si puo' parlare di un programma pressoche' completo delle pagine pianistiche? 

La produzione di Schubert si puo' suddividere in tre grandi blocchi: uno formato dalle Sonate, l’altro costituito dalle composizioni da lei sopra citate e un altro composto dalle Deutsche Tanze. Non ho incluso nessuna Danza tedesca in questo ciclo poiche' ritengo che, a parte alcune eccezioni, questa produzione sia essenzialmente di intrattenimento.

- Su quali edizioni musicali ha studiato le opere di Schubert? 

Come per Beethoven, l’edizione ha una rilevanza assoluta. Sicuramente bisogna fare riferimento all’edizione della Henle, alla quale ha contribuito anche Paul Badura-Skoda per le Sonate giovanili e quelle incompiute, all’edizione Wiener Urtext, curata sia da Martino Tirimo per tutte le Sonate, edizione molto apprezzata da Alfred Brendel, sia nuovamente da Badura-Skoda per le altre composizioni. Poi bisogna fare riferimento anche alla Breitkopf & Hartel, curata da Julius Epstein, edita nel 1888 nell’ambito della pubblicazione dell'opera omnia di Schubert. Inoltre tutte le edizioni originali e, quando disponibili, anche gli autografi. Dovere dell’interprete e' quello di approfondire il piu' possibile ogni argomento.

- Benche' giovane, e' il primo pianista italiano a interpretare le Sonate di Schubert... 

Sicuramente sara' un’esperienza meravigliosa. Suonare una parte cosı' significativa di Schubert sara' come avere imparato una lingua nuova, una lingua che ha il suo accento, che ha le sue regole grammaticali, che ha la sua musicalita', unica e irripetibile. Fondamentale sara' cogliere il significato profondo della sua opera.

- Filologicamente, quali sono le differenze fra le Sonate schubertiane e quelle beethoveniane? 

Anche in questo caso e' importante il discorso sulle edizioni musicali, come abbiamo visto prima. Alcune Sonate di Schubert sono incompiute e quando le suono mi fermo al punto in cui le aveva lasciate il compositore. Non mi permetterei mai di aggiungere ex-novo alcune battute o frammenti. Non sono d’accordo con quei pianisti che completano le composizioni. In questo caso mi attengo alla lettera. 

Il Settimanale, Como (Italy), September 28th 2017, by Alberto Cima

L'ottavo recital di Leotta
 
Il pianista comasco porta a termine il ciclo dedicato all'integrale delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven. Nonostante la giovane età rappresenta uno dei suoi migliori interpreti

...Christian Leotta, benché giovane, può essere considerato oggigiorno uno dei più grandi interpreti di Beethoven. Le sue interpretazioni sono destinate a fare storia e sono ormai apprezzate in tutto il mondo. Si distingue per la tecnica prodigiosa, il delicato fraseggio, un sapiente uso delle indicazioni dinamiche e per l'incantevole cantabilità, grazie alla quale comunica profonde emozioni.

L'Eco di Bergamo, Bergamo (Italy), September 24th 2017, by Bernardino Zappa

Pianismo da scultore - Leotta sorprende nella Sala Greppi 

Il Festival ha inaugurato la trentaseiesima stagione con l'atteso programma beethoveniano

Christian Leotta pro­segue le sue fatiche beethove­niane, oramai all'ultimo anno di quattro. Giovedì sera, all'inau­gurazione del 36° Festival inter­nazionale dei Concerti d'Autun­no, ha sorpreso il pubblico degli appassionati, che ormai ben co­noscono il suo spirito analitico nella lunga cavalcata delle 32 so­nate beethoveniane, con un in­terpretazione decisamente par­ticolare delle quattro Sonate in programma.

Due i brani salienti, la cosid­detta Pastorale, ossia la Sonata op. 28 e in conclusione la Sonata op. 110, una delle più sontuose del cosiddetto (secondo la nota ripartizione  di Wtlhelm Lenz) «terzo periodo». Anche se non meno interessanti, come lui stesso ha raccontato sullecolonne deL'Eco, sono le altre due so­nate in programma, l'op. 54, anomala nei suoi due soli tempi, e l'op. 10 n. 2.

Quello di Leotta è un piani­smo che scolpisce il suono con una misura geometrica, defini­sce le forme, seguendo una pro­pensione costruttiva del genio di Beethoven. Anche  nelle fluide pagine della Pastorale, e non di meno nelle curve spesso morbi­de e accoglienti della 110 (molto meno arcigna e ruggente,per ca­pirci, della Sonata op. 106, con cui divide la prevalenza di scrit­tura contrappuntistica). 

È un pianismo da scultore, da artigiano raffinato che opera di scalpello e cesello. Certo non mancano gli affondi -ne ha dato prova inequivocabile la gigante­sca fuga finale con Arioso della 110  - con suoni vibranti e aggres­sivi, molto materici.  L'idea com­plessiva è di una musica molto architettonica che alla melodia contrappone la costruzione. Bis ancora beethoveniano.
 
Corriere di Como (attached to Corriere della Sera), August 12th 2017, by Lorenzo Morandotti

Ascolti digitali, Leotta verso quota un milione - Successo in rete per l'interpretazione delle "Variazioni Diabelli" di Beethoven 
 
Non sono numeri da popstar ma nella classica fanno il botto. Successo digitale per il pianista comasco di fama internazionale Christian Leotta. Che totalizza quasi un milione di acquisti tra streaming e download per la sua incisione delle Variazioni Diabelli su etichetta Atma Classique effettuati negli ultimi dodici mesi (più di 700.000 solo su Spotify che è la maggior piattaforma di streaming sul pianeta, mentre le incisioni delle Diabelli di Alfred Brendel e di Maurizio Pollini che sono da dieci anni online non arrivano a 200mila). 

«Si tratta di uno strepitoso successo di pubblico e commerciale che conferma i lusinghieri elogi espressi dalla critica internazionale su prestigiose riviste quali American Record Guide, Pizzicato e Fanfare, unanimi nell’annoverare le mie Diabelli fra le migliori registrazioni di sempre del capolavoro beethoveniano».

«Il mercato discografico tradizionale è fermo, i miei cd vanno bene specie in Giappone, mentre il digitale registra un boom. Anche perché c’è la possibilità di ascoltare e scaricare la singola traccia e non tutto l’album. Sono su oltre 50 portali», continua Leotta.

«Un successo, per le mie Diabelli perché non è il solito brano classico "pop" come il "Sogno d’amore" di Liszt o l'"Appassionata" di Beethoven, ma uno dei brani più sublimi, complessi e difficili, che richiede una grande cultura musicale».

Christian Leotta il prossimo settembre inaugurerà la prestigiosa stagione della Sala Greppi di Bergamo, esibendosi nell'ambito del Festival Internazionale i Concerti d'Autunno e completando il ciclo delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven i giorni 19 settembre e 19 ottobre.

La prestigiosa Alti Hall di Kyoto in Giappone ha intanto già messo in vendita i biglietti per le date del ciclo di sette recital interamente dedicati a Franz Schubert, che Leotta interpreterà nel 2018 i giorni 10, 14 e 18 marzo, 27 novembre, 1, 5 e 9 dicembre. Il programma comprenderà, oltre alle sonate, anche la Fantasia Wanderer, i Moments Musicaux, gli Impromptus D 899 e D 935, i Drei Klavierstucke D 946, le Variazioni D 576 e l'Allegretto D 915. Leotta è il primo pianista al mondo che esegue un ciclo di sette recital dedicati a Schubert e uno dei pochi nella storia ad avere in repertorio anche l’integrale delle 32 sonate di Beethoven.
 
Bangkok Post, Thailand, July 3rd 2017

Making history on the piano 

 
Italian virtuoso pianist Christian Leotta returns to Bangkok to perform an all Beethoven programme with the Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Vanich Potavanich at the Thailand Cultural Centre, Ratchadaphisek Road, on Thursday at 7.30pm.

Presented in the framework of the Italian Festival in Thailand 2017 by the Embassy of Italy, the 37-year-old musician will complete the entire cycle of the 5 Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with Piano Concerts No.1, No.2 and No.4. Last year he performed Piano Concerts No.3 and No.5 with the RBSO. This will mark an exceptional and historical first time in Thailand and probably Southeast Asia.

If in the first and in the second Piano Concertos the brio and the youthful fervour prevail, in the fourth Piano Concerto, considered by many as the most sublime example of this form, maestro Leotta will take us to the full Romanticism thanks to one of the greatest masterpieces of all time, written in the same years of the famous Piano Sonatas Waldstein and Appassionata.

Leotta has worked with major orchestras, regularly performing in important theatres and concert halls such as the Philharmonie at the Gasteig in Munich, the Konzerthaus of Vienna, the Tonhalle of Zurich, the Sala Verdi and the Auditorium of Milan, the Salle Claude-Champagne of Montreal, and the Great Hall at the Bunka Kaikan Theatre of Tokyo.

He recently completed the fifth and final volume of his recordings of the complete 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas and his constant international touring as both a recitalist and concerto soloist. 

La Provincia, Como (Italy), May 26th 2017, by Stefano Lamon

Leotta e Schubert: "Un genio da scoprire"
 
Dopo tutte le sonate di Beethoven il pianista comasco propone un ciclo dedicato al grande compositore austriaco

Arrivato al ventunesimo ciclo di esecuzione completa dal vivo delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven, proposte letteralmente in tutto il mondo, il pianista comasco Christian Leotta annuncia ufficialmente una nuova, grande avventura musicale e interpretativa: un ciclo completo dedicato a Franz Schubert. 

L’idea, maturata già da qualche anno, diventa realtà dopo la proposta formale ricevuta dal College of Music di Kyoto. “Un ciclo schubertiano è assolutamente diverso da un ciclo beethoveniano” spiega Christian Leotta, a Como ancora per qualche settimana prima di ripartire per l’ennesimo tour in tre continenti che durerà un meso: “tra l’altro, un ciclo che presentasse solo le Sonate avrebbe lasciato un’idea incompleta del compositore. Le Sonate hanno la parte più importante, però non dipingono l’aspetto più melodico, liederistico, di ponderanza assoluta, rischiando di non dare l’immagine completa del compositore. Il ciclo schubertiano che sto preparando arriva a comporre sette concerti, che permettono di vedere la cosa straordinaria che in così pochi anni di vita questo compositore è riuscito a creare e soprattutto la sua meravigliosa evoluzione”.

Non teme per sé e nei confronti del pubblico il rischio del confronto fra l’arcinoto Beethoven e il meno conosciuto Schubert?
“No personalmente, perché nella vita bisogna sempre mettersi in gioco verso nuovi oceani aperti, come una rinascita; no musicalmente, perché confrontarsi con la musica per pianoforte di Schubert significa trattare qualcosa di sublime. La mia stessa visione di Schubert, a metà dell’approfondimento del repertorio,  sta cambiando radicalmente scoprendo una lingua complessa e nuova, finora quasi mai approfondita appieno, se non da qualche grande del passato”.

Cosa c’è di appassionante in Schubert per il pubblico, che può farlo innamorare quanto Beethoven?
“Un accento unico e personale, cosi vicino eppure radicalmente diverso da Beethoven nella musica, sottilissimo, comprensibile solo dopo uno studio immenso; tratti poetici e di vita comuni impressionanti, come la concezione dell’unica ragione di esistere per la musica, o il concetto del dolore. Ancora, così come Beethoven componeva da sordo, Schubert componeva a tavolino, ottenendo risultati musicali eccelsi, assoluti, oltretutto difficilissimi da ottenere pianisticamente”. 

Ascoltare il ciclo schubertiano significherà dunque immersione in un abisso musicale che ha un’immensa ricchezza di risvolti.

“Sarò felice sapendo di arrivare a presentare la musica pianistica di Schubert sotto una luce nuova con un’esecuzione che dimostri una ricerca di questo tipo. Un ciclo schubertiano per dare uno sguardo il più possibile completo, che mi auguro di presentare al più presti in Italia e a Como, così come il primo ciclo beethoveniano vide la luce nella mia città, al Carducci”.
 
Tempo Stretto, Messina (Italy), November 30th 2016, by Giovanni Francio' 

Christian Leotta e il mito di Beethoven


Il pianista catanese conclude il ciclo con la strepitosa e toccante interpretazione dell'ultima sonata di Beethoven

Il concerto di sabato 26 novembre, per la stagione concertistica dell’Associazione V. Bellini in unione con l’Accademia Filarmonica, pone fine all’esecuzione del ciclo dell’integrale delle trentadue sonate per pianoforte di Ludwig van Beethoven, iniziato a Messina nel 2014, eseguito dal pianista catanese Christian Leotta, straordinario specialista nell’interpretazione delle sonate di Beethoven, ciclo che ha portato in giro per il mondo con strepitoso successo.

L’ultimo concerto è iniziato con l’esecuzione della Sonata n. 16 in Sol Maggiore, op. 31 n. 1, nei movimenti: Allegro vivace, Adagio grazioso, Rondò: Allegretto – Presto. L’eccellente pianista già nel secondo movimento della sonata, questa sorta di cavatina alla Rossini, con un tema elegante che viene ad ogni ripetizione variato con trilli ed ornamenti di ogni genere, ha rapito ed estasiato il pubblico trasportandolo nel fantastico mondo beethoveniano. Alla sonata in sol maggiore, una delle più serene e intrise di buon umore del musicista tedesco, ha fatto seguito, per contrasto, l’esecuzione (splendida e applauditissima) di una delle sonate più drammatiche, la n. 8 in Do Minore, op. 13 Pathétique, nei movimenti: Grave. Allegro di molto e con brio, Adagio cantabile, Rondò: Allegro. La sonata, dedicata al principe Karl Von Lichnowsky, fu inviata da Beethoven anche a quello che rappresentò il grande amore della sua vita, Josephine Brunsvik, a riprova che il grande musicista trasferì nella sonata tutta la sua passione. L’appellativo Patetica è dello stesso Beethoven, ma il significato del termine non corrisponde a quello odierno, che assume quasi una connotazione negativa, ma deriva letteralmente da pathos, cioè sentimento, passione. Capolavoro emblematico dello Sturm und Drang, la sua impetuosa drammaticità si manifesta immediatamente nel Grave iniziale, un tema sinistro che rimane impresso nella memoria e che prelude all’inquieto allegro del primo movimento; l’adagio, fin troppo celebre, è uno dei brani di più elevata nobiltà d’animo regalatoci da Beethoven, e rappresenta il momento culminante della Patetica, vero archetipo del romanticismo musicale tedesco; il rondò finale, per quanto ben costruito e di carattere anch’esso drammatico, non raggiunge però le vette toccate dai primi due movimenti. Esecuzione nobile e partecipata di Leotta, che ha strappato entusiasti applausi del pubblico, felice di ascoltare un’interpretazione di tale livello di una delle sonate più amate. La seconda parte della serata è iniziata con la Sonata n. 24 in Fa Diesis Maggiore, op. 78, nei movimenti: Adagio cantabile ­ Allegro non troppo, Allegro vivace. È una piccola sonata dedicata alla contessa Therese Brunsvik, soprannominata infatti Therese­Sonate, dal carattere intimo e raccolto, una pausa di rilassamento e leggerezza che ha preceduto il momento culminante di tutto il concerto, e forse di tutto l’intero ciclo di concerti che Christian Leotta ha offerto al pubblico messinese. Ha concluso infatti la serata l’esecuzione della Sonata n. 32 in Do Minore, op. 111, in due movimenti: Maestoso ­ Allegro con brio ed appassionato, Arietta: Adagio molto semplice e cantabile, l’ultima sonata del musicista tedesco, uno dei sommi capolavori dell’intera letteratura pianistica. Pubblicata nel 1823, consta di soli due movimenti, di eccezionale intensità. Dopo una breve introduzione misteriosa e quasi sinistra, il primo movimento esplode letteralmente con Allegro con brio ed appassionato, caratterizzato da tumultuose frasi eseguite all’unisono dalle due mani. È un brano quasi monotematico, tutto intriso di un clima di concitata tensione, con difficili elaborazioni contrappuntistiche, una prerogativa dell’ultimo Beethoven. A tale tempestosa atmosfera segue per contrasto il dolcissimo e meraviglioso 'Adagio', denominato Arietta (mai fu dato un titolo così modesto ad un capolavoro di siffatte dimensioni!). Il dolcissimo tema, tenero e profondo, è prima variato magistralmente, nelle prime due variazioni, viene poi stravolto nella terza, fortemente ritmata, strabiliante e talmente fuori da ogni schema conosciuto che alcuni contemporanei, che difficilmente potevano capire un genio che precorreva i tempi di quasi un secolo, parlarono di “demenza del genio”. Dopo la terza variazione il tema praticamente si dissolve in una serie di fantastiche divagazioni di una bellezza commovente e struggente,una delizia per l’ascolto, fino ad arrivare al momento culminante, “Uno dei più eccelsi e benedetti di tutta la musica” (Carli Ballola), in cui il ritorno del tema subisce una piccola alterazione, che produce un effetto la cui bellezza è impossibile da descrivere, se non con le parole di Thomas Mann nel suo Doktor Faustus: “…questo do diesis aggiunto è l’atto più commovente, più consolatore, più malinconico e conciliante che si possa dare. È come una carezza dolorosamente amorosa sui capelli, su una guancia, un ultimo sguardo negli occhi, quieto e profondo. È la benedizione dell’oggetto, è la frase terribilmente inseguita e umanizzata in modo che travolge e scende nel cuore di chi ascolta come un addio per sempre, così dolce che gli occhi si empiono di lacrime”.

La delicatezza e la capacità espressiva con cui Leotta ha interpretato il brano, con quell’esecuzione perfetta dei trilli, momento catartico del finale dell’Arietta, con il giusto risalto dato ai momenti più sensibili del brano, difficilmente potrà essere dimenticata dal numeroso pubblico presente, che ha ascoltato in religioso silenzio, per poi tributare, estasiato, l’applauso fragoroso a questo straordinario interprete beethoveniano che ci ha condotto in tre anni attraverso questo percorso impegnativo ma entusiasmante. 

Tempo Stretto, Messina (Italy), November 26th 2016, by Giovanni Francio' 

Christian Leotta magistrale nella rilettura di Beethoven 

I due concerti in programma venerdì 25 novembre e sabato 26 novembre (ore 18), per la stagione concertistica dell’Associazione V. Bellini in unione con l’Accademia Filarmonica, concludono il poderoso ciclo dell’integrale delle sonate per pianoforte di Ludwig van Beethoven, iniziato a Messina nel 2014, eseguito da uno specialista assoluto, il pianista catanese Christian Leotta, insignito con medaglia dal Presidente della Repubblica Ciampi nel 2004 proprio per l’interpretazione dell’intero ciclo nei concerti di tutto il mondo, impresa che pochissimi nella storia concertistica del pianoforte possono vantare.

Ascoltare le trentadue sonate di Beethoven, in pratica la bibbia nel campo delle sonate per pianoforte, è un vero privilegio per gli amanti della musica. Purtroppo venerdì, a causa di un violentissimo nubifragio che si è abbattuto su tutta l’isola, con dichiarazione di allarme rosso da parte del sindaco della città, il Palacultura è stato quasi deserto, una trentina di spettatori ad ascoltare il maestro Leotta che, con grande professionalità, ha interpretato impeccabilmente, come se la sala fosse piena, le quattro sonate in programma, applauditissimo, per come possono applaudire e farsi sentire pochi spettatori di una sala semivuota. Per fortuna oggi gli appassionati di musica messinesi, abbonati e non, possono rifarsi, assistendo all’ultima esecuzione del ciclo, una delle più interessanti di tutta la serie. Infatti, senza voler fare alcuna graduatoria delle sonate di Beethoven, ci sembra si possa affermare che il programma odierno sia molto più allettante rispetto a quello di ieri, poiché comprende la celeberrima Patetica col suo splendido e famosissimo adagio, e soprattutto la sonata n. 32 op. 111, l’ultima sonata del musicista tedesco, uno dei sommi capolavori dell’intera letteratura pianistica, che contiene nelle variazioni dell’Arietta, il movimento finale, alcuni momenti fra i più commoventi che si possano concepire in musica, ma di questo scriveremo dopo il concerto, assolutamente da non perdere. Venerdì Leotta ha eseguito dapprima la Sonata n. 12 in La Bemolle Maggiore, op. 26, nei quattro movimenti Andante con variazioni, Scherzo: Allegro molto, Marcia funebre sulla morte di un eroe: Maestoso andante, Allegro. Una sonata importante nell’evoluzione artistica di Beethoven, sia per le variazioni su un tema nobile e bellissimo, ­ variazioni che diventano sempre più importanti nel procedimento compositivo del tedesco, assurgendo qui per la prima volta a protagoniste di un primo movimento – sia soprattutto per la marcia funebre, dedicata alla morte di un eroe che ancora nessun critico, nonostante molteplici supposizioni, è riuscito ad individuarne l’identità; marcia funebre amatissima da Chopin (che pure non stravedeva per Beethoven) tanto che indusse lui stesso a comporre una sonata con marcia funebre; movimento inoltre che anticipa di qualche anno la straordinaria marcia funebre che costituisce il secondo movimento della sinfonia n. 3 Eroica. È quasi inutile sottolineare come l’interpretazione di Leotta sia stata impeccabile, rigorosa, molto sentita ma nello stesso tempo contenuta, dimostrando un eccezionale controllo della materia musicale beethoveniana (come del resto in tutte le sonate eseguite). La prima parte del concerto si è conclusa con l’esecuzione della Sonata n. 4 in Mi Bemolle Maggiore, op. 7, nei movimenti: Allegro molto e con brio, Scherzo: Allegro, Largo con gran espressione, Rondò: Poco allegretto e grazioso. Si tratta di una sonata giovanile che segna già una svolta nella storia della sonata per pianoforte, per la assoluta libertà di forma, la ricchezza dei temi (talora eccessiva e un po’ verbosa, ma stiamo parlando di un musicista giovanissimo), e la lunghezza della composizione, la più lunga sonata di Beethoven per numero di battute dopo l’op. 106 Hammerklavier. Interessantissimo Il “Largo” con quella statica fissità, pieno di pause, desolato, che tocca i registri più gravi della tastiera, precursore di composizioni che vedranno la luce molti anni dopo. La seconda parte della serata è iniziata con la Sonata n. 22 in Fa Maggiore, op. 54, in soli due movimenti: In tempo d'un minuetto, Allegretto. Si tratta in realtà di una sonatina, nella quale alcuni critici hanno voluto vedere un incidente di percorso, altri una tappa comunque fondamentale nell’evoluzione compositiva di Beethoven, testimonianza di quella libertà di forma che per il musicista di Bonn ha sempre costituito un traguardo fondamentale da perseguire (basti pensare agli ultimi quartetti), libertà che nella sonatina si esplica in particolare nel primo movimento (mai nessuno aveva pensato ad un minuetto come primo movimento di sonata!) ma anche nel secondo, un piacevole ed efficace moto perpetuo. A noi sembra un gradevole esercizio stilistico, di elevata qualità, incastonato fra le due gigantesche sonate op. 53 Waldstein e op. 57 Appassionata.

Ha concluso la serata l’esecuzione della Sonata n. 28 in La Maggiore, op. 101, nei movimenti: Un po' vivace e con il sentimento più intimo, Vivace alla Marcia, Lento e pieno di ardente ispirazione, Presto, ma non troppo, e con decisione. Fa parte delle ultime sonate di Beethoven, terminata alla fine del 1816, dedicata ad una sua ex allieva, la baronessa Dorotea Ertmann, ottima pianista e tenuta in gran conto da Beethoven stesso, tanto da dedicargli una delle sonate più importanti e difficili. Si tratta di un’opera davvero problematica, dove la ricerca del nuovo e la sperimentazione talora rischiano di comprimere la vena poetica, pur presente nella sonata. Dopo un primo movimento col suo dolcissimo incipit, quasi mozartiano, che diviene l’elemento caratterizzante di tutto il brano, il secondo e l’ultimo movimento ­ separati da un breve adagio, una pausa meditativa e di raccoglimento – sono intrisi di contrappunto e di elementi di fuga, una sperimentazione in cui i modelli barocchi polifonici vengono rielaborati in chiave moderna, all’interno della forma sonata, ma che tradiscono però, come giustamente osservato da molti critici, un eccessivo studio, una fatica che nuoce alla fluidità e naturalezza della musica. Questa fatica, questa mancanza di scioltezza che già Mozart aveva superato nella sonata K 533 e soprattutto nell’ultimo movimento della sinfonia Jupiter, sono da considerare però come una tappa essenziale per il raggiungimento degli straordinari risultati nel campo della polifonia e del contrappunto che Beethoven avrebbe perseguito da lì a poco, con le fughe dell’Hammerklavier e della Sonata Op. 110 e infine con la “Grande Fuga” op. 133 per quartetto d’archi. Strepitosa l’interpretazione di Leotta, puntuale, precisa e rigorosa nel contrappunto, non vediamo l’ora di ascoltarlo nell’op. 111.

American Record Guide, USA, September/October 2016, by Alan Becker

CD review on "Beethoven Diabelli Variations" 


It is a bold move these days to issue a recording of this monumental variations without a coupling—usually another short variation piece by the composer or some of the many variations contributed by other composers. Still, the Beethoven is the main thing, and a performance as good as this can stand on its own feet. Italian pianist Leotta has already given us impressive recordings of the sonatas, and it seems logical that he turn to Diabelli next. That his recording is one of the best makes one admire his achievement all the more.

Given the technical complexity, along with the musical and intellectual challenges of thescore, we are sometimes led down a path of low inspiration and pure boredom. Such is definitely not the case here, and we are immediately drawn in by the forthright statement of the little waltz tune. Every variation that happens from that point on becomes a logical outgrowth of the tune. While there is plenty of contrast, it all seems to happen as part of a natural flowing growth. With virtuosic challenges piling up, every one of them is dispatched without allowing it to tear away from the fabric of the music’s structure. 

Leotta is also careful to avoid sounding precious or too wound up in attempting expressive devices that call attention to themselves. Sound engineer Carlos Prieto deserves full praise for giving us a natural perspective of the Steinway D that, while close, does not place you inside the mechanism. Since everything has conspired to place this recording among my favorites, I will list my other favorites: Anderszewski, Brendel, Demidenko, Kovacevich, Pollini, Schnabel, and Serkin. Since no respectable collector can have just one, it is time to make room for this newcomer. Even the creative notes by Robert Rival give us more to think about than usual. 

Il Settimanale, Como (Italy), October 1st 2016, by Alberto Cima

Beethoven e la qualità di Christian Leotta Leotta

Si è conclusa a Villa Carlotta la prima parte dell’integrale delle “32 Sonate per pianoforte” di Beethoven magistralmente interpretate dal trentacinquenne pianista comasco Christian Leotta, oggigiorno uno dei più grandi interpreti beethoveniani, nonostante la giovane età. Ogni concerto si è concluso con una sorta di standing ovation, fatto raro, se non unico, in Italia. Il “silenzio” durante le sue performances hanno inoltre evidenziato la “qualità” del pubblico presente, sempre molto attento. L’atmosfera in sala è sempre stata magnifica.

Christian non si limita a eseguire, con tecnica impeccabile, tutte le note e a comunicare intime emozioni, con soffuse e delicate sonorità, ma penetra a fondo nell’animo beethoveniano come, in passato e nel presente, hanno fatto altri numi tutelari del pianoforte, quali Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Backhaus, Yves Nat, Wilhelm Kempff, Claudio Arrau, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim e Rudolf Buchbinder.

La visione beethoveniana di Christian è talvolta personale, ma non va mai oltre le righe e comunque rispetta la “tradizione” del genio di Bonn, con qualche afflato lirico e melodico moderno, vicino all’uomo di oggi. Non mancano spesso indicazioni dinamiche e agogiche “sui generis”, ma sempre contenute nel massimo rispetto del testo. Sua prerogativa è quella di eseguire spesso gli “Adagio” più lentamente del consueto per mettere in risalto l’animo e l’aspetto interiore del musicista. Aspetto fondamentale nel mondo d’oggi, che tende a evidenziare solamente l’elemento tecnico-virtuosistico, ma quasi mai quello lirico e interiore. Un Beethovendunque nuovo, ma mai controcorrente. Queste esecuzioni sarebbero certamente piaciute anche a Ludwig.

Il mondo spirituale di Beethoven risulta saldamente ancorato all’idea che si potrebbe definire kantiana dell’infinito, della religione, della morale; il suo fare musica è profondamente legato al suo impegno etico. Questa idea e questo impegno sono componenti essenziali della musica beethoveniana, diventano un fertile humus della sua poetica e condizionano la nascita di ogni composizione. E’ questo un compito che non spetta solo all’artista, ma anche all’interprete, come è il caso di Christian Leotta, la cui personalità lascia piena luce a quella di Beethoven, impregnata di raffinata sensibilità. I lavori di Beethoven richiedono, per la loro interpretazione, non solo un artista e un musicista, ma un “uomo” nel senso più autentico del termine, che abbia una propria vita vissuta. All’esecutore si aprono due strade: una in cui la propria passionalità si serve del linguaggio musicale di Beethoven per esibirsi, l’altra in cui obbedisce a quanto è scritto nella pagina musicale. In questi due estremi si deve mantenere la giusta linea, né esagerata verso la libertà né pietrificata per l’eccessivo rispetto della partitura, ed è ciò che nelle sue interpretazioni fa Christian Leotta.

Così si può sintetizzare il suo stile pianistico: grandiosità epica, forti contrasti di intensità e qualità del suono, profonda espressività del “cantabile”, perfezione del “legato”, virtuosità spontanea e un appropriato uso del pedale di risonanza.

Nonostante la grande, talvolta eccezionale, importanza storica e poetica delle altre composizioni pianistiche (dall’imponente serie delle Variazioni ai Concerti per pianoforte, dalle Bagatelle alle Sonate per violino) le 32 Sonate rimangono il centro dell’universo pianistico di Beethoven. 

La seconda e ultima parte dell’integrale delle 32 Sonate per pianoforte di Beethoven, costituita da ulteriori quattro concerti, andrà in scena a Tremezzo, presso Villa Carlotta, nel mese di settembre del 2017.

Pizzicato (Luxembourg), June 29th 2016, by Remy Frank 

Leottas beeindruckende Differenzierung der Diabelli-Variationen

CD review on "Beethoven Diabelli Variations" - 5 Stars


Der italienische Pianist Christian Leotta spielt Ludwig van Beethovens 33 Diabelli-Variationen op. 120 mit dem hohen künstlerischen Anspruch, den das Meisterwerk verdient. Er fügt eine Variation nahtlos an die andere, erzeugt also ein geschlossenes Ganzes, und der Hörer nimmt dennoch jede Zäsur wahr, weil der Pianist jeder Variation ihren ganz eigenen Charakter gibt, so, dass die einzelnen Teile deutlich voneinander abgehoben werden. Und so ernst und dramatisch manches klingt, so hat das Verspielte genauso seinen Platz wie der romantische Atem und das Gefühlsvolle. Neben brillantem, kraftvollem und sehr virtuosem Spiel gibt es bei sparsamem Pedalgebrauch und mittig angesiedelten Tempi für Leotta viele Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten, um Kontraste und Nuancen jeglicher Art herauszuarbeiten. So scharf er einzelne Variationen herausmeißeln kann, so berückend ist die Kantabilität in anderen Stücken. Seine Interpretation muss daher unbedingt zu den sehr guten gerechnet werden, die es auf Tonträgern gibt. Leotta hat Beethovens Absichten gut verstanden und er kann sie gut mitteilen.

Christian Leotta’s account of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations has to be counted among the best performances available on disc. 

TRANSLATION:

Leotta's impressive differentiation of the Diabelli Variations
 

Italian pianist Christian Leotta plays Beethoven’s 33 Diabelli Variations Op. 120 with the high artistic standards this masterpiece deserves. 

He seamlessly connects each variation to the next, thus producing a coherent whole and yet the listener still perceives every break because the pianist brings forth each variation's own character, so that the individual parts are clearly distinguished from each other.  

While there are variations that sound serious and dramatic, in others prevail the joyfulness; the romantic breath and profound feelings, found their place too. 

In addition to a brilliant, powerful and very virtuoso performance, thanks to his careful use of the pedal and well balanced tempo choices, Mr. Leotta generates a plethora of creative possibilities that bring about contrasts and nuances of all kinds.  

Many variations sound sharply chiseled, while his cantabile is quite enchanting in others. 

Christian Leotta’s account of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations is to be counted among the best performances available on disc.

Mr. Leotta has deeply understood Beethoven’s intentions and communicates them very well. 

The WholeNote (Canada), May 30th 2016, by Alex Baran 

CD review on  "Beethoven Diabelli Variations"  

With all 32 Beethoven sonatas in his discography, Christian Leotta has now added Beethoven – Diabelli Variations (ATMA ACD2 2485) to his growing list of recordings.

The Diabelli Variations have a history of divided critical opinion. At worst, Anton Diabelli’s original theme is considered a trite offering containing very little that any composer can use for a credible variation. That Beethoven used the material to write an entire set of 33 variations, is then something of a miracle that speaks directly to the composer’s inventive gift. Regardless of the theme’s actual merits, or lack of them, a performer needs to understand what Beethoven is actually doing in each variation in order to perform them intelligently.

This is where Leotta proves his standing as a highly respected Beethoven interpreter. He understands that Beethoven uses as little as a single interval and often barely more than that, a pick-up note, an ornament or a rhythmic pattern, to construct his variations. He remains highly focused on this, and in doing so holds the set of variations together despite its diverse moments of comedy, tumult, melancholy and contemplation.

Leotta has discerned Beethoven’s deepest imprint and conveys it in each of these utterances. What he makes clear by the end of it all is that Beethoven’s creative genius is for him, supreme.

The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), May 30th 2016, by Nobuhiro Ito

Joyfulness, watching the immense mountain of Beethoven 

TRANSLATION:

Italian pianist Christian Leotta, born in Sicily, has concluded his nine recital series at Kyoto's Alti Hall performing the complete cycle of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas.

The Alti Hall organized this rare event inviting only one pianist who is not very well known in Japan yet; in spite of it, recitals were all sold out or quasi, an occurrence that is really exceptional in Japan.

Last May 15th, I went to hear the last concert of the series, listening to the Piano Sonatas No. 16, No. 8, No. 24 and No. 32.

Mr. Leotta, still in his thirties, has already performed nineteen times throughout the world the cycle of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas. Avoiding any histrionic attitude while on stage, he approaches the piano with great simplicity. His playing is so profound as to give us the impression of a monk praying in the temple of Beethoven’s music day by day. But no, he isn't just that, he is the Guardian of Beethoven’s music: indifferent to gain, he devoted his entire self with no restrain to the great composer.

It is not easy to get close to Mr. Leotta’s touch at first, but listening to his playing we gradually understand how deeply he knows the entire corpus of Beethoven’'s 32 Piano Sonatas. I truly believe that he sees and knows minutely the whole of this immense mountain.

His performance of a small scale Piano Sonata such as the No. 24 seemed to be in a careful, cautious manner whereas his playing became brilliant in one of the most demanding and important Piano Sonata such as the No. 32. Following the third powerful variation of its second movement, the audience was increasingly caught into quiet and introspective sounds and the entire hall seemed wrapped in such an atmosphere as if we were in a church: Christian Leotta has led the audience to a state of ecstasy. 

It has been the first time that a performance filled up my soul in such a way.

Il Settimanale, Como (Italy),  May 28th 2016, by Alberto Cima

Il talendo di Christian Leotta in un nuovo disco


CD review on "Beethoven Diabelli Variations"  

Un’altra perla musicale, dopo l’integrale delle Sonate per pianoforte di Beethoven, si aggiunge alla discografia del pianista Christian Leotta, grazie all’etichetta canadese “Atma Classique”: le “Diabelli Variations”.

Le “33 Variazioni su un valzer di Anton Diabelli, op. 120” sono un insieme di variazioni per pianoforte composte fra il 1819 e il 1823 da Ludwig van Beethoven su un valzer scritto da Diabelli. E’ un’opera pianistica di notevole rilievo che può essere paragonata, per l’importanza, alle “Variazioni Goldberg” di J.S. Bach. Possono essere considerate il più rilevante insieme di variazioni mai scritte. Il pianista Alfred Brendel le ha definite “la più grande di tutte le opere per pianoforte”. Rilevante la struttura armonica. Fondamentale l’approccio di Beethoven al tema principale, sul quale sviluppa una musica di grande inventiva. Quest’ampia partitura è un capolavoro supremo nell’arte della variazione. E’ l’ultimo lavoro scritto da Beethoven per il pianoforte e può essere reputato, a tutti gli effetti, una sorta di testamento pianistico.

Validissima l’interpretazione del giovane pianista Christian Leotta, considerato fra i più straordinari esecutori della musica del genio di Bonn. Impeccabile la sua tecnica, che si affianca a una cantabilità sognante, dando una visione talvolta innovativa, vale a dire meno veemente rispetto a come viene generalmente interpretato Beethoven, mettendo in luce la parte più intima del compositore, più vicina al romanticismo che non al classicismo. L’esecuzione di Christian è di assoluto valore tanto per perizia tecnica quanto per resa sonora ed espressività. Quello che stupisce è il contrasto fra un virtuosismo acceso e quasi visionario, sbrigliato ed estroverso, da un lato, e una concentrazione lirica ai limiti dell’estasi, dall’altro. Possiede un suono delicato, morbido e di bel colore, un attacco del tasto preciso, un tocco incisivo e chiaro, un fraseggio di plastica elasticità, che non smarrisce mai l’esattezza del ritmo. Ridotto all’essenziale l’impiego del pedale.

The Nikkei Shimbun (Japan), May 27th 2016, by Tomoko Shiraishi

Christian Leotta, the man of revolutionary temperament

TRANSLATION:

I had the chance to listen to the whole cycle of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas performed by the Italian pianist Christian Leotta at the Alti Hall of Kyoto.

Christian Leotta, a Sicilian born, is a man of strong principles, whose artistic personality and whose playing are quite different from those of Maurizio Pollini, born in Milano. Mr. Leotta’s sound is profound and it has a marble-like depth, while his tone is bright, owing to his Latin origins.

At the beginning of his recitals, my impression was that his playing was somewhat boisterous but this sensation vanished as I continued listening to him. I found that especially the “Hammerklavier”, which was performed during the 7th recital, and the “Waldstein”, performed on the 8th, were exceptional. The “Pathetique”, performed on the final concert, was a bit cautious (perhaps he studied it too much?), but the Piano Sonata No. 16 was really unique, evoking to me the image of a contemporary sculpture in the brisk serenade of its second movement, which sounded like a neo-classic piece by Stravinsky.

I was quite astonished by the soaring harmonies in the Piano Sonata No. 32. I have never heard such a sound before. Following the storm of its first movement, which overpowered everything else, his sound became very soft and he started to play the music of the rebirth. I believe that these consecutive nine recitals have been a progression hinting to this final spiritual healing.

I have no doubt that this ambitious pianist can play the music of any other Romantic composer equally well as he plays Beethoven's music.  

Fanfare (USA), May 2016, by Dave Saemann

CD Review on "Beethoven Diabelli Variations"  

Having recorded Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, Christian Leotta now turns his attention to the Diabelli Variations. Leotta is a thoughtful and elegant pianist, with a notably warm sound. He achieves a balance in the voicing of his tone that is particularly impressive. I would recommend his 2014 YouTube concert videos of Beethoven’s 10th, 23rd, and 30th Sonatas, along with the first two movements of number three. It is particularly delightful to see the naturalness of Leotta’s rapport with the keyboard: There’s nothing showy and there are no histrionics. Leotta’s main quality as a Beethoven interpreter is patience. He lets events happen within a natural flow. In his performance of the Diabelli Variations, he establishes a continuum from the start in which the incidents occur. There is an underlying pulse uniting the entire cycle. No matter the variety of the variations, one always is aware of a personality that is Beethoven’s. One of the keys to the set for me is the 22nd Variation, where Beethoven quotes the beginning of Leporello’s opening aria from Don Giovanni: “Slaving night and day/for one whom nothing pleases.” I believe Beethoven has placed this smack in the middle of the work to define his relationship to his muse. Beethoven is a slave to his inspiration, and it is not an easy burden. Leotta gives us a Diabelli Variations that, of all Beethoven’s late works, shows us what the composer was like as a person. There is a verisimilitude to Leotta’s Diabellis, creating a unity amidst the nobility, pranksterishness, obstreperousness, passion, and profundity of the whole work.

As a performer, Leotta has to make you believe throughout the Diabellis that the individual who created the Ninth Symphony and the Missa Solemnis also composed the late bagatelles and the folk-song settings. He must explain why Beethoven would be drawn to the tavern music of Diabelli’s waltz and find in it a vehicle perhaps for self-portraiture. It goes without saying that this task requires a re-creative artist of the utmost resourcefulness. Leotta meets this challenge. Beethoven is a child of the Enlightenment; rather than compose a work to the glory of God, as Bach and Haydn would, he finds nothing astonishing in creating a work to his own glory, warts and all. It is not coincidental that Richard Strauss wrote his own self-portrait, Ein Heldenleben, to give orchestras an alternative to playing the “Eroica.” Leotta reveals Beethoven’s intent in the first variation, where a march announces the mock heroic epic that is to follow, as if the composer had read Alexander Pope. Three is a lullaby. Five has little sham fanfares, as if announcing a disreputable noble’s arrival. Leotta makes nine a sinister parody of a dance. Thirteen is a procession that keeps on being interrupted. A mock announcement of great importance occurs in 15. At Leotta’s slow tempo, 20 possesses a cosmic emptiness. Beethoven achieves a momentary serenity in the guise of Bach in 24. Leotta plays 26 with a serendipitous elegance. Thirty-one has an unearthly sorrow, as at Christ’s crucifixion. Thirty-two begins with an imitation of a Handel concerto grosso, becoming a vehicle of transfiguration. In the final variation, Diabelli’s tavern waltz has become a halting minuet, this dance of the nobility portraying Beethoven’s now refined, if still amused, sensibility.

The CD’s sound engineering is very good, if a little brittle in fortes. Edmund Battersby made a quite special recording of the Diabellis, performing it first on fortepiano and then on a Steinway. It is fascinating to hear how the same performer achieves quite different interpretations on the two instruments. There also are fine recordings of the Diabellis by Vladimir Ashkenazy and Bernard Roberts. Alfred Brendel’s live 2001 performance is not as sharply etched technically as these, but is full of great insight. Christian Leotta’s rendition can stand beside any of these. His Beethoven is a person both absorbed by mundane existence and remote from the average individual. The Beethoven of Leotta’s Diabellis remains a source of endless fascination. Dave Saemann

All Music (USA), May 2016, by Blair Sanderson - Editors' Choice 

CD Review on "Beethoven Diabelli Variations"  

Christian Leotta's performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's Diabelli Variations is distinctive for its crisp execution and lean sonorities.

In 1819, the Viennese music publisher Anton Diabelli challenged contemporary composers to write variations on a waltz theme of his own devising, for a publication he titled Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (The Fatherland's Society of Artists). While the second volume of this large collection contained 50 variations, by such figures as Carl Czerny, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, a young Franz Liszt, Ignaz Moscheles, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, and Franz Schubert, among others, the first volume was devoted entirely to Ludwig van Beethoven's set of 33 variations, known commonly as the Diabelli Variations. This work is regarded as one of Beethoven's supreme achievements, comparable in depth, variety, and expressive power to the late sonatas, and it is frequently played and recorded, unlike the other variations, which are seldom heard. Christian Leotta's recording on ATMA Classique is a lively exploration of Beethoven's set, notable for its briskness and high energy. At times, Leotta's crisp attacks and clangorous sonorities remind one of the brittle timbres of a fortepiano, though the piano he uses is a modern Steinway, so he manages this effect through touch and spare use of the pedals. Perhaps some Romantic grandeur is lost in this interpretation, but excessive emoting is avoided as well, and the wit and cleverness of the music shine through, altogether a fair trade-off. The studio sound is a little dry, but the recording is clean and every note is distinct.

Ongaku No Tomo (Japan), February 2016, by Manabu Imahashi

An extraordinary public success! Playing the authentic spirit of Beethoven's music 


TRANSLATION:

The great Italian pianist Christian Leotta started last December to perform in Kyoto the complete cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, which he had performed already in many cities such as Montreal, Bangkok, Como and Alger.

I had the chance to hear his second recital at Kyoto’s Alti Hall, scheduled last December 9th. The concert started with the Piano Sonata No. 17 “The Tempest”, followed by the Piano Sonatas Nos. 13, 19 and 29, the “Hammerklavier”.

Leotta gave a majestic interpretation of Beethoven, especially of the Piano Sonata “Hammerklavier”. In the first movement, he displayed a great technique; in the third one, his playing revealed the abyssal depth of Beethoven’s world. The performance of the following fourth movement was equally impressive. 

His Beethoven reminded me the playing of great German pianists such as Schnabel, Backhaus and Kempff.

The recital was an extraordinary public success: the audience rewarded Leotta with a prolonged standing ovation.

Prior to the performance, Prof. Nakamura addressed the audience talking about “The universe of Beethoven”.

Kyoto is eager to hear Christian Leotta’s next concerts, scheduled this spring.

Classic Notes (Japan), January 2015, by Shigihara Shinichi


Christian Leotta performs the Beethoven Piano Sonatas cycle


TRANSLATION: 

Last December I had the chance to hear Christian Leotta play twice. It was at Kyoto’s Alti Hall on the occasion of his second and fourth recitals of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas complete cycle, a program scheduled to conclude next April and May with a series of five more concerts. 

The second recital started with the Piano Sonata “The Tempest”, ending with the Piano Sonata “Hammerklavier”.

It was a remarkable program, performed in a sold out hall, that conveyed deep feelings and showed a great technique, as well as youthful enthusiasm that overflowed particularly in the Piano Sonatas Nos. 13 and 17, composed when Beethoven himself was young. 

The Piano Sonata No. 29 “Hammerklavier” concluded the concert and it reached the climax of the recital. What a beautiful sound we had the chance to hear! In the slow movement Mr. Leotta's right hand was able to produce a magnificent cantabile melody. The Piano Sonata ended with a Fugue which I have no words to describe! The only one thing I can say is that “It was extraordinary and absolutely fantastic”. Christian Leotta playing Beethoven is a true force of nature. 

The IV recital of the cycle was the last one performed last December and Leotta rounded it off with a moving performance of the Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110. Showing an artistic stature and maturity characteristic rather for a pianist in his fifties, Mr. Leotta conveyed to us the feeling that everything was easy and natural to him. Owing to his remarkable technique, trills and melodies were flowing to our delight. He also gave an outstanding performance of the complex Fugue of this Sonata, making us love Beethoven’s music even more.

Leotta displayed his abilities and his potential also in the Piano Sonata No. 6, which opened the recital:  in all instances his touch was singing with simplicity and a great cantabile. 

Leotta reveres Artur Schnabel, considering him the best and ideal interpreter of Beethoven. He was the first pianist ever to record the complete Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. 

Next April 29th Christian Leotta will open the second part of his Piano Sonatas cycle. We are eager to hear him again, confident that he will record another great success in Kyoto. 

Mercure des Arts (Japan), December 2015, by Misako Ohta

Playing Beethoven revealing the philosophy of his music 

TRANSLATION:

This December I had the chance to listen to the cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas performed by Christian Leotta at Kyoto’s Alti Hall. During three weeks, he played a total of four concerts, sharing the world of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas with the Japanese audience, which was thus allowed to live a remarkable and unique experience.  

Tonight’s program included the Piano Sonatas Op. 10 No. 2, Op. 28 “Pastoral”, followed, after the intermission, by the Piano Sonatas Op. 54 and Op.110. I'd like to underline Christian Leotta's intelligent and well-balanced programming of each of the recitals of the cycle. Hence, each concert included a mix of Piano Sonatas composed by Beethoven in different creative periods, allowing the audience to listen, in the same recital, to works composed by Beethoven in his early years as well in those of his maturity. 

Christian Leotta’s playing is rooted in his knowledge of Beethoven’s music and that of the classical style, keeping distances from modern interpretations. After listening to him, I realized how deeply intimate is Beethoven’s music to this young pianist, thanks to his studies with Karl Ulrich Schnabel. Like a jewel of oxidized silver, his playing reminds me of that which was typical of the 18th and 19th centuries, whit a profound and expressive sound. Even while playing the fast passages, Leotta does not focus on his technique only. He is at all times thinking on the whole meaning of the music. His sound is impressively evocative. Listening to him, the image of an old, solid, stone-build church, sparked to my mind as well as that of its inside audience, people kneeling in prayer, invoking the divine grace. Thanks to Christian Leotta, we could truly realize the world of the Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, described as the “New Testament” by Hans von Bülow.

This uniquely spiritual experience, if I may name it like that, reached its climax at the end when Leotta played the Piano Sonata Op.110. With a convincingly slight shift of the rhythm, he made the second theme of the first movement sound as if we were in the presence of a shimmering, glowing light. Furthermore, the melody of the following “Scherzo” was not delivered in the common overly fast interpretation. In the third movement, his deep sound gave an emotional interpretation of the “Klagender Gesang” melody, leading us to the final Fugue. I was so deeply touched by Leotta's attitude. He appeared to me as a “seeker”, that sacrifices himself to the revelation of the music.

Some of the greatest pianists, such as Claudio Arrau, Wilhelm Backhaus and Daniel Barenboim, have played the cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, but, along them all, this young Maestro Leotta, who is playing this music corpus in its entirety for the twentieth time at the Alti Hall, has a special aura of a relentless “seeker” to the rich universe of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas.

This young pianist (Leotta is still in his mid-thirties), unraveled the meaning of “Classic”. In his playing there is a strong message which transcends the world of the music or that of the piano. In one of his interviews, Christian Leotta affirmed: “Reading Dante gives to me the same tremendous emotions I feel while playing Beethoven. When playing Beethoven or reading Dante, I feel as if being in the presence of two extraordinary personalities who understood so well the universality and the immensity of the human soul”. Likewise, Leotta's Beethoven gave me a feeling so deep which I could only experience while reading a great philosophy book.

A meeting party for Christian Leotta was offered at Alti Hall after the concert of last December 20th and, the day previous, a masterclass was held with students of the “Kyoto City University of Arts”. Thanks not only to the concerts but also to those events, the Alti Hall offered to the Japanese public the chance to know much more about the world of Beethoven. I am looking forward to the second part of the cycle, scheduled in the spring of 2016. 

Il Settimanale, Como (Italy), October 17th 2015, by Alberto Cima


Christian Leotta e le 32 Sonate di Beethoven

Villa Carlotta di Tremezzo, nel periodo settembre/ottobre, ha ospitato un evento eccezionale: l’esecuzione integrale, in otto concerti, delle 32 Sonate per pianoforte di Beethoven affidata al giovane, ma ormai affermato pianista comasco Christian Leotta. 

E’ il più giovane pianista al mondo, da quando Daniel Barenboim eseguì il ciclo negli anni Sessanta a Tel Aviv, ad avere mai affrontato in pubblico la straordinaria impresa musicale. Le ha infatti presentate per la prima volta nel 2002, a Montreal, a soli ventidue anni. Le ha suonate in Italia, Europa, America e Asia. E’ la terza volta che ascoltiamo la sua “integrale” e constatiamo, con gioia, che ha conseguito una maturità sorprendente al punto di poter essere considerato oggigiorno fra gli interpreti più rilevanti e fondamentali dell’opera beethoveniana, nonostante la giovane età. Pur restando ancorate alla consueta prassi esecutiva, le sue interpretazioni si volgono persino al futuro, dando quel tocco di magia sonora che avrebbe affascinato persino Beethoven. Non vi è nulla sopra le righe, tutto è conforme agli spartiti del genio di Bonn, eppure vi è un’interiorizzazione eccellente che vede il musicista da un punto di vista non solo strettamente musicale, ma persino umano. Talvolta le Sonate beethoveniane sono viste da Christian Leotta da un’angolazione personale, ma che, in fondo, non si discosta dai messaggi beethoveniani, anzi danno una visione che ben si adatta al mondo di oggi, pur non travisandone i contenuti. Non si concede infatti particolari licenze e quelle poche che impiega sono perfettamente in sintonia, scrupolose nel rispetto del testo.  

Spiccano nelle interpretazioni di Christian la grandiosità epica, i forti contrasti di intensità  e qualità del suono, una profonda e intima espressività del “cantabile”, la perfezione del legato, la tecnica travolgente e spontanea, l’uso appropriato del pedale di risonanza.  Il suo stile è impeccabile,  in ogni contesto: la sua postura è sempre tranquilla e serena, tanto quanto si esprime mediante i suoni “forti” quanto con quelli “piani” e in questo ci ricorda la personalità di Backhaus, che non si “agitava” mai mentre suonava, ma era immutabile nella sua interiorità. 

Christian si rivela un pianista capace di manifestare non solo le possibilità sonore dello strumento, ma anche l’intimità, l’umanità e la comprensione spirituale di Beethoven, il cui “io” è ancora oggi vivo e vitale.  

Nel suo “excursus” Christian ha ben messo in risalto l’arte, la natura umana, la mitezza, la gioia commossa, la bellezza infinita e la tenerezza profonda di Beethoven. La musica beethoveniana – come traspare con evidenza dalle interpretazioni di Christian, dalle opere giovanili a quelle della maturità – unisce la vita dello spirito alla vita dei sensi. La musica e la gioia di suonare del pianista narrano con inimitabile eloquenza la felicità, l’estasi, i dolori e le angosce che inondarono l’anima del compositore. Beethoven è l’uomo degli impulsi più inattesi e dei subitanei contrasti: tale carattere dona alla musica il suo accento e la sua forza. Le interpretazioni di Christian Leotta determinano uno stato d’animo che è lo specchio della vita intima: questa sola vale e rappresenta la forza dell’arte e la vera immagine dell’Uomo. 

La Provincia, Como (Italy), September 3rd 2015, by Alberto Cima


Leotta, che musica. Suona Beethoven come pochi altri

Lunedì a Tremezzo, nel suggestivo “Salone dei Marmi” di Villa Carlotta, ha avuto luogo il concerto inaugurale dell’integrale delle 32 “Sonate per pianoforte” di Beethoven interpretate  dal giovane pianista comasco Christian Leotta. 

Quattro le “Sonate” proposte in questa prima serata appartenenti ai tre diversi stili beethoveniani: del primo fanno parte l’op. 10 n. 2 e l’op. 28 “Pastorale”, del secondo l’op. 54 e del terzo l’op. 110. 

Beethoven ha fatto compiere passi da gigante alla scrittura pianistica del suo tempo. Il patrimonio ricevuto da Haydn e da Mozart è stato portato da lui a un tale grado di estensione da apparire rivoluzionario. Ha anticipato tutti i problemi attuali e può essere considerato, a tutti gli effetti, un compositore “contemporaneo”. Ha essenzialmente aperto la strada al pianoforte romantico mediante acquisizioni progressive, un’evoluzione costante dello stile e della sua personalità di musicista e di uomo. Tutti aspetti fondamentali che sono emersi spiccatamente, grazie all’interpretazione di Christian, nel programma proposto. 

Abbiamo ascoltato varie volte le “integrali” di Christian Leotta, fra cui quelle eseguite all’Associazione Carducci nel 2003 e al Teatro Sociale di Como nel 2008, che già per diversi aspetti avevano affascinato, eppure quella che è appena iniziata a Villa Carlotta ha tutti i requisiti per diventare mitica. Christian ha subito una profonda trasformazione interiore, che lo colloca fra i più significativi interpreti di Beethoven, nonostante la giovane età. Tecnica agguerrita, soffusa cantabilità che lo porta a una riflessione portata al massimo grado, costante ricerca del suono, sempre appropriato e mai invasivo. La sua classe si fa apprezzare pienamente in queste interpretazioni dallo stile aristocratico, che ha nel gusto per un fraseggio vivissimo e arioso, per la flessibilità ritmica e per la finezza timbrica i tratti decisivi. Il suo pianismo è pulito e scintillante nei movimenti veloci, espressivo e meditativo in quelli lenti e moderati, inventivo (ma in maniera appropriata) nella timbrica e nella dinamica. Esibisce un notevole controllo del suono ed è in grado di passare  a improvvisi “pianissimo” estremamente curati, come pure a inattese dolcezze di fraseggio. Come bis ha eseguito l’”Andante” dalla “Sonata op. 79” di Beethoven. 

Cut Common Magazine, Australia, May 26th 2015, by Stephanie Eslake

Christian Leotta plays Beethoven - Federation Concert Hall 


There’s a reason Christian Leotta is known as the King of Beethoven. The Italian pianist performed a program of all-Beethoven sonatas in Hobart’s Federation Concert Hall and the result was as close to perfection as I feel comfortable admitting.

Before the concert, an unusual calm seemed to come over the audience. No nervous coughs, not much chitchat. Perhaps it was the absence of an intimidatingly sized orchestra warming up instruments. Regardless, when Christian stepped out on stage my ears were relaxed and ready to receive whatever music he had to give. With a delightfully friendly grin, he sat down to commence the concert with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 14, No. 2.

The work opened more slowly than I had expected, and even through brighter passages the sound was quite sustained. He performed tension and release with meaning and deliberacy. The following Andante was almost exaggerated and comical in its pomposity, but with a brilliantly smooth contrast in the middle. It sounded like Christian was having fun – he certainly wasn’t afraid to pound the notes when the moments struck – and he seemed to take the audience along for the ride.

The Piano Sonata No. 21, Op. 53, ‘Waldstein’ had an appropriate feel of immediacy. It wasn’t rushed, but its catchy melody had a sense of urgency – though it was a little bottom heavy. At the end of the first movement there was chatter among the audience. Well, the urge to clap had to be replaced by something, didn’t it? An entirely different mood washed over the ears through the following movements, but a satisfying reappearance of Beethoven’s lovable theme was followed by another ripping big finish.

After the interval, the Piano Sonata No. 30, Op. 109 started at a tempo which seemed to match the very textbook definition of Beethoven’s instruction: ‘Vivace, ma non troppo’. The following Adagio espressivo was a nice retreat, and Christian demonstrated his outstanding dedication of priority between left and right hands. The concert ended with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 31, Op. 110, and a feeling of utter satisfaction to have heard a magnificent set of works, magnificently performed. A complete success.

La Presse, Montreal (Canada), February 19th 2015, by Claude Gingras

Impressionnante, la liste des grands interprètes des Sonates pour piano de Beethoven que Montrèal a entendus au cours des ans

"Au sommet se placent Wilhelm Kempff et Anton Kuerti, qui présentèrent les 32 Sonates respectivement en 1961 et en 1978-1979. À ces deux intégrales historiques s'ajoutent des récitals qui, groupant les trois dernières, opp. 109, 110 et 111, virent se succéder Rudolf Serkin en 1987, Kuerti encore en 2001, Louis Lortie la même année et Christian Leotta en 2002.

Ces pianistes de générations et d'esthétiques pourtant différentes traduisaient les Sonates de Beethoven avec une conviction si entière qu'on croit les entendre encore, après toutes ces années...". 

Rondo, Germany, No. 6 2014, by Matthias Kornemann 

Beethoven Revisited

Bei den ersten Folgen seines vielleicht etwas früh begonnenen Zyklus war ich wohl allzu streng. Aber in der letzten Lieferung erfüllt Christian Leotta alle in ihn gesetzten Hoffnungen, ja mehr als das. 

Man findet schlichtweg keinen leeren, unbedacht formulierten Takt, so anfechtbar und betulich-langsam vieles auch gerät. Mit welchem klanglichen und agogischen Feinsinn lässt er „die Schöne und das Biest“ im op. 54-Kopfsatz aufeinandertreffen, wie einfühlsam und schlicht ist die versöhnende Coda! Und hat man je diesen kleinen Zwist zwischen hymnischem Des-Dur-Choral und markant abschweifender Unterstimme im kleinen Allegretto des op. 10/2 gehört? 

In seiner Not, den humorig-polternden Beethoven nicht recht zu mögen, verwandelt er das lustig zulangende op. 31/1-Allegro in eine ironisch steife Maschinenkomödie, die von notorischer Desynchronisation handelt und in deren Adagio-Akt sich Drahtpuppen ungelenk in Grazioso-Gesten versuchen – es ist witzig neben der Spur. 

Einsamer Gipfel ist ein schon verboten langsam beginnendes op. 101, dessen Thema sich in einer magischen Gespanntheit entfaltet. 

Genug der Schwärmerei, der mittlerweile 34-jährige Italiener ist ein bedeutender Beethoven-Interpret geworden. 

TRANSLATION: 

Beethoven revisited
 

I might have been too severe with his first recording of a cycle which may have been started too early. However, in the last volume Christian Leotta meets all the expectations, and even more than that.

There is no -not even one- empty and unconsciously expressed beat in his playing, and in the unhurried slow movements transpires a rare beauty. He is able to converge “the Beauty and the Beast” of the first movement of  Op. 54 with tonal and agogic subtleties; how empathetic and frugal sounds the conciliatory following Coda!

And has anybody ever heard this little twist between the hymn-like D-flat choral section and the distinctive digressing lower voice in the short Allegretto of  Op. 10 No. 2?

Having the dilemma of being not too fond on the humor blustering Beethoven’s music, he transforms the funny Allegro of Op. 31 No.1, which deals with its notorious desynchronization between the right and the left hand, into an ironic and stiff comedy while, in the following Adagio, wired puppets are trying gracious gestures awkwardly – that’s really spirituous.

The absolute highlight of the recording is the normally forbidden slow beginning of  Op. 101, where the theme unfolds with a magical tension. I expressed enough enthusiasm now; the meanwhile 34-year old Italian has become a great Beethoven-interpreter. 

Ongaku No Tomo, Japan, No. 14 - December 2014, by Hajime Teranishi  

Christian Leotta will perform in Kyoto the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven 

TRANSLATION:

Last October 31st, Italian pianist Christian Leotta gave a recital at the Prefectural Hall of Kyoto (Alti Hall) which announces his “marathon” scheduled next December 2015, when he will present the entire corpus of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas. 

During the press conference which followed his recital, Mr. Leotta said: “continuing to play Beethoven is my life’s mission. The cycle I will perform in Kyoto will be another important milestone of my mission”.

The core pieces of his recital played last October 31st were Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Op. 2 No. 3 and Op. 57 “Appassionata”,  where Mr. Leotta’s extremely wide range of dynamics literally mesmerized the audience. In Bach’s “Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo BWV 992” his flowing touch was so expressive that it transmitted emotions that it could be rendered only on a modern piano, while in Rossini’s “Memento Homo” stood out his beautiful delicate sonorities. 

The 32 Piano Sonatas cycle is organized in collaboration with the Italian Consulate General of Osaka. Mr. Marco Lombardi, Consul General of Italy , expressed his conviction that “Maestro Leotta’s playing will express the highest level of the Italian artistry and talent”. 

Mr. Leotta started to perform the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven when he was only 22 and the cycle he will present in Kyoto will be his 22nd. He plays the entire corpus in a series of eight recitals, presented over a period of just three weeks. 

Mr. Leotta further said: “in each recital I included one Piano Sonata with a name, combining each program in a way to present Piano Sonatas that embrace all Beethoven’s life. My aim is to present programs as balanced as possible, considering also the duration and the tonality of each Piano Sonata”. 

It is very rare that a pianist is capable to present a program of these proportions in such a short time. 

“In his Piano Sonatas Beethoven projected not only his soul and different feelings, but also his political views and philosophic ideals, perfectly reflecting the social condition of his time. To play his music it’s not just a performance: it’s a message for the entire humanity”. 

Mr. Leotta further added: “every time I feel connected to the composer’s soul,  I become convinced that it is then that I’m performing well his music. Beethoven gives me new ideas every time I play his music: it’s a tremendous motivation to study his music over and over again. While playing him in recital, my greatest desire is to evoke his spirit, sharing his immense message with the public”.  

The China Post, December 23rd 2014, by Antonio C. Hila, Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

Christian Leotta displays forte with sublime pianism in Manila


Italian pianist Christian Leotta's Manila recital at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) was a rare moment of intimate listening. It was virtuosity of the first order.

Technical prowess and expressive temperament blended into a dynamic unity that brought out awesome pianism.

Leotta's concert was the first and only performance in Manila, said Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno, who, together with Philippine Italian Association President Nedy Tantoco and CCP President Raul Sunico, prefaced the concert with a warm welcome to the audience who came in droves.

Leotta maximized tonal output sans distracting bodily or choreographic movement. It made pianism an aural art to be relished.

Leotta etched vivid colors in bringing out the different stylistic nuances and polarities of sensitive tonalities.

He provided the framework of his pianism in brief notes he wrote for the program: He said he sought the disclosure of the “ideals” of the composers he was playing.

Integrity, Fidelity

The emotional bent (adagiosissimo) and rhythmic vitality (fuga) in Bach's programmed work, “Capriccio,” had foreshadowed Schubert's posthumous “Sonata in A Minor, Op. 143 (or D 784);” Beethoven's famous sonata, “Appassionata”; and the lyricism Rossini expressed in “Memento Homo” and “Une Caresse a Ma Femme.”

Leotta infused his playing with much integrity and fidelity to the stylistic nuance of the work. His tone was singing. The tonal balance between the two hands was simply fabulous.

From the fugue of Bach's work to the demanding fast octaves of the last movement of the Schubert work, and the powerful chords and rotating passages of the technically demanding first movement of the “Appassionata,” Leotta carved out those sparkling tones with singular ease.

He was uncompromising in both temper and spontaneity. There was no triteness or calculated exactness.

Deep Knowledge

Throughout, he remained connected with the works, which undoubtedly he had deep knowledge of, and played with dynamic fire.

Furthermore, he had shown expressive musicality that was never intuited, but harnessed by an intelligent understanding of the pieces. One appreciated the richness of tone his sensitive fingers carved out.

Bach was intimately buoyant; Schubert, sensitively melodious; Beethoven, dramatically passionate; Rossini, caressingly legate. These were all expressed in appropriate tonal textures that differentiated one stylistic nuance from the other.

His playing was beamed on the screen, showing the positioning of his fingers, as well as his playing, for the appreciation of both connoisseur and layman, who both noted his arresting pianism.

Indeed, Leotta is for keeps. He deserves a return engagement.

Il Giornale della Musica (Italy), June 2014, by Maurizio Giani

Leotta ha Beethoven nel sangue

CD Review on the complete set of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven released by Atma Classique

Christian Leotta è da molti considerato il maggiore interprete beethoveniano della sua generazione. Appena ventiduenne, nel 2002, eseguì con grande successo a Montréal l'integrale delle 32 Sonate, risultando così il più giovane pianista al mondo ad aver presentato in pubblico il formidabile ciclo, dopo le esibizioni di Daniel Barenboim a Tel Aviv negli anni Sessanta. Da allora il pianista catanese ha riproposto ben tredici volte l'intero corpus in Europa e nelle Americhe, e nel 2007 ne ha avviato la registrazione per l'etichetta canadese Atma. L'impresa giunge ora a compimento con il quinto volume, in cui, come nei precedenti, si ha una sapiente mescolanza di capolavori celeberrimi ed opere relativamente meno eseguite: intorno al Chiaro di luna e alla Sonata op. 101 troviamo infatti Prima e Terza Sonata dell'op. 31, l'op. 2 n. 2, l'op. 10 n. 2 e la Sonata op. 54.

Stilando un primo bilancio complessivo, si può dire che l'ascolto conferma i giudizi lusinghieri espressi dalla stampa internazionale: Christian Leotta è un pianista di prim'ordine, rigoroso e concentrato, che Beethoven sembra averlo nel sangue, tanta è la sicurezza e la sorprendente maturità con cui lo suona. Al di là di una organizzazione tecnica tanto più ammirevole quanto meno è esibita come fine a sé stessa, i punti di forza delle sue esecuzioni stanno nel saldissimo senso formale che le caratterizza e soprattutto nella coerenza della visione complessiva di ogni singola Sonata. Sono, queste, letture di stampo "classico", in cui si riconosce il discepolo di Karl Ulrich Schnabel (figlio del grande Artur), che però sa avventurarsi non di rado lungo sentieri poco o punto frequentati dai colleghi, scovando tesori nascosti negli anfratti della scrittura beethoveniana. Ora è un lieve respiro nel profilare la nota perno di un tema, ora il rilievo conferito a masse accordali nel registro grave a restituire, senza ostentazione, freschezza e il sapore della novità a pagine gravate da una tradizione esecutiva sgomentante. Agli Adagi più introspettivi Leotta si accosta senza timore, adottando tempi di magnifica ampiezza, e non deludendo mai le aspettative; nel Chiaro di luna compie il miracolo di farci riascoltare con vivo interesse, e senza mai forzare la mano, un capolavoro logorato dalla celebrità; e se il finale della sua Appassionata non può competere con la versione sconvolgente di Richter, ha quanto meno il merito di ricordarci che Beethoven lo ha indicato Allegro ma non troppo, non Precipitato (per parte mia, preferisco di gran lunga questa interpretazione a quella, osannata ma in fondo così prevedibile, di Lang Lang). Anche nelle ardue ultime cinque Sonate Leotta sa imporsi con letture meditate e partecipi: la Hammerklavier regge a mio avviso il confronto con la versione di Pollini, specie nella resa esemplare dello sterminato Adagio e nella tensione mai vacillante della fuga conclusiva, mentre nell' op. 111 colpiscono l'introduzione al primo movimento, scavata in ogni più riposto dettaglio con un' articolazione inedita dei periodi, e la fissità quasi allucinata della quarta variazione dell'Arietta.

In sintesi, dobbiamo a Christian Leotta una delle più significative integrali beethoveniane degli ultimi anni. Ben registrati, e con ottima ambientazione, i cd sono meritevoli di fitti riascolti; anche chi possegga altre più blasonate registrazioni vi troverà molti motivi di soddisfazione.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta has Beethoven in his blood

Christian Leotta is considered by many to be the greatest Beethoven’s interpreter of his generation. When only 22, in 2002, he performed with great success in Montreal the integral of the 32 Piano Sonatas, becoming the youngest pianist in the world who presented the formidable cycle since the youthful performance of Daniel Barenboim in Tel Aviv of the '60. Since then, the pianist from Catania presented for well thirteen times the entire corpus of the sonatas  in Europe and in the Americas, and in 2007 he started the recording of it for the Canadian label Atma Classique. This feat is now completed with the release of the fifth volume, which comprises, as the precedent ones, a wise mix of very famous masterpieces as well as works relatively less performed: together with the “Moonlight” and the Piano Sonata 101, we find, in fact, the First and the Third Piano Sonatas of the Op. 31, the Op. 2 No. 2, the Op. 10 No. 2 and the Piano Sonatas Op. 54. 

Profiling a first overall balance, we can say that what we heard confirms the flattering judgments expressed by the international press: Christian Leotta is a first rate pianist, rigorous and concentrate, which seems to have Beethoven in his blood, so great are both his self-confidence and the amazing maturity with which he plays it. Beyond considering a technique organization as much admirable as less showed as end to itself, the strong points of his performances reside in his extraordinary formal understanding which characterize them, and, above all, in his coherent overall vision of each single Sonata. These are interpretations of “classical” type, in which we recognize the pupil of Karl Ulrich Schnabel (son of the great Artur) who, however, knows how to dive into paths which have been very little or never explored by his colleagues, discovering treasures hidden in the Beethoven writing. Now it is a delicate breath to outline the keystone note of a theme, now the significance given to chords masses in the lower register, which  return, never with ostentation, freshness and the test of newness to pages on which lies on a dismaying performance tradition. To the most introspective Adagios, Leotta  approaches himself without fear choosing tempos of a magnificent amplitude and never disappointing the expectations; in the “Moonlight” he accomplishes the miracle of letting us hearing once more, with an amazing interest -never forcing the hand-  a masterpiece worn by its own celebrity; and if the final movement of his Appassionata cannot compete with the shocking version of Richter, it has at least the merit to reminding us that Beethoven marked it as an Allegro non troppo, not as a Precipitato (to my opinion, I prefer by far this interpretation than that, acclaimed but at the end so predictable, of Lang Lang). Also in the arduous last five Sonatas, Leotta knows how to impose himself with profound and captivating readings: his Hammerklavier withstands to my opinion the comparison with the version of Pollini, especially in the exemplar rendition of the immense Adagio and in the never vacillating tension of the closing Fuga, while in the Op. 111 strikes the introduction of the first movement, which reveals all of its hidden details, and the amazing firmness of the fourth variation. 

In short, we must thank Christian Leotta for one of the most significant Beethovenian integral of the last years. Well recorded, and with an excellent sound setting, the CDs are worthy to be listened many times; even who already owns other recordings more emblazoned, will find many reasons of gratification.   

Il Giornale Off, Italy, June 22nd 2014, by Nazzareno Carusi

Christian Leotta: elogio della lentezza


CD Review on the complete set of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven released by Atma Classique
  

Da qualche giorno ho iniziato ad ascoltare le 32 Sonate di Beethoven eseguite da Christian Leotta e pubblicate, in dieci dischi fra il 2008 e l’anno scorso, dalla canadese Atma Classique.

Incurante degli ordini cronologici, che nulla hanno da fare con la bellezza propria di ciò che allineano, ho messo su per prima la mia amata, la numero 24, in fa diesis maggiore, opera 78. La rivista inglese Gramophone, proprio per questa impresa, ha parlato d’una “musicalità eccezionale” del pianista catanese (classe 1980, residente a Como). Aggiungo che Leotta, il quale ho incontrato di recente a Milano dopo sedici anni, era già così da diciottenne, già con questo suonare meditato e sostanzioso, molto più che bello: penetrante, profondo: ecco, sì: profondo.

E mentre da noi arrivano, con esecuzioni inutili, santoni che al nostro immaginario sfatto sembrano tali per principio, perché si chiamano Po Pong e casomai pure Popov o Von Pop, Leotta va a fare la stragrande parte dei concerti all'estero, dove il suo pianismo serico dice una verità tanto saputa quanto negletta: ch’è più difficile suonare un Adagio d’un Prestissimo. Non che la tecnica non conti, anzi, e Christian ne ha a iosa; se però se n’accorgessero i bellissimi occhi a mandorla che scorrazzano sulle partiture nostre a duecento orari, senza freni e senza sbagliare tasto, ma anche senza sapere dove andare, potremmo almeno perdonarli di peccare tanto. Ogni nota di Leotta serve la musica; per ogni nota loro, invece, serve un Maalox...

Gramophone (UK), April 2014, by Bryce Morrison


CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume V" 

Volume 5 of five two-CD sets completes Christian Leotta's cycle of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas. He will shortly have played the sonatas 15 times in public; and even in a fiercely competitive marketplace his devotion to his task shines with an exceptional musicianship.Generally speaking, he reminds us that in Iraly, the land of operatic glory, pianists tend towards an aristocratic approach, one which scorns undue idiosyncrasy or heavily personalised gestures. And so it is that in the opening movement of theMoonlight Sonata, his flowing Adagio allows for a subtle coloration and inflection as natural as it is pensive and subdued. Indeed, such is the fine balance between sense and sensibility that you may well find yourself listening afresh to this familiar masterpiece.

He probes to the very heart of the Largo from Op 2 No 2 and his gentle rather than aggressive sparkle in the followingScherzo ensures that nothing is pushed beyond its natural limit.

He can also break out into the light, showing a robust humour in the finale of Op 10 No 2, as also in the finale of Op 31 No 3, where his brio combines with a scrupulous care for the score. In Op 54, where a touch of whimsy comes between the two mountain peaks of the Waldstein and Appassionata Sonatas, Leotta takes a firm if arguably severe hand to Beethoven's playfulness. And here I missed something of Kempffs mercurial genius (and never more so than in his live Queen Elizabeth Hall recital - BBC Legends, 2/01). Again, you may feel that everything is kept on too tight a rein in Op 101, though the third-movernenr Adagio is finely poised and speculative.

Overall, Paul Lewis's is the more wide-ranging and comprehensive cycle but there is so much to admire here in these eminently serious performances, particularly when they are so well if closely recorded.

Piano News (Germany), March 2014, by Carsten Duerer


CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume V" -  Interpretation: 5*****/Sound: 4****/Repertoire: 4****

Es ist die letzte Doppel-CD der Gesamteinspielung aller Beethoven-Sonaten des italienischen Pianisten Christian Leotta, die er in den vergangenen sechs Jahren vorgenommen hat. Dieses letzte Volume beginnt er mit der „Mondschein“-Sonate Op. 27 Nr. 2. Und schon hier zeigt sich wieder einmal die Stärke von Leottas Beethoven-Spiel: Er lässt der Musik ihren ganz eigenen Raum, ihre eigene Ausdruckskraft, versucht erst gar nicht – so hat man den Eindruck – zu viel persönliche Interpretation einfließen zu lassen. Vielmehr spielt er, was da in den Noten steht, weiß Phrasierungen immer überzeugend einzusetzen. Allein: Im Vergleich mit Kollegen ist dieses Spiel vordergründig weniger aufgeregt und damit für den Zuhörer vielleicht auch weniger spannend. Doch es ist ein Spiel, das unaufgeregt ist, aber die dramatischen Innigkeiten zum Ausdruck zu bringen vermag. Man muss sich auf dieses feinsinnige Spiel mit den kleinen Nuancen einlassen, dann erkennt man, dass Leotta zum Herzen der Musik Beethovens vordringt.

TRANSLATION:

It has been released the final double CD of the cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, which the Italian pianist Christian Leotta began to record six years ago. This last double album starts with the “Moonlight”, the Piano Sonata Op. 27 No. 2. And, already here, it is evident once more the power of the  Beethovenian interpretations of Christian Leotta: the music is the absolute protagonist, with all its expressiveness, without even trying –we get the impression- to show an interpretation which could add anything too personal. Instead,  Leotta plays everything is written on the score, with a clean phrasing, always compellingly used. One note: compared to his colleagues, this playing is apparently less excited and it might be less exciting also for the listener. But, nonetheless, it is a playing capable of bringing to the light the dramatic profoundness of the soul .You must get close to this refined interpretations, full of subtle nuances, then you will recognize how deep Leotta penetrated into the heart of the music of Beethoven. 

Neue Musikzeitung, Hamburg (Germany), February 19th 2014, by Thomas Tietze

Viele Hoch-Zeiten und ein Todesfall - Aktuelle Gesamteinspielungen der 32 Klaviersonaten von Beethoven/Eine Bilanz


Vor fünf Jahren gab es an gleicher Stelle einen Überblick über die seinerzeit im Erscheinen begriffenen, mittlerweile fertig gestellten Gesamteinspielungen der Klaviersonaten Ludwig van Beethovens unter anderem von András Schiff, Paul Lewis, Michael Korstick, Gerhard Oppitz, Ronald Brautigam und Maria Grinberg (nmz 5-2007).Die Ergebnisse waren erwartungsgemäß höchst unterschiedlich: Während etwa die äußerst penible Texttreue von András Schiff sich letztlich doch zulasten des Zugriffs und der Spontaneität auswirkte, fehlte bei dem ansonsten sehr hörenswerten Zyklus von Michael Korstick in nicht wenigen Sonaten eine gewisse Ausgewogenheit im Verhältnis der einzelnen Sätze, zu extrem waren manchmal die Tempi. Rückblickend dürfte vielleicht doch die Gesamtschau von Paul Lewis in ihrer, seinem Lehrer Brendel nicht unähnlichen, klassischen Balance die überzeugendste gewesen sein. Fest steht aber, dass das Interesse zumindest der Pianisten an Gesamtaufnahmen der Beethoven-Sonaten ungebrochen ist. So wurden in der letzten Zeit Aufnahmen der Pianisten François-Frédéric Guy, Rudolf Buchbinder, Abdel Rahman El Bacha, Mari Kodama, ganz aktuell Christian Leotta und – eher als Kuriosum – der Koreanerin HJ Lim fertiggestellt. Immer noch im Entstehungsprozess begriffen ist der Zyklus der Kanadierin Angela Hewitt, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet sowie Jonathan Biss haben gerade begonnen. Erwähnt werden muss auch die im Grunde  seit 1976 laufende Gesamteinspielung von Maurizio Pollini, der gerade die vorletzte – allerdings etwas enttäuschende – CD vorgelegt hat.

Seriöses und kraftvolles Klavierspiel bietet der Franzose François Frédéric Guy (Zig-Zag Territoires/Note 1), allerdings lässt sich bei diesen Live-Mitschnitten nicht überhören, dass hier kein großer Beethoven-Architekt am Werke ist. Nur selten fügen sich nach Anhören einer Sonate die Sätze zu einem großen Ganzen zusammen, zu vieles bleibt musikalisch im Ungefähren. Generell jedoch scheinen ihm die langsamen Sätze besonders zu liegen, wenngleich auch diese sich nicht zwingend in den Sonatenverlauf einordnen. Die späten Sonaten (vor allem Op. 110) sind rundum gelungen, hier findet Guy dann auch einen ganz anderen Zugang zur Architektur der Werke.

Völlig anders erwartungsgemäß der Ansatz von Rudolf Buchbinder, der nun seine zweite Gesamteinspielung, diesmal ebenfalls als Live-Mitschnitt, vorgelegt hat (RCA Red Seal/Sony). War der erste Zyklus aus den frühen Achtzigern noch eher als Jugendwerk einzustufen, haben wir es nun mit einer kapitalen Gesamtschau auf die großen Zweiunddreißig zu tun. Man merkt jedem Ton die jahrzehntelange Beschäftigung mit Beethoven an. Hier findet jedes Detail Beachtung, ohne dass die Interpretation in Akademismus verfällt. Mag manchmal, etwa in den langsamen Sätzen gerade der frühen Sonaten, eine letzte Versenkung fehlen, stört das nicht, denn alles ordnet sich dem klassischen Sonatenverlauf unter und erhält daher seine eigene Wirkungskraft. Und auch in Momenten schärfster Attacke (Op. 57) bewahrt Buchbinder die pianistische Contenance. So soll es ja sein, Beethoven ist hier kein verkappter Romantiker (wie bei Guy), sondern bleibt in der Wiener Klassik verwurzelt.

Ob die neue Gesamtaufnahme von Abdel Rahman El Bacha (Mirare/Harmonia Mundi) tatsächlich notwendig war, scheint mir zweifelhaft. Bereits vor rund zwanzig Jahren hatte der in der Schweiz lebende Libanese einen nicht uninteressanten Zyklus vorgelegt, der sich aber nur wenig von der neuen Gesamtschau unterscheidet. Alles scheint hier etwas zurückgenommen, die Tempi in den schnellen Sätzen, der Impetus, die Emotion, dazu kommt ein scharf umrissener, sehr pointierter Anschlag. Das alles mag ja funktionieren, auch der alte Kempff hat das so gemacht. Aber mit welchem Ergebnis! Bei El Bacha wirkt manches dann doch zu akademisch.

Genuine  Beethovenspieler scheinen dagegen Christian Leotta (Atma Classique/Musikwelt) und Jonathan Biss zu sein. So unterschiedlich der musikalische Ansatz der beiden noch jungen Pianisten ist, gemeinsam ist ihnen ein intuitives Verständnis der Beethoven’schen Strukturen und der große Bogen. Auch Leotta bevorzugt, wie El Bacha, meist zurückgenommene Tempi – der zweite Satz der kurzen Sonate Op. 54 war so langsam wohl noch nie zu hören –, aber man spürt, warum der Pianist so spielt. Dass er auch anders kann, beweist der Italiener etwa im Finalsatz der Sonate Opus 2 Nr. 3 oder im Kopfsatz der Sonate Op. 22, die er mit enormem Vorwärtsdrang und feinst ausziseliert spielt. Schade, dass Vol. 1 und 5 unter einer zu trockenen Raumakustik leiden.

Pianistisch noch verfeinerter geht der Amerikaner Jonathan Biss ans Werk (Onyx/Note 1). Man höre nur die stählerne Brillanz des extrem schwierigen zweiten Satzes der Fis-Dur-Sonate Op. 78. Hörenswert ist es, wie er den Kopfsatz der Waldsteinsonate Op. 53 mit ungeheurem Drive und gleichzeitiger Übersicht über den formalen Verlauf angeht. So ist das selten zu hören. Manchmal gehen ihm die interpretatorischen Gäule vielleicht etwas durch (beispielsweise bei den gebrochenen Dreiklängen zu Beginn der Sonate Op. 31 Nr. 1, die er eher arpeggiert als ausspielt), aber er vermeidet jeglichen Manierismus. Auch wenn bislang erst drei Folgen des Gesamtzyklus vorliegen, kann man jetzt schon sagen, dass hier ein großer Beethovenspieler heranwächst. Auf die weiteren Folgen kann man nur gespannt sein.

Erst eine Lieferung mit den frühen Sonaten bis Op. 14 hat der französische, in Detmold lehrende Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet vorgelegt. Alles was er anfasst, scheint zu Gold zu werden (Haydn, Bartók, Debussy, Ravel etc.). Das ist ihm auch hier gelungen. Zu hören ist ein durch und durch französischer, glasklarer und klassischer Beethoven, die langsamen Sätze werden eher zügig absolviert, unter gänzlichem Verzicht auf die – typisch deutsche? – Grübelei. Auch wenn das nicht jedem gefallen dürfte, überzeugend ist es als Konzept trotzdem. Eine bedeutende Aufnahme.

Seltsam unbeteiligt bleibt man übrigens bei den Aufnahmen von Angela Hewitt – bislang sind vier CDs erschienen (Hyperion/Note 1). Alles ist richtig, alles klingt gut, trotzdem wirkt das Ganze etwas domestiziert. Deutlich lebendiger und kraftvoller spielt da ihre Kollegin Mari Kodama (Pentatone Classics/Naxos).

Ob sich der große Maurizio Pollini mit der Veröffentlichung der vorletzten Folge seiner Gesamtaufnahme (Deutsche Grammophon/Universal) wirklich einen Gefallen getan hat, muss bezweifelt werden. Zwar hört man die große Gestaltungskraft des Meisters – etwa im Kopfsatz der Sonate Op. 7 – noch heraus, (zu) vieles aber klingt eher grob und scheint stellenweise pianistisch nicht mehr ganz auf der Höhe zu sein. Schade.

Ach ja, da war doch noch etwas: Wer denkt, zu Beethoven sei bereits alles gesagt, der greife zur Gesamteinspielung der noch sehr jungen Koreanerin HJ Lim (Warner Classics). Sie schafft es tatsächlich, den großen langsamen Satz der Hammerklaviersonate in weniger als 13 Minuten als gemächliches Allegretto commodo über die Bühne zu bringen (Christoph Eschenbach etwa benötigte 26 Minuten für diesen Riesensatz), dazu arpeggiert sie gerne harfenartig die Akkorde, als würde sie das „Gebet einer Jungfrau“ zum Bes­ten geben. Ansonsten bringt sie das Kunststück zuwege, in fast allen langsamen Sätzen jeden Takt in einem anderen Metrum zu spielen – in den übrigen Sätzen nur jeden zweiten Takt –, kann aber dafür die Hammerklavierfuge und das Finale der Appassionata sinn- und fehlerfrei runterrasen. Wie, so fragt man sich, kann eine solche Aufnahme freigegeben werden? 

Pizzicato (Luxembourg), February 2014, by Remy Frank


Intellektuell und instinktmäßig richtig erfasst

CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, 
Volume V" -  5*****

Mit der fünften und letzten Folge seiner Beethoven-Einspielungen bestätigt der sizilianische Pianist Christian Leotta den guten Eindruck, den seine Gesamtaufnahme bisher machte. Was in Leottas Spiel imponiert, ist die absolute technische Sicherheit und Souveränität der Gestaltung. Der Pianist hat dieses Opus Magnum derart sein eigen gemacht, die Sonaten nicht nur intellektuell, sondern auch instinktmäßig erfasst, dass alles richtig klingt, obgleich die Interpretationen durchaus persönlich wirken.

Das Klavier ist sonor, der Anschlag ist immer schön und warm, der Tempofluss vorbildlich, auch in langsamen Sätzen, die durchaus verinnerlicht klingen und entsprechend bewegend auf den Hörer einwirken.

Ein weiteres wichtiges Merkmal ist die Nähe der frühen Sonaten zu den späten Werken. Das ist das Resultat eines perfekt abgewogenen Spiels, einer immer spontan wirkenden Inspiriertheit mit einer glücklichen Verbindung von Energie und Sensibilität. Man missverstehe mich nicht: Leotta mag auf Extreme verzichten, keine überdehnten langsamen Tempi wählen und keine tobende Wildheit anstreben, aber in der Bandbreite dessen, was er formuliert, manifestiert sich eine Tiefe und eine Genauigkeit der Einfühlung sowie ein Reichtum agogischer, dynamischer und farblicher Zwischenwerte, die seine Interpretationen sehr persönlich werden lassen.

Dass dieses wunderbare Spiel dann auch noch in einem vorbildlich transparenten und natürlichen Klangbild zum Hörer gebracht wird, ist ein weiteres Plus der Atma-Aufnahmen.

Christian Leotta concludes his Beethoven cycle with, once more, very personal, highly inspired and overall sovereign performances. With out any doubt he is one of the major Beethoven soloists of our time.

TRANSLATION: 

A perfect understanding with intellect and instinct 

With the fifth and final volume of his recordings of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas, the Sicilian pianist Christian Leotta confirms the excellent impression which his cycle has already made so far.

What is really impressive in Leotta’s playing, is the absolute technique’s command and the sovereignty of the form. The pianist made this Opus Magnum so well his own, understanding it not only with his intellect but also with his instinct, that everything sounds perfectly, although his interpretations seem to be truly personal. 

The piano is sonorous, the touch is always beautiful and warm, the tempo’s flow exemplary, even in the slow movements, which sound deeply introspective moving the listener.

Another important feature of this recording is the closeness of the early sonatas to the late works. This is the result of a perfectly harmonious interpretation and of an always spontaneous inspiration, combined with a fortunate synthesis between power and sensibility. Please do not misunderstand me: Leotta may avoid extremes, he may not choose overstretched slow tempos or seek raging wildness in the fast ones, but in the spectrum of his playing we perfectly hear a deep and precise feeling, as well as a wealth of agogics and a search of colorful halftones, that render his interpretations very personal.

The fact that this wonderful pianism is transmitted to listeners through to an exemplary sound, remarkable for its transparency and its naturalness, is another plus of this Atma-recording.

Christian Leotta concludes his Beethoven cycle with, once more, very personal, highly inspired and overall sovereign performances. Without any doubt he is one of the major Beethoven soloists of our time.

La Provincia (Italy), January 28th 2014, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli

Così il piano di Leotta conquista il mondo di Beethoven 


CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume V"

E' uscita anche in ltalia l'ultima coppia di cd (volume V) dell'integrale delle sonate di Beethoven che Christian Leotta ha inciso per Atma Classique. 

Si è così completata la serie discografica di un progetto che Leotta, comasco di studi. sta portando in giro nel mondo, realizzandola in otto concerti che esegue nell'arco di un mese, circa. Da quasi dieci anni Leotta (esegue anche altri programmi non beethoveniani) coltiva questa vera e propria impresa dell'integrale delle 32 Sonate: a 22 anni è stato il primo giovane a rapportarsi con il pianismo totale del grande di Bonn, tanto da farlo diventare parte del proprio mondo spirituale. La prima volta è stato in Canada, la seconda, subito dopo, Como si è accaparrato l'evento, al Carducci durante la stagione concertistica 2003. 

«Beethoven bisogna "sentirlo" affinché i vostri ascoltatori pure lo possano "sentire" -afferma il famoso pianista Wilhelm Kempff- poiché si tratta di un mondo non si può pretendere di conquistarlo in un giorno». Leotta, dunque, penetrando il titanico mondo pianistico del rivoluzionario Beethoven riscuote ovunque grandi consensi di pubblico e di critica. Perciò non ci sentiamo soli (per questioni di campanile) nell'elogiare Christian interprete dell' autore prediletto, riconoscendogli personalità sonora originale e istintiva caratterizzazione di ogni pagina. 

Ovvio l'uso di una lucida e rigorosa tecnica mai ostentata ancorché forbitissima tanto ricca di colori quanto di sensibilità timbrica e fraseologica. Sicché il giovane interprete dà prova di possedere in toto il dominio della tastiera alla quale applica tutto il lavoro compiuto quotidianamente in poco meno di trent'anni. In ogni fase delle sue tappe Leotta ha dimostrato una bella crescita artistica e musicale per giungere a quella maturità che oggi gli si può riconoscere. Nulla da lui è lasciato al caso o all'improvvisazione ma è pensato con profonda meditazione e tanto studio. 

Il doppio cd contiene: la Sonata n.14 (Chiaro di luna) op.27 n. 2; la n.2 op.2 n.2; la n.16 op.31 n.l; la n.6 op. 10 n.2; la n. 18 op. 31 n. 3; la n. 22 op. 54 per concludere con la n.28 op. 101. Una miscellanea che copre le tre famose fasi del corpus delle Sonate: l'adolescente, l'uomo, il dio - secondo la formula enfatica coniata da Liszt.

TRANSLATION: 

Leotta conquers with his Piano the world of Beethoven  

Atma Classique released in Italy the final double CD (Volume V) of the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas recorded by Christian Leotta. Thus, the CD series of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven recorded by Christian Leotta is finally complete. The live performance of the cycle of the 32 Piano Sonatas is a notable music project that the Como-based Leotta is constantly playing around the world, in a series of eight recitals, presented over a period of about one month. Since over ten years, Leotta –known for his performances of other composers as well-  dedicated himself to this great undertaking. At the age of 22 he became the youngest performer to play the whole corpus of this magnificent music composed by the genius of Bonn, which become part of his spiritual world. The first performance of the complete Beethovenian cycle was presented in Canada; the second one, soon after, in the city of Como, which had the honor to schedule the event at the Carducci Society during the 2003 concert season.

“Beethoven must be ‘deeply felt’ by the performer for your listeners to be able to ‘feel’ him as well” -stated once the famous pianist Wilhelm Kempff – “…since his music is a world, one cannot expect to conquer it in one day”. Leotta, thus, penetrating the titanic world of the pianism of the revolutionary Beethoven, is collecting anywhere he goes great audience and critic acclaims. Therefore, we do not feel alone in praising Christian as an outstanding interpreter of his favorite composer, for his sound originality and for his natural musical instinct, which allow him to perform with the right character any page he plays.

We  also find remarkable the interpreter's lucid and rigorous technique, never ostentatious, yet extremely polished and rich in color, sensitivity of touch, and phrasing. The young performer displays an absolute command of the keyboard, to which he applies the knowledge conquered through a disciplined and continuous work, made in nearly thirty years. At every stage of his career Leotta has shown a wonderful artistic and musical growth, reaching the maturity that nowadays is recognized to him. He leaves nothing to chance or improvisation, projecting everything through by means of deep meditation and as much study.

The double CD comprises: the sonata No. 14 (Moonlight) , Op. 27, No. 2; the No. 2, Op. 2, No. 2; the No.16, Op. 31, No. 1;  the No, 6, Op. 10, No. 2; the No. 18, Op. 31, No. 3; the No. 22, Op. 54, concluding with the sonata No. 28, Op.101. A miscellany that covers the three famous phases of the composer’s live though his Piano Sonatas’ corpus: the teenager, the man, the God, formulated emphatically by Liszt.

Musica (Italy), December 2013/January 2014, by Luca Segalla

CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, 
Volume IV": 4****

La capacità analitica, la chiarezza della visione d'insieme, il rigore della forma e la pulizia esecutiva caratterizzano l'integrale beethoveniana di Christian Leotta, giunta al quarto volume. Fino ad ora il pianista catanese, ma comasco di adozione, ha dato prova di saper seguire con coerenza la sua linea interpretativa, senza alcun passaggio a vuoto.Questo incedere severo e sicuro a volte si rivela fin troppo arcigno, come nello Scherzo della Pastorale e nella Sonata « Les Adieux », compita e un poco ingessata, dove si vorrebbero più abbandoni e più leggerezza. Il secondo movimento de Les Adieux - ma lo stesso può dirsi dell'Adagio molto dell'op. 10 n. 1 - è spoglio ed essenziale, come se i sentimenti fossero messi impietosamente a nudo senza alcuna concessione alla dolcezza consolatoria del canto. Il fatto è che la paletta timbrica di Leotta non è particolarmente ricca, anche se il controllo del tocco e delle dinamiche è pregevole. Capita raramente, ad esempio, di ascoltare un primo movimento della Pastorale, particolarmente insidioso per la sua tessitura scoperta, eseguito con una simile uniformità di peso e colore. E l'Andante ha una freschezza e un sapore altrettanto rari, per la fluidità e la naturalezza del fraseggio.

Non desta stupore, con queste premesse, che le pagine più convincenti siano proprio le più complesse sul piano della forma e le più impegnative per la tenuta tecnica, come il finale della Sonata op. 10 n. 1, reso con un piglio severo e deciso, senza alcuna concessione alla brillantezza e alle seduzioni del timbro. Proprio nell'op. 10 n. 1, insieme all'op. 7, Leotta raggiunge i risultati migliori, allo stesso modo in cui nei precedenti volumi dell'integrale spiccavano le interpretazioni di due sonate "monstre" come l'op. 110 e l'op. 111 (cfr. nn. 199 e 229 di MUSICA). Sono interpretazioni sorrette da sonorità ampie e robuste, lucide ed essenziali, lontane da ogni tentazione di fare sfoggio di bravura tecnica.

Leotta, oggi trentatreenne, aveva in repertorio ed eseguiva in pubblico tutte le trentadue sonate già a ventidue anni; ha avuto modo di meditare e di sperimentare a lungo questa integrale prima di affidarla al disco e si percepisce subito, all'ascolto, di essere di fronte a un interprete con le idee molto chiare. Basterebbe citare il piglio deciso con cui attacca la Sonata op. 90, il modo in cui tiene a bada in furori giovanili beethoveniani nella Sonata op. 2 n. 1, resa con grande classe e senza mai farsi prendere la mano, soprattutto in un Finale che mai rischia di trasformarsi in una cavalcata scomposta. Per non dire del difficile primo movimento della Sonata op. 7, perfettamente dominato sul piano della tecnica, e del successivo Largo con gran espressione, imrnerso in una severità solenne, molto suggestiva.

La Scena Musicale, Montreal (Canada), October 2013, by Renèe Banville 

The Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur celebrates its 25th anniversary


Since 1988, the Chapel has welcomed almost 15,000 performers in over 5,000 concerts. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, artistic director Guy Soucie will feature performers who, since 1988, have grown and made a place for themselves in music. Pianist Wonni Song, a regular at the Chapel since its opening, inaugurates the musical season on October 1. Also worth mentioning is Marc-André Hamelin, Alexandre Tharaud, Christian Leotta, Oliver Jones, and lan Parker. On December l, a benefit concert under the honorary presidency of Paolo Fazioli, maker of the Chapel's famous piano, willbring together Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Karina Gauvin, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Gramophone (UK), August 2013, by Bryce Morrison

Italian Beethoven specialist's fourth discs of sonatas 

CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, 
Volume IV"
 
For once the hyperbole rings true. Christian Leotta's fourth volume of Beethoven sonatas is indeed "a major addition to other sets currently available". Musicianly to the core, this young ltalian pianist quietly but unmistakably commands your attention at every level.

His musical focus and concentration are unswerving, nothing is rushed or overly volatile, everything is scrupulously placed yet illuminated with acute detail and vitality. You will rarely encounter performances more meticulously prepared.

An excepionally measured start to the Les adieux Sonata is followed by a robust and eloquent Allegro and in the Adagio there is a magical awareness of Beethoven's departure from classical precepts into a pioneering world of Romantic evocation. Again, Leotta's way with slow movements is a particular source of wonder, with a near-mystical aura hanging over Op 10 No 1's central Adagio; something that takes you far ahead to the transcendental world of the last sonatas. I could imagine a more free-flowing opening Allegro to the Pastoral Sonata; this is unusually pensive but such is Leotta's musical strength that everything coheres and convinces. In the grand design of Op 7 he achieves an admirable vigour and impulse and, more generally, you note the way codas, whether hushed or virtuoso, are given a special sense of occasion and finality. ATMA Classique's sound captures all of the pianist's quality and Vol 5 will be welcomed with open arms.

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico),  June 23rd 2013, by Jaime Garcia Elias

...Desde la larga introducción del Concierto para piano y orquesta No. 1 en Re menor, Op. 15, el lenguaje corporal de Christian Leotta, frente al piano, fue elocuente... El Concierto de Brahms sirvió de tarjeta de presentación a un Christian Leotta del que ya se conocía su identificación con Beethoven y el dominio de sus partituras... Leotta, tan musical en los pasajes vigorosos como en los apacibles, correspondió a la ovación (sala casi llena) con dos encores.

TRANSLATION:

...Since the big orchestral introduction of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15, the body language of Christian Leotta, at the piano, was eloquent... Knowing  Christian Leotta for his identification with Beethoven and the mastery of his scores, the Brahms Piano Concerto served to reveal us other aspects of his personality... Leotta, equally musical in the vigorous passages as well as in the delicate ones, gave two encores to thank the standing ovation of the public.

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), June 20th 2013

Los europeos roban aplausos en el Degollado - El virtuoso Christian Leotta le mostró al público tapatío su dominio del piano, acompañado de Oriol Sans.    

…El momento cúspide de la noche llegó. Ya no era sólo Oriol Sans ante el público; ahora también se podía admirar al pianista Christian Leotta, nacido en Catania (Italia) y que apenas rebasa los 30 años. Sentado ante el piano, con los músicos de la OFJ listos para mostrar la valía de la casa, Christian Leotta comenzó con el ''Concierto para Piano y Orquesta No. 1'' de Johannes Brahms, dividido en tres partes y estrenado en el año de 1859. En esta pieza caben los sentimientos que el autor tuvo al enterarse del intento de suicidio de un amigo, con una muestra de pasión que el pianista supo transmitir a todo el público que se conmovió a cada minuto. Los europeos hicieron suyo al público y al teatro. No había otra manera de despedirlos que con un aplauso estruendoso".

TRANSLATION:

Much applauses at Degollado for the Europeans - The virtuoso Christian Leotta showed to the public of Guadalajara his mastery of the keyboard, accompanied by Oriol Sans.    

...The memorable moment of the night has arrived. Before the public it was no longer only Oriol Sans. The audience could now also admire the pianist Christian Leotta, born in Catania (Italy), who is only in his early thirties. 
Sitting at the piano, with the musicians of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jalisco ready to give their best, Christian Leotta performed the ''Piano Concerto No. 1'' by Johannes Brahms, consisting of three movements and premiered in 1859. In this piece are well expressed the feelings that its author experienced when he learned of the attempted suicide of his friend Robert Schumann, which the pianist brilliantly conveyed to the public with passion, being able to move the audience at every passage of his performance. The Europeans entirely conquered the public and the theater. 
There was no other way to thank them but with thunderous applause.

Applaus (Germany), May 2013, by R.A.

CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume IV"

Christian Leotta wird als großer Beethoven-Interpret gefeiert. Er verfügt über eine stupende Virtuosität und einen perlenden Anschlag. Der Steinway klingt glanzvoll... Der CD-Sound ist vorbildlich transparent und natürlich.

TRANSLATION:

Christian Leotta is regarded to be as one of the finest interpreter of Beethoven. He possesses a stupendous virtuosity, showing a marvelous playing. The sound he produces on his Steinway is fascinating… The CD sound is exemplary transparent and natural.
 
Hong Kong Economic Times, Hong Kong (China) February 2nd 2013

Christian Leotta's Piano Recital: a Music Feast


TRANSLATION:

There is no free lunch in economic theory but the recital of the young Italian pianist Christian Leotta at the Sheung Wan Civic Centre Theatre was indeed a magnificent free music feast for the Hong Kong audience: music is about sharing.

The concert title was “The Three Manners of Ludwig van Beethoven and the Art of the Sonata Form”, including the lighter music of Beethoven’s early stage, Op. 14 No. 2 & Op. 49, No. 2, and also the bright and technically demanding middle and late stage music of the “Waldstein” and the “Hammerklavier”.

Christian has a solid technique: the four Sonatas sounded brilliant and clear. He is also very professional: in the 2nd part of the concert the venue forgot to dim the light; thus, he played till the 3rd movement of the Hammerklavier, needing then to wait for the light technicians about 10min to settle the situation: certainly, the venue is to be blamed for that. While Christian resumed playing perfectly, his music made the audience forget about the inconvenience.

The impeccable performance of Christian was much admired.

The acoustic of the venue was not bad, being at least better than that of the music hall of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, which can ruin any music.

Christian is a pianist which showed to be good in attitude, technique, professionalism and personal qualities. After the recital we heard in Hong Kong, I'm convinced that his Beethoven will no doubt ensure him a great future on the international music scene. 

Rondo (Germany), January 2013, by Matthias Kornermann

CD Review on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume IV"
Junge Pianisten, die sich einmal an Beethoven versuchen, sind Legion. Doch das Beethoven-Gen, das Spieler befähigt, die „32“ gestalterisch zu durchdringen, ist selten. Das schmerzerregende Geklimper von HJ Lim hat das kürzlich gezeigt. Der inzwischen 32-jährige Italiener Christian Leotta aber scheint es in sich zu tragen... Leotta hat einen unerhört ausgeprägten Sinn für die dramaturgischen Funktionen und Farbwechsel solcher Übergangsmomente, die er gelegentlich unter höchste Erwartungsspannung zu setzen vermag... Dieses Projekt kündigt es uns doch einen Beethovenspieler an, dem in seiner Generation kaum jemand das Wasser reichen wird. Ich wünschte mir, er könnte es deutschen Auditorien bald beweisen. 

TRANSLATION:

There are legion of young pianists who try once to play Beethoven. Nevertheless, the Beethovenian gene which enables performers to penetrate and playing creatively the "32" is very rare. The painful strum of HJ Lim has recently showed that. On the contrary, the now 32-year-old Italian Christian Leotta, seems to posses it... Leotta has an incredibly strong feeling for the dramatic changes of colors, playing such transitional moments with an impressive emotive tension... this cycle reveled us an interpreter of Beethoven to which it will be very difficult to compare any other pianist of his generation. I wish to listen to him soon in the German auditoriums. 

The Whole Note (Canada), December 2012, by Christina Petrowska Quilico   

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume IV"

Christian Leotta obliges us with his personal interpretation of the sonatas. He has a prodigious technique and an innate musicality. I admire his attention to the form and structure of each movement and his exquisite detailing. Volume 4 includes sonatas from Opp.2, 7, 10, 28, 81a and 90 and in it Leotta has presented us with another extremely worthy CD that deserves many hearings.

Pizzicato (Luxemburg), December 2012, by  Remy Frank

Identité

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas,
Volume IV"

Un discours clair et bien articulé, enrichi de nuances dynamiques et d'un rubato expressif: la carte d'identité de Ludwig van ne pourrait être plus identifiable dans ce 4e volume de l'intégrale du pianiste italien Christian Leotta. Dans ce programme de six sonates nous aimons le caractère rebelle de l'opus 7, le contraste entre détermination et relaxation dans l'opus 90 (27e sonate). 'Les adieux', trop posés, lui réussissent moins bien, malgré un finale impétueux, mais Leotta joue la 'Sonate Pastorale' dans une décontraction totale et une simplicité expressive admirable, sans fausse mélancolie et sans surcharge sentimentale.

TRANSLATION:

Identity 

A clear and well articulated playing, enriched by dynamic nuances and an expressive rubato: the identity of Ludwig van Beethoven could not be any better recognizable in this fourth volume of the 32 Sonatas Cycle recorded by the Italian pianist  Christian Leotta. In the program consisting of six sonatas, we like the rebellious character of opus 7 and the contrast between determination and relaxation in opus 90 (Sonata No. 27). "Les Adieux", too poised, is less achieved despite an impetuous finale, but Leotta plays the "Pastoral Sonata" with absolute control and an admirable expressive simplicity, without false melancholy nor sentimentalism surcharge. 

L'Eco di Bergamo, Bergamo (Italy) October 7th 2012, by Bernardino Zappa

Leotta, il giovane che affronta Beethoven con naturalezza

Non è frequente. Eppure la definizione di Christian Leotta, trentaduenne catanese, passa attraverso un solo autore: Ludwig van Beethoven.

Pianisti versati in modo esclusivo verso un autore, soprattutto da giovani, nella storia della musica non mancano: pensiamo a Glenn Gould e Bach, a Mitsuko Uchida e Mozart, a Cortot e Chopin, allo stesso Ramin Bahrami e Bach, in tempi recenti. Molto più raro è il caso di un rapporto esclusivo con Beethoven. Un autore che vari pianisti carismatici hanno messo in repertorio, ma solo nella piena maturità. Perché la musica del genio di Bonn è per sua natura composita, densa, complessa, profonda, difficilmente definibile pianisticamente.

Di fronte a un giovane che si presenta come specialista di Beethoven, una certa prudenza è quasi inevitabile. Così dopo pochi passi delle Bagatelle op. 126, con piacevole stupore giovedì scorso il pubblico della Sala Greppi ha potuto constatare lo spessore e l’autorevolezza di Christian Leotta. Un’autorevolezza che appare connaturata al modo di vivere e restituire le pagine beethoveniane. Nelle Bagatelle il piglio virava, efficacemente, verso una dolcezza e una grazia di dettaglio a volte schubertiana (gli anni sono gli stessi), nelle magistrali Diabelli-Variationen op. 120 l’interprete sembrava tuffarsi pieno di ardore e vigore nelle trame e nelle dialettiche ora contrappuntistiche ora pienamente sonatistiche dell’ultimo capitolo pianistico beethoveniano. C’era una sorta di connaturata identità di sentire, quasi che la laboriosità instancabile fosse intimamente condivisa.


TRANSLATION:

Leotta, the young pianist who faces Beethoven so naturally

It is not very frequent. Yet, the definition of Christian Leotta, a 32 year old from Catania, passes through one composer only: Ludwig van Beethoven.

Pianists that concentrate exclusively on one composer, especially starting at a very young age, are not lacking in the history of music: let us take, for example, Glen Gould and Bach, Mitsuko Uchida and Mozart, Cortot and Chopin and, even more recently, Ramin Bahrami and Bach. Less frequent though is the case of an exclusive relationship with Beethoven. Still, Beethoven is an author that various charismatic pianists  have  included in their repertoire, but solely in full swing maturity. That, because the music of the genius of Bonn is, by its nature, composite, dense, complex, profound,  hard to define pianistically.

In front of a young man who presents himself as a Beethovenian specialist, a certain amount of caution is almost inevitable. Thus, last Thursday, after a few passages through the Bagatelles Op.126, the audience in the Greppi Hall has been able to ascertain, with pleasant astonishment, Christian Leotta's great acumen and authoritativeness. An authoritativeness that appears inherent to the way Leotta lives and renders the pages of Beethoven's works. As far as the Bagatelles were concerned, his brilliant tone turned compellingly towards sweetness and a grace of details, Schubertian at times (as the years were the same). In the masterfully-executed Diabelli Variations Op. 120, the interpreter seemed to immerse himself completely, with vigor and ardour, in the music textures and dialectics -at times counterpointistic and at times in a clear sonata form- of the last chapter of Beethoven's piano creation. There was a congenial identity of feeling, as if the interpreter was, intimately and indefatigably, sharing with the composer his very source of inspiration. 

La Provincia, Como (Italy), August 12th 2012, by Alberto Cima

Chi ha paura di puntare alla classica? Dopo Leotta i Festival ci pensino

La musica classica accalappia, nel "Festival città di Cernobbio", un pubblico numerosissimo (presenti oltre mille persone, con un centinaio persino in piedi, sistemati come potevano al di fuori della location), da fare invidia ai più popolari concerti pop e rock, grazie alla magnifica esecuzione del giovane pianista comasco Christian Leotta.

Questo evento dovrebbe far riflettere i vari promoter (lariani, ma non solo) e gli organizzatori che dovrebbero ormai considerare la musica classica non più una "Cenerentola" degli spettacoli estivi, ma una "primadonna" a tutti gli effetti.

Il pubblico c'è; basta saper scegliere gli interpreti giusti. Lo stesso Festival cernobbiese, che pure quest'anno ha privilegiato i concerti "contaminati", ha avuto il coraggio di proporre un concerto straordinario, che è diventato l'evento della manifestazione stessa.

Speriamo che se ne tenga conto nella prossima edizione. D'altronde le città di Milano e Lugano sono un eclatante esempio di questo trend, dove l'afflusso del pubblico è sempre più numeroso (Sala Verdi, Auditorio di largo Mahler, Auditorio della Rsi e Palazzo dei Congressi).

L'arte beethoveniana di Christian Leotta è rilevante e in continua ascesa; pone in luce, grazie alla sua tecnica vibrante e alla melodia intimistica, gli aspetti più interiori del genio di Bonn. Il concerto del fuoriclasse Leotta è stato preceduto dalla palpitante esibizione della pianista Miriam Rìgamonti, di soli vent'anni, che ha eseguito la "Sonata n. 2" di Scriabin.

TRANSLATION:

Afraid to bet on the classical music? Pursuing Leotta’s recital, Festival organizers should think twice about it

At the "Festival Città di Cernobbio", the classical music reunited a large audience thanks to the magnificent performance of the young Como-based pianist Christian Leotta.  On the occasion, more than one thousand people were present in the concert hall, while more than one hundred  were standing, clustered as they could, outside the premises.  That is enough to cause envy to the most popular pop and rock concerts.

This event should induce to reflection the various promoters (from Northern Italy, but not only) and event’s organizers who should no longer consider the classical music as the "Cindarella" of the summer events, but a "Prima donna" to all effects. 
The public is there; one just have to know how to choose the right artists. The Festival of Cernobbio, which has privileged this year the so-called "contaminated" concerts, has had the courage to propose an extraordinary concert that has become “the event” of the manifestation.

We hope that they will take this into account for the next edition.  After all,  the cities of Milan and Lugano, where the inflow of the public is always more numerous (the Sala Verdi, the Mahler Auditorium, the Auditorium of the RSI, and the Palazzo dei Congressi ) are a striking example of this trend.

Christian Leotta’s artistry to perform Beethoven’s music is compelling and in a continuous ascent; thanks to his vibrating technique and to his intimistic interpretation, his performance  brings to light the innermost aspects of the soul and the spirit of the genius of Bonn. The concert of the phenomenal Leotta was preceded by the moving performance of  the young pianist Miriam Rigamonti (only 20 years old), who performed the Sonata No. 2 by Scriabin.

CiaoComo.it, Como (Italy),  August 10th  2012

Magica serata a Villa Erba: Leotta incanta tutti

Straordinaria abilità al piano. Il concerto di Christian Leotta, ieri sera a Villa Erba per il Festival città di Cernobbio, è stato davvero molto apprezzato dal numeroso pubblico presente in sala: applausi per il noto pianista al termine dell'esibizione con una serie di brani di Beethoven affrontati con grande determinazione. Un magico Leotta per questa occasione, "introdotto" dalla giovane Miriam Rigamonti anch'essa al piano. Il Festival, organizzato dal comune di Cernobbio (e sempre ad ingresso libero a Villa Erba), prosegue ora domani sera con il concerto di Max Gazzè accompagnato dalla Filarmonica Toscanini. Altre serate domenica e mercoledì 15 per chiudere.

TRANSLATION:

Magical evening at Villa Erba: Leotta spellbinds all

Extraordinary virtuosity. The concert offered by Christian Leotta yesterday evening at Villa Erba in the framework of the Festival of Cernobbio was extremely appreciated by the large audience present in the concert hall: applauses for the well-known pianist at the end of his performance  of  a series of Beethoven’s piano compositions performed with great determination.  A magical Leotta, preceded, by way of introduction, by the young pianist Miriam Rigamonti. The Festival, organized by the municipality of Cernobbio (always to free admission to Villa Erba), continues tomorrow evening with a concert of Max Gazzè, accompanied by the Toscanini Philharmonic Orchestra. Further performances on Sunday evening and on Wednesday the 15th, for the closure.

Musical Toronto (Canada), June 26th 2012, by John Terauds

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume IV"

Montreal’s ATMA Classique today released the fourth volume in a five-volume complete set of the Beethoven Piano sonatas played by Italian pianist Christian Leotta. The 2-CD set jumps around Beethoven’s chronology, combining three early efforts (Nos 1, 4 and 5) with a middle sonata (No. 15, the “Pastoral”) and later works (Nos 26 “Les Adieux” and 27).
 
Leotta is meticulousness itself, having carefully consulted every credible edition of the works, adhering to the composer’s interpretation instructions, and then laying out each piece on a modern concert piano with a fine mix of warm, elegant restraint and fiery outbursts of virtuosity.
 
This fourth volume of sonatas is very good. Leotta’s programming mix provides a nice set of contrasting moods and structures. It builds nicely on his previous three releases, which ATMA began releasing four years ago, and bodes well for the final volume, due out next year.

Piano News (Germany), No. 2 - March/April 2012, by Isabel Fedrizzi

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume III" 

Interpretation: 5* - Sound: 5* - Repertoire: 5*

Die Diskographie des italienischen Pianisten Christian Leotta ist nicht umfangreich und nicht vielseitig – im Wesentlichen sind es drei CDs mit Beethoven-Sonaten, die bei dem französischkanadischen Label Atma Classique erschienen. Zwei er-folgreiche CDs mit Pathétique, Appassionata, Waldstein und Hammerklavier-Sonate gingen voran, die dritte CD der Serie umfasst frühe Sonaten wie op. 2 oder op. 49 und endet mit der späten Sonate op. 110. Und Christian Leotta, Schüler von Karl-Ulrich Schnabel, dem Sohn Artur Schnabels, spielt Beethoven sehr vordergründig, frei von Gefühlsduselei. Er hat einen gleichermaßen ernsthaften, nachdenklichen wie auch freien und experimentierfreudigen Zugang zu den Sonaten. Außerdem hat er die notwendige Brillanz, den rhythmischen Puls und die vorwärtsdrängende Unruhe so vieler Sonaten fesselnd herauszuheben.

Er ahmt nicht die gewollte Expressivität mancher Interpretationen nach, sondern entwickelt ein natürliches Spiel, das immer in Bewegung bleibt, und erreicht eine ausgewogene Mischung von packendem Zugriff und lyrischem Ton. Schon seit 2002 spielt der Pianist den Zyklus auswendig vielfach in der Gesamtheit – seine intensive Beschäftigung mit Beethoven spürt man an seiner erstaunlichen Farbpalette, der Anschlag ist feinsinnig und Melodisches
wird so intensiv herausgehoben, wie man es eher bei romantischen Klavierwerken erwarten würde. Seine Gestaltung reicht bis in die kleinen rhythmischen Nuancen und Akzentuierungen. Unbedingt hörenswert.

TRANSLATION:

The discography of Italian pianist Christian Leotta is neither particularly ample nor multiform: it essentially consists of three double albums comprising some of the Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, published by the French-Canadian label Atma Classique. Two successful albums, including the Pathetic, the Appassionata, the Waldstein, and the Hammerklavier, were released first followed by  the third one of the series, which includes some of the early Piano Sonatas, such as the Op. 2 and the Op. 49, as well as the late Op. 110. Christian Leotta, pupil of Karl-Ulrich Schnabel, son of Artur Schnabel, plays Beethoven with great clarity and without sentimentalism. His approach to the Sonatas is always profound, meditative, but nonetheless capable of being free and very inspired. In addition, he knows how to confer to his performances the right brilliancy, which he brings out very compellingly to render in the best way possible -  in such diverse Piano Sonatas - the right rhythmic impulse and tense pace expressiveness. 

Leotta does not imitate the intentional expressiveness of some interpretation, but knows how to draw out and develop a natural sound, which is always characterized by emotion, possessing a perfect balance between very precise playing and a more cantabile tone. It is since 2002 that he has been playing by memory the complete cycle of the 32 Piano Sonatas in public several times. His great work with Beethoven is immediately recognizable thanks to his extraordinary palette of colors, to his refined touch and to his cantabile, performed so intensely as would be expected of the great interpretations of the past. Christian Leotta shows great care also for the form, which extends  to the most subtle stylistic nuances and to all the accentuations. Absolutely worthy to be listened to. 
 
Corriere del Ticino, Lugano (Switzerland), March 24th 2012, by Alberto Cima

Il Beethoven controcorrente di Christian Leotta

Il giovane pianista Christian Leotta si è esibito giovedì sera nella Chiesa Parrocchiale San Zenone a Campione d’Italia, in un récital di elevata difficoltà, sia tecnica sia espressiva. In programma quattro Sonate di Beethoven: op. 14 n. 2, op. 53 «Waldstein», op. 49 n. 1 e op. 106 «Hammerklavier».

Molto personali le interpretazioni di Christian Leotta, che comunque danno un tocco particolare alla visione beethoveniana, del tutto condivisibile. La conoscenza della grammatica pianistica non è sufficiente per interpretare il genio di Bonn, è necessario penetrare il suo mondo poetico. Cosa che riesce assai bene a Leotta. I tempi sono generalmente più «allargati» rispetto alla consueta prassi esecutiva di Beethoven, specialmente gli «Adagio», proprio perché il pianista vuole mettere in risalto l’aspetto più interiore del compositore. Risulta quindi un Beethoven più intimistico, maggiormente cantabile, meno veemente e titanico, anche se non mancano i momenti tecnici e virtuosistici «alla Beethoven». In un mondo dove sembra predominare l’aspetto virtuosistico, quasi robotizzato, all’insegna della tecnica e delle note sempre «perfette», prive di sbavature, Christian Leotta sembra andare controcorrente e scova inoltre la riflessione, la meditazione, il raccoglimento, la contemplazione all’insegna di un Beethoven sempre più umano. Aspetti dei quali il mondo moderno sembra avere ognora bisogno.

Sia la comprensione spirituale delle musiche pianistiche di Beethoven, che si richiede al loro esecutore, sia il superamento delle non lievi difficoltà possono essere raggiunti solo se si impara a conoscerle e studiarle tutte e trentadue, cosa che ha fatto Leotta (è infatti l’unico pianista, unitamente a Barenboim, ad avere eseguito pubblicamente l’integrale beethoveniana a soli ventidue anni). Poiché se anche un abile esecutore può imparare un singolo pezzo sino a un certo grado di perfezione, pure gli rimarrà estraneo quello spirito e carattere (humor) proprio, quella geniale libertà e quel profondo sentimento per le bellezze che si trovano, talvolta nascoste, nella massa totale delle composizioni di Beethoven e che danno quindi, in un certo senso, la chiave di lettura per ogni singola opera.

L’interpretazione di Christian Leotta va, in definitiva, oltre il classicismo comunemente inteso per approdare allo «Sturm und Drang» e al «Romanticismo» non apertamente dichiarato dagli storici, ma che è un tutt’uno con la musica e l’anima beethoveniana. In questo senso le sue interpretazioni faranno «storia».

Le interpretazioni di Christian Leotta si apprezzano non solo per la tecnica agguerrita, ma anche per la poeticità che questa sa emanare. Magnifico il suo tocco, suadente la sonorità sempre ricercata, continua la ricerca del sound e della timbrica. Un bis: l’«Andante» dalla Sonata op. 79, sempre di Beethoven.

TRANSLATION:

The countercurrent Beethoven of Christian Leotta

A very demanding program, from both the technical and expressive points of view, was performed by the young pianist Christian Leotta on Thursday evening in the San Zenone’s Auditorium in Campione d'Italia. The program consisted of four Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: the Op. 14 No.2, the Op. 53 “Waldstein”, the Op. 49 No. 1, and the Op. 106 “Hammerklavier”.

The interpretations of Christian Leotta are very personal, granting nonetheless a special contribution to the Beethovenian vision, which is absolutely sharable. Mastering an excellent technique is not sufficient to perform  Beethoven’s music. Something more is necessary and that is a deep understanding of this genius’ poetic world.  Leotta succeeds in this task very well. His tempos are generally “expanded” in regard to what’s considered the usual practice in performing Beethoven, especially the Adagios, exactly because the pianist wants to bring to light the innermost world of the composer. The ensuing result is, thus, a more intimist Beethoven, greatly cantabile, less vehemently titanic, even though the so characteristic Beethovenian technical and virtuosic passages are not missing. In a world where the virtuosic – at times almost robotic - interpretation seems to prevail, showing just technique and  "perfect" notes, totally devoid of any flaw, Christian Leotta seems to go  against the tide, bringing  forth also reflection, meditation, introspection and contemplation, uncovering thus an infinitely more humane Beethoven. Aspects which  today’s modern world needs more and more.

Both the spiritual understanding of Beethoven’s piano music and the overcoming of major technical difficulties, required by the performer, can only be achieved if the entire corpus of all the 32 Piano Sonatas is mastered, as in the case of Leotta, who is, in fact, the only pianist along with Barenboim who in public performed  the Beethovenian cycle at only 22. Although an able performer can learn a single sonata to some degree of perfection, foreign to him and missing will always be the true Beethovenian spirit and character (humor), the genial sense of freedom and that deep sense of beauty that is found, at time hidden, in the entire corpus of the compositions that give, therefore, in a certain way, the key to the reading of each single opus.

The interpretation of Christian Leotta extends ultimately beyond classicism, as commonly intended, so reaching the “Sturm und Drang” and the Romanticism not openly declared by historians, but which constitute a whole in Beethoven’s music and soul.  Thanks to this Christian Leotta’s interpretations will make history.

Christian Leotta’s interpretations are to be appreciated not only for their outstanding technique but also for the poetry that is exuded thanks to it. His touch is magnificent, his sonority is always fascinating and refined, his search for sound and colors is continuous. As an encore, the “Andante” from the Sonata op. no. 79 by Beethoven.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), March 28th 2012, by Stefano Lamon

Tutti in piedi per Leotta

"...Fino al momento dell'ascolto, che svela traguardi e profondità espressive veramente importanti. Quella ben precisa ricerca del suono, delle dinamiche, dei flussi del tempo da sempre oggetto della ricerca di Leotta trova soluzioni di affascinante, emozionante sintesi e coerenza in una personalità sempre più matura. Su tutto citiamo le più d'una sonorità evanescenti e fantastiche, la tenacia incrollabile che tiene l'ascoltatore ipnotizzato anche nei punti beethoveniani che aprono finestre sull'eternità come quelle dell'op.106, gli attacchi di piglio e le brillantezze eleganti dei passaggi delle Sonate pur non ascetiche come i numeri 10 e 19. Al termine, pubblico in piedi, un ultimo Adagio come bis e tanta voglia di riascoltare Leotta presto".

TRANSLATION:

Full standing ovation for Christian Leotta

“…listening to Christian Leotta reveals very important achievements and profound expressiveness; That very precise searching for sound, dynamics, the tempos’ flow, which has always been object of the interpreter’s research, finds solutions of fascinating, touching synthesis and coherence of an always more mature personality… The listener was hypnotized… At the end a long standing ovation was followed by a last Adagio as encore and a lot of longing to hear Leotta play soon”.

Gazzetta del Sud, Messina (Italy), March 14th 2012, by Paolo Blundo

La grandiosità di Beethoven al Palacultura

Venerdì sera al Palacultura. Il pianista Christian Leotta ha eseguito, per la stagione concertistica dell'Associazione Musicale Vincenzo Bellini e dell'Accademia Filarmonica, quattro sonate di Ludwig Van Beethoven: la Sonata in Sol maggiore n.10 op.14 n.2, la Sonata in Do maggiore n.21 op.53 "Waldstein", la Sonata in Sol minore n.19 op.49 n.1 e la Sonata in Si bemolle maggiore n.29 op.106 "Hammerklavier".

Un programma lungo ed impegnativo, quello proposto dal pianista catanese, che vanta ben tredici esecuzioni dell'integrale delle 32 sonate di Beethoven, di cui è considerato da molti come uno dei massimi interpreti. Assai diverse tra loro le quattro opere eseguite: se la Sonata n.10 si può ritenere un ritorno del compositore allo spirito haydiano, con uno stile classico dominante, nella "Waldstein" convivono elementi tradizionali e tratti stilistici innovativi; la n.19 il cui sottotitolo è "Sonata facile", presenta un primo movimento seguito da un vivace e gioioso rondò; l'"Hammerklavier", infine, è una sonata monumentale, di grandi dimensioni e complessità, frutto della volontà del compositore di superare le possibilità sonore ed espressive del pianoforte.

Leotta ha fornito un'interpretazione rigorosa ed attenta, consapevole e rispettosa della scrittura. Ben scanditi e precisi i tempi veloci, nei passaggi virtuosistici (spettacolare la fuga a tre voci al termine dell'Hammerklavier) il pianista ha evidenziato un controllo assoluto dello strumento, mentre nell'Adagio molto della "Waldstein" e ancor più nel lungo Adagio sostenuto dell'op.106 ad impressionare è stato l'eccezionale pianissimo, che ha conferito ai due brani un aspetto intimistico e riflessivo. Il pubblico in sala ha seguito con attenzione ed ha apprezzato l'esecuzione di Christian Leotta, sottolineando con calorosi applausi il proprio gradimento. Dal canto suo Leotta ha dato prova di grande resistenza e concentrazione suonando per più di due ore in maniera impeccabile.
 
TRANSLATION:
 
The grandeur of Beethoven at the Palacultura


Pianist Christian Leotta, presented by the “Associazione Musicale Vincenzo Bellini” and the “Accademia Filarmonica”, has performed on Friday night at the “Palacultura” four Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven: the Piano Sonata in G major No.10, Op.14 No. 2, the Piano Sonata in C major No. 21, op.53 "Waldstein", the Piano Sonata in G minor No. 19, Op. 49 No. 1 and the Piano Sonata in B flat major No. 29,  Op. 106 "Hammerklavier".

It was a demanding program, the one proposed by the pianist from Catania, who can boasts the performance of thirteen complete cycles of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven, of which is considered by many as one of the greatest interpreters. The four Sonatas performed on Friday were quite different among each other: if the Sonata No. 10 can be considered as a return of the composer to the Haydian spirit, showing a dominant classical style, in the "Waldstein” are living side by side traditional elements along with innovative stylistic traits;  the Sonata No.19, subtitled "Easy Sonata", consists of a first movement followed by a lively and joyful Rondo; the "Hammerklavier” is a monumental sonata, great in proportion and complexity, the result of the composer’s will to surpass the sound and the expressive possibilities of the piano.

Leotta gave a rigorous and careful interpretation, both extremely insightful and respectful of the score. Fast tempos were well paced and accurate; in the virtuoso passages (spectacular the three voices fugue at the end of the “Hammerklavier”) the pianist showed an absolute control of the instrument, while in the Adagio molto of the "Waldstein", and even more so in the Adagio sostenuto of the Op.106, what impressed most was the exceptional pianissimo, which conferred the two movements an intimate and thoroughly introspective view. The audience has been attentively and appreciatively following Christian Leotta’s performance, responding with warm applauses of appreciation. As far as he was concerned, Leotta gave proof of great strength and concentration, playing impeccably for more than two hours.

Radioclassica (Italy), November 17th 2011, by  Riccardo Risaliti

Presentation of "Volume III" of Christian Leotta's complete recordings of Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas for Atma Classique 

"…disco molto interessante e molto bene eseguito, come anche i precedenti di questa integrale delle sonate che Christian Leotta sta registrando per la Atma Classique. Christian Leotta è un po’ quello che era una Rosalyn Tureck per Bach o, prima ancora, un Alfred Cortot per Chopin: si è votato a Beethoven. E la sua scelta non poteva essere migliore!".

TRANLSATION:

"...this album, as those previously recorded by Christian Leotta in his complete Beethoven's Piano Sonatas series for Atma Classique, is very interesting and very well performed. We can assert that Christian Leotta is what was a Rosalyn Tureck for Bach or, before her, an Alfred Cortot for Chopin: he devoted himself to Beethoven. And he could not make a better choice!".

Musica (Italy), September 2011 (No. 229),  by Luca Segalla
  
CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume III" 


Nel panorama discografico attuale i pianisti italiani tra i trenta e i quaranta sono ben rappresentati. Tre nomi su tutti: Andrea Bacchetti per Bach, Pietro De Maria per l'integrale chopiniana e Christian Leotta per questa integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven, giunta al terzo volume. Più noto oltre oceano che in Italia, meno virtuoso di De Maria e meno stravagante di Bacchetti, a piccoli passi Leotta sta costruendo un'integrale molto coerente nelle sue linee di fondo. Lo avevamo già notato a proposito del primo doppio CD (cfr. il n. 199 di MUSICA). Leotta attenua i contrasti e smussa le asperità, senza eccessi virtuosistici, attraverso un paziente lavoro analitico. Il suo è un Beethoven settecentesco, anche in una sonata come l'op. 31 n. 2 che piaceva molto ai Romantici e che lo stesso compositore (secondo la testimonianza del solito Schindler) avrebbe paragonato alla Tempesta di Shakespeare.

Tempi tranquilli, sonorità morbide e controllate, fraseggio fluido: per Leotta Beethoven deve essere in primo luogo eloquente. Il contrasto, nel primo movimento, tra il motivo arpeggiato al basso (il «widerstrebende Prinzip ») e la risposta implorante al registro medio (il «bittende Prinzip ») alla battuta 21 e ss. viene sottolineato con un rallentando e non con un accelerando, che rischierebbe di ridurre il tutto a un mero effetto strumentale. Altri giovani e lanciatissimi interpreti che in questa sonata si preoccupano soprattutto di mostrare i muscoli, come l'inglese Paul Lewis, in queste battute risultano generici. Asciutto ed essenziale è anche il secondo movimento, mentre l'Aliegretto conclusivo è un vero alle gretto e non allegro come spesso capita di ascoltare: un saporito rondò, non una cavalcata virtuosistica.

La registrazione, pulita, senza molto riverbero e di ottima qualità si sposa bene con questa prospettiva. E'
stata effettuata nella Sala Mahler a Dobbiaco, dal suono più morbido e più spazializzato rispetto a quello del primo volume, registrato a Losanna.

Leotta rispetta scrupolosamente i segni della partitura, eseguendo tutti gli sforzati, i legati e gli staccati indicati da Beethoven. È un interprete controllato e misurato, poco incline alle esplosioni drammatiche (infatti la sua Patetica, nel primo volume dell'integrale, appariva un poco fredda). Si prenda l'Allegro con brio della Sonata op. 2 n. 3, che per i pianisti è una bestia nera, perché richiede grande agilità e pulizia. Leotta non punta allo spolverio virtuosistico, ma alle magie dei dettagli resi con precisione chirurgica anche a grande velocità. Punta a far parlare la musica. Del resto una delle doti per cui Beethoven veniva apprezzato come interprete era proprio il cantabile e il Classicismo viennese deve senza dubbio qualcosa alla cantabilità di ascendenza italiana. Certo, lo scotto da pagare è la perdita della brillantezza esecutiva, che in alcuni casi rappresenta un limite, come si è notato per la Sonata op. 10 n. 3, nel primo volume dell'integrale.

L'Adagio della Sonata op. 2 n. 3 è un capolavoro di introspezione psicologica, un lento procedere verso il basso e non uno sprofon
dare nell' abisso. E capolavori di introspezione ed eloquenza sono tutta la Sonata op. 27 n. 1 e l'Andante dell'op. 14 n .. 2, lontano da ogni preziosismo. Così il secondo movimento della Sonata op. 14 n. 1 appare serioso e robusto e le scale del movimento conclusivo sono corpose e colloquiali, piuttosto che sgranate con cristallina perfezione. La Sonata op. 79 è robusta e diretta come deve essere, anche nello stacco di tempo, più lento rispetyo al tempo staccato da un beethoveniano doc come Badura-Skoda, ma anche rispetto a un fortepianista come Brautigam (cfr. n. 202 di MUSICA), che pure, come Leotta, punta tutto sull' eloquenza. Lo stesso discorso vale per la Sonata op. 49 11. 1, il cui finale dura 3:40, mentre con Badura-Skoda durava solo 3:11: meno vitale, ma molto raffinato. E l'Andante, una sorta di barcarola all'italiana, è intimo e delicato, di una cantabilità più intensa rispetto all'interpretazione, leggera e svagata, di Badura-Skoda.

Paradossalmente il momento culminante di questo volume coincide con la Sonata op. 110. Anche nel primo volume l'interpretazione meglio riuscita era quella della sonata più problematica, l'op. 111: evidentemente un interprete riflessivo e coerente come Christian Leotta si trova nel suo elemento naturale con pagine dall'architettura complessa. Una 110 misurata e senza eccessi; senza affanni, tutta spronfondata in se stessa. Anche il secondo movimento, l'Allegro molto, che di solito suscita negli interpreti incontrollabili furori virtuosistici, viene declamato e non gridato. Nell'Adagio ma non troppo sono da apprezzare il raffinato impiego dei pedali e il controllo dei piani sonori, mentre la fuga è di una bellezza rara, per la messa a fuoco dei dettagli e per l'omogeneità timbrica. Anche in questo caso la prospettiva di Leotta è molto chiara ed è quella di un intimismo commosso e misurato, piuttosto che del sublime romantico.


TRANSLATION:

Currently, on the recording scene, the Italian pianists between thirty and forty years of age are well represented. Three names stand out above all of them: Andrea Bacchetti for Bach, Pietro de Maria for his recordings of  Chopin’s works and Christian Leotta for this complete recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, now at its third Volume. Better known overseas than in Italy, less virtuoso than De Maria and less extravagant than Bacchetti, Leotta is gradually building up a very coherent cycle in its base lines. We have already noted that in regard of the first double album (see No. 199 of Musica): Leotta smoothes out contrasts and rough edges, with no virtuoso excesses, through a patient analytic work. He has a XVIII Century vision of Beethoven’s music, even in a Sonata as the Op. 31 No. 2, which the Romantics loved so much and which the composer himself  (according to an account given by Schindler) had compared to the “Tempest” by Shakespeare.

Tempos are tranquil, sonorities are pleasing and well controlled, phrasing is fluid: for Leotta, first and foremost, Beethoven must be eloquent. In the first movement, the contrast between the motive to be played in arpeggio at the bass (the “widerstrebende Prinzip”) and the imploring answer at the medium register (the “bittende Prinzip”) at the bar No. 21 and the subsequent ones, is underlined by slowing down the tempo and not by speeding it up, as this last option would risk to reduce the whole section to a mere instrumental effect. Other young and well promoted interpreters, who are, primarily concerned to show their muscles in this sonata (as Paul Lewis from the United Kingdom), sound vague in these bars. The second movement is equally sober and essential, while the conclusive Allegretto is a true allegretto and not an allegro, as we often happen to hear: in Leotta’s interpretation, it sounds as an exquisite rondo and not as mere demonstration of virtuoso technique.


The recording is clear, not excessively  reverberated  and of excellent quality: it goes well together with this perspective. Produced at the Mahler Hall of Dobbiaco, its sound is  smoother and more spatial  in comparison to that of volume I, recorded in Lausanne.

Leotta scrupulously respects the score indications, playing all the sforzato, the legatos, and the staccatos as written by Beethoven. He is a precise and poised interpreter, little inclined to dramatic explosions (in fact his “Pathetic”, in Volume I of the cycle, seemed to be somewhat cold). In the Allegro con brio of the Sonata Op. 2 No. 3, which is a “black beast” for pianists because it requires great agility and accuracy, Leotta does not aim to show off virtuoso effects, but the magic of details, conveyed with surgical precision also while playing at great velocity. He aims to let the music speak by itself. In fact, one of the gifts for which Beethoven was most admired as an interpreter, was precisely the cantabile, and, no doubt,  the Viennese Classicism owes this characteristic to the cantabile of Italian ancestry. Certainly, the price to pay in obtaining it is a loss in  brilliance and, in some cases, that may represent a limitation as we noted in the Sonata Op. 10 No. 3, included in Volume I of the cycle. 

The Adagio of Sonata Op. 2 No. 3 is masterly performed thanks to Leotta’s psychological introspection, a slow profound proceeding, without sinking to the abyss. Masterworks of introspection and eloquence are also the Sonata Op. 27 No. 1 in its entirety, as well as the Andante of the Op. 14 No. 2, which is far away from any preciousness. The second movement of the Sonata Op. 14 No. 1 is intense and vigorous and the scales of the conclusive movement are dense and colloquial rather than delivered  with crystal-clear perfection. The Sonata Op. 79 is forceful and direct as it should be, although the tempo chosen is slower than the one used by the distinguished  Beethovenian Badura-Skoda, and also if compared to that used by a forte-piano player like Brautigam (see No. 202 of Musica) who, as Leotta does, aims everything at the eloquence. The same happens in the Sonata Op. 49 No. 1. Leotta’s finale last for 3:40, while Badura-Skoda performs it in only 3:11. Leotta may sound  less vibrant  but is extremely refined. And the Andante, evocative of an Italian barcarola, is intimate and delicate, and Leotta’s cantabile is more intense if compared to the light and amusing interpretation of Badura-Skoda.

Interestingly enough, the climax of this volume is reached with the Sonata Op. 110. In the first volume as well, the best interpretation was that of the Sonata Op. 111. Obviously, a thoughtful and coherent interpreter as Christian Leotta, finds himself at his best when playing works of a complex architecture. The result is a well-balanced 110, with no excesses, quite and inwardly immersed. Even the second movement, the Allegro molto, which normally induces in interpreters an uncontrolled virtuoso frenzy, is declaimed, not shouted, by Leotta. In the Adagio ma non troppo are to be admired the refined use of the pedal and the control of the sonorities, while the fugue is of rare beauty thanks to its well focused details and to its tone homogeneity. Here again, Leotta’s perspective is very clear and it is that of an heartfelt and poised introspection, rather than that of an exalted romantic. 

Fanfare  (USA), January/February 2011, by Susan Kagan

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume III"  

With this volume, Italian pianist Christian Leotta (b.1980) is more than halfway through his complete Beethoven sonata cycle; there are two more volumes ahead. He has organized the cycle so that each two-CD volume contains a selection representing the three periods of Beethoven’s creative life, as can readily be seen in the above headnote.

Leotta’s background as a student of the fine pianist/pedagogue Karl Ulrich Schnabel has significantly influenced his interpretive approach to playing Beethoven. Schnabel emphasized the importance of a reliable score, and expected his students to supply themselves with one. (It should be noted that as the modern piano in the second half of the 19th century became as important a fixture in every home as a television set did during the second half of the 20th, publishers brought out often unreliable editions of music as fast as their presses could work.) So it is not surprising to see that Leotta’s credits in the notes include a list of the editions he consulted in preparing the sonatas: a facsimile of the first edition by Tecla, Schnabel (Artur)’s edition, and two of the most scholarly and widely respected of contemporary editions, those published by Henle in Germany and Wiener Urtext in Vienna. I mention this only to underscore my belief that Leotta is a seriously dedicated Beethovenian.

In my review of Leotta’s Vol. 2 (Fanfare 34:1), I was struck by his strict adherence to Beethoven’s markings in the music. He observed every nuance of dynamics and phrasing and, especially, pedaling. He has a powerful technique that gives him fluency and strength on the keyboard, and his musical intelligence is compelling. He seemed especially at home with the unbridled energy and vitality of Beethoven’s early sonatas, and so it is on this disc in the third of the op. 2 sonatas and the “Tempest” Sonata. All of Beethoven’s “simple” works are in this set—that is, the two op. 49 “leichte” (easy) sonatas (the Menuetto, the final movement of op. 49/2, achieved popularity in its reincarnation in Beethoven’s Septet, op. 20, composed several years later), and the so-called sonatina, op. 79. Leotta does not breeze through them as if condescending to them, but plays them with the same verve and attention he gives to the other sonatas.

Leotta gives a lovely reading of that profound and lyrical jewel in the crown of the late sonatas, the A♭-Sonata, op. 110. The first movement is played simply, almost placidly, a calm prelude to the energetic storm of the scherzo that follows. Then there is the Adagio, and its first statement of the Arioso dolente—a long, expressive lament—followed by the first fugue, which Leotta plays very steadily and clearly, building up to the return of the Arioso, this time transfigured with its little sighing motifs. When the fugue returns again, it is in half voice, empty and emotionless, until it slowly builds again to a massive dramatic climax. A fine and most satisfying performance.

The one aspect of Leotta’s playing that I find fault with is his choice of tempos in some slow or moderately slow movements, which are often dragging and too deliberate. In almost all cases, they are considerably slower than Schnabel’s (although one cannot always use Schnabel’s recordings as a yardstick because of the limitations imposed on him when he was recording the sonatas in the early 30s). Still, one always hears in Schnabel’s readings a pushing forward of the music that is important to its flow, and this bears directly on the ultimate shape and interest of the music. Leotta’s personality is different from Schnabel’s, and it is reflected in his tempo choices. But unquestionably this gifted and intelligent young pianist has a great deal to offer, and his Beethoven cycle, when completed, should prove to be of estimable interest.

Fanfare  (USA), January/February 2011, "An Interview with Christian Leotta",  by Susan Kagan
  
Born in Italy in 1980, Christian Leotta has distinguished himself as the youngest pianist since the youthful Daniel Barenboim to undertake a presentation of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in a series of recitals given in less than a month. This feat was first accomplished in Montreal when he was just 22; he has subsequently repeated the cycle 12 times in capital cities, among them Madrid, Venice, Mexico City, Québec City, and Rio de Janeiro. He is now recording the cycle on ATMA Classique, and the first three volumes have been released. I recently interviewed Christian by e-mail:

Q: You studied with the eminent pianist and pedagogue Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of the legendary Artur Schnabel. For how many years did you study with him?

A: I began to study with him when I was 17, at the International Piano Foundation on Lake Como, and continued for five years, in a small group of six or seven students, and also privately at his house in Como, where the Schnabel family spent the summers. It was a great privilege to study with him until 2001 [when Schnabel died], a year before I started to perform the complete cycle of the Beethoven sonatas in Montreal.

Q: What was the main focus of the repertoire you studied with him?

A: Most of my lessons were focused on the Beethoven sonatas. I played about 20 of them for him, including all the late ones, and some, like opus 111, even more than once. Two hours was the normal time he dedicated to each lesson every day. Since his lessons were extremely detailed, this was barely enough time to cover the first two movements of a sonata such as op. 2/3; so we normally needed two lessons to finish a piece of those proportions. With op. 106, the “Hammerklavier,” I remember having to go to Schnabel’s home to finish playing the last part of this monumental work, the Largo and the Fugue, since we needed one full lesson just for the Adagio sostenuto. It was also that way with the Arietta of op. 111.

Q: What other repertoire did you cover?

A: I played Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, and Chopin for him. It was amazing how he could teach Chopin’s music with such nobility that after his lessons, most of the pieces shone under a new light.

My relationship with Schnabel influenced me a lot regarding my choice to study and perform publicly (and later, to record) all 32 of the Beethoven sonatas. During our conversations, he shared with me his unhappiness with the way most of today’s pianists are performing Beethoven—mostly, because only few interpreters are really trying to follow the composer’s indications. And Schnabel was also very concerned because the goals today for young musicians are becoming more and more how to play as fast and as fortissimo as one can, instead of learning how to perform a real pianissimo and how to play well a very slow Adagio, as well as a true legato. Schnabel was also very concerned about the choice of editions used by his students.

Schnabel transmitted to me an endless love for life, for Beethoven’s music and for music in general. Strongly believing in the same musical values, which unfortunately are gradually disappearing from today’s pianism, he gave to me the gigantic energy to decide to learn and play in public the 32 piano sonatas, saying also to me, in one of our last meetings, “You have now to continue our tradition.”

Q: You also studied with Rosalyn Tureck. How did she influence your musical interests?

A: I studied also with Tureck for five years, starting around age 17. From the time I met her at Lake Como and played the Bach C-Minor Toccata for her, we immediately established a fantastic artistic and human relationship. From 1997 to 1999 she gave me scholarships to study with her at her Bach Research Foundation in Oxford. Rosalyn Tureck was very interested in all “interactions” music could have; during our piano lessons and other meetings she organized, she invited some of the most respected professors at Oxford University in a variety of fields (such as mathematics, geology, history of art, and many others). This fantastic environment gave me a great 360-degree view of how music could be an important part of each branch of human knowledge. Rosalyn Tureck’s teaching was mostly focused on how to develop a highly original concept of rhythm, intended as one of the principal means of expression and communication in musical expression.

Q: Now that you have performed the complete Beethoven sonata cycle and recordings of it are underway, have you thought that your ideas on interpretation may change later, and you might want to redo the cycle in the future?

A: My view of the 32 sonatas has changed since the first performance in Montreal in 2002. I think it is natural, especially with such an enormous and significant body of music, to see it and think about it with many new ideas each time you prepare a new performance. One beautiful side effect of playing all 32 sonatas so often, is gradually to feel them as one “super opus,” a gigantic music cathedral built with an extraordinary coherence and unity, from the beginning of op. 2 to the last of op. 111 … each time I play the sonatas is like a reborn experience for me, a fantastic emotional experience which completely involves my musical life and my whole soul.

Q: You don’t seem to have played a lot of contemporary music as of yet. Are you interested in exploring more 20th-century repertoire?

A: I’m very interested in learning new pieces of contemporary music. I played some pieces of Luciano Berio and I’m extremely happy about the public response to them. In the past years I have played Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, Prokofiev’s Seventh Piano Sonata, Berg’s Piano Sonata, and Webern’s Variations many times. Once I have finished recording the Beethoven, I look forward to learning the First Sonata of Boulez, a piece I find particularly interesting.

Q: What future recording projects do you have in mind? Any “complete” surveys—e.g., Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, or something equally gigantic? And incidentally, do you perform the Beethoven cycle by memory?

A: In the near future I would like to record more Beethoven: the Diabelli and Eroica Variations, together with the C-Minor Variations, and the two sets of Bagatelles, op. 119 and op. 126, all pieces I have been playing in public since last year; this great music could all be recorded on two CDs. Then, my dream is to record the complete piano music of Debussy, whom I also particularly love. Yes, I play the Beethoven cycle completely by memory. 

La Scena Musicale, Montreal (Canada), Fall/Winter 2011, by RB

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume III"  


Kodama and Leotta both take a turn at recording Beethoven's 32 sonatas. As if by accident, all the sonatas recorded by Ko­dama (except Op. 78) are also played by Leotta (plus several others, given the dual format CD), naturally inviting a comparison. Ko­dama is perfectly conser­vative: absolutely flawless technique, beautiful touch, standard tempi. lt's so perfect that you forget the importance of person­ality and a sense of risk, which are both somewhat absent. Fortunately, this approach works nicelyfor these more accessible sonatas, though one wor­ries what her Hammerklavier would sound like (note that this CD comes with a fairly interesting 20-minute DVD documentary). Despite less subtle pedal technique and an overly reverberant sound, Leotta devours Beethoven's masterpieces with fe­rocity and passion. This interpretation is not aimed at consistency. If Kodama gains an advantage by overall quality, Leotta wins hands down for value for money and artistic instinct.

Fanfare  (USA), November/December 2010, by Susan Kagan

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

Born in 1980, Italian pianist Christian Leotta studied with Karl Ulrich Schnabel, Artur’s son and a revered teacher and pianist in his own right. The musical legacy that extended back in a teacher-pupil line from Karl Ulrich to his father to the elder Schnabel’s teacher, the famous Leschetitzky, to Czerny, and finally Beethoven is significant in its communication of styles and ideas. Christian Leotta, in his musical interests and ability, seems to have benefited from this heritage (he is one of many of today’s most admired pianists—e.g., Richard Goode and Peter Serkin—who studied with K. U. Schnabel). Leotta’s devotion to Beethoven can be seen in his many performances of the entire cycle of Beethoven sonatas; also of interest is that he is the youngest pianist since Daniel Barenboim to play the complete cycle in concert over a period of less than one month; this is not a project for the faint of heart! Since his first such series he has repeated it more than a dozen times in cities around the world.

It is a given that a traversal of the Beethoven sonatas requires a prodigious technique, and like his compatriot Maurizio Pollini, Leotta certainly has one. But a good technique encompasses more than agile fingers—it requires also a good deal of finesse: a variety of keyboard touches, an ear for the nuances of dynamic and thematic changes. As I followed his performances with my score, I was struck with the fidelity of his readings, including the specific pedaling indications given by the composer. He comes close to Beethoven’s metronome markings for the “Hammerklavier,” although they have been declared virtually unplayable by many pianists, and succeeds in producing a clear and lucid account of the final fugue without sacrificing its underlying power and drive. His tempo for the great F♯-Minor slow movement—marked Adagio sostenuto—is a little slower than Schnabel’s, but has an intensity that propels it through its extended length. He is sensitive to those heart-stopping changes of harmony heard in the theme (and in its repetitions throughout the movement), where Beethoven unexpectedly modulates from C♯-Major to G Major before returning to F♯-Minor.

I find Leotta’s forceful energy completely compelling in the demanding opening movements of both B♭-sonatas, op. 22 and op. 106. The repeated notes of the opening of the “Waldstein” sonata unfold with suppressed energy waiting to explode. Leotta digs deep into the keyboard for his fortes and fortissimos, but does so without banging. The serenity of the opening theme of the finale, with Leotta following Beethoven’s indications to pedal over tonic and dominant harmonies, is perfectly executed, so that the melody rings out softly but clearly beneath the gentle blurring of the accompaniment. The tempo is on the slow side, but has an appropriately serene and magisterial feeling to it. In the first movement of op. 109, the changing character of the music demands flexibility from the player in terms of sound and expressiveness, which Leotta provides beautifully in the shaping of the movement. In the final (variations) movement, the pianist sometimes hesitates before the final beat of a phrase, which although surely meant as an expressive device, becomes something of a mannerism. But in technical matters the variations are brilliantly played.

The excellent recording was made in the Gustav Mahler Auditorium in Dobbiaco, Italy, on a magnificent-sounding instrument—not identified (although, oddly enough, the name of the piano tuner is). However, since the sonatas in both the first and third volumes were recorded on Hamburg Steinways, one can assume the same for this second disc in the series.

Christian Leotta is an intelligent and vivid pianist who brings a deft keyboard technique and a musical mind to the challenge of playing Beethoven. The remaining sonatas of the cycle, as he continues to record them, are eagerly anticipated. 

Pizzicato (Luxembourg), October 2010, by Remy Franck

Parcours Supérieur

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume III"  


Le pianiste italien Christian Leotta poursuit son intégrale Beethoven avec ardeur et talent. Comme les precedents enregistrements, ceux-ci révèlent un interprète bien inspire et intelligent. Son jeu n’est jamais moins que sensible et musical. La technique, excellente et souveraine, ne cache jamais la volonté du discours, avec raffinement et une pléthore de nuances quianiment la musique. On discutera certains choix, mais on ne niera pas que la musique est passionnante et que Leotta fait évoluer les sonates moins connues sur un parcours supérieur.

TRANSLATION:

A Superior Level

Italian pianist Christian Leotta continues his Beethoven integral with ardour and talent. In these recordings, as in the previous one, he reveals to be a very inspired and intelligent interpreter. His playing is always sensitive and musical. His technique, excellent and sovereign, is never hiding the line, with refinement and with an extremely wide range of nuances, which animate the music. It is possible to discuss some of his choice, but it is undeniable that the music is passionate and that Leotta is capable to present on a superior level the Sonatas less known.

Amadeus (Italy), September 2010, by Antonio Brena

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

Christian Leotta sta cimentandosi nella registrazione completa delle 32 Sonate per pianoforte di Beethoven: palestra ineludibile per ogni pianista che intenda proporsi all'agone concertistico mondiale. Lavori che, non tossaìtro per il tatto di giungere al culmine dello sviluppo pianistico classico, richiedono a ogni interprete doti superiori a quelle sollecitate dalle composizioni di stesso genere firmate da autori precedenti. Ad esempio, spesso presentano un'estensione di 5 ottave: insolita per l'epoca. Leotta propone adesso il secondo volume della collezione che, in 2 compact disc, raccoglie quattro lavori fra i più emblematici del compositore tedesco. Capolavori che appartengono a periodi creativi differenti. S'inizia con la Sonata in do maggiore op. 53 Waldstein, nota ai melomani anche con il sottotitolo di Aurore attribuitole quasi sicuramente da un editore. Si tratta di una sonata particolare perché presenta solo due movimenti (rispetto ai 3 consueti), particolarmente lunghi e assai sviluppati. Segue la Sonata in si bemolle maggiore op. 22 in quattro movimenti (come sarà poi usuale nel periodo romantico con Chopin, Schumann e Brahms). Quindi la celebre Sonata in si bemolle maggiore op. 106 Hammerklavier, che viene considerata un capolavoro assoluto al pari della Nona sinfonia. Infine, la Sonata in mi maggiore op. 109: terz'ultima dell'ampio ciclo beethoveniano. Il ventinovenne pianista italiano (attivo e conosciuto però più all'estero che nel nostro paese) mette in vetrina una saldezza tecnica unita a perizia tastieristica, confermando la sua buona maturità interpretativa.

TRANSLATION:

Christian Leotta is measuring himself to record the complete set of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven an unavoidable challenge for any pianist who intends to propose himself to the world concert scene. These compositions, which reach the climax of the classic period pianism, require to any interpreter superior capacities compared to those necessary to perform compositions of the same style signed by previous authors.For example, they often present an extension of 5 octaves an unusual one for that time.

Leotta proposes now the second volume of a collection which, in two CDs, comprises four of the most emblematic works by the German composer. These masterpieces belong to different creative periods. To start, we find the “Waldstein”, known to music lovers as well with the under title of Aurore, gave almost for sure by an editor. It is a special Sonata since is made up by only two movements (in stead of the usual three), which are very long and extremely developed. The Sonata in B-flat, Op. 22, is following, comprising four movements (as it will be normal in the Romantic period with Chopin, Schumann and Brahms). Then we found the famous Sonata in B-flat Op. 106, the “Hammerklavier”, which is considered an absolute masterpiece equally as the Ninth Symphony. To end, the Sonata in E major, Op. 109 the third from the last of the great Beethovenian cycle.

The 29 year old Italian pianist (active and known more abroad than in our country) shows technical command together with great keyboard capacities, confirming himself also as a mature interpreter.


The National Commission for Promoting the Italian Culture abroad (on the website "esteri.it"), Lima (Peru), June 23rd 2010, by the Press Office of the  Italian Cultural Institute of Lima  

L'Istituto Italiano di Cultura presenta: ciclo di concerti del M° Christian Leotta 


Si è tenuto lo scorso 10 giugno, presso il prestigioso auditorio dell’Università di Lima, il primo dei concerti del M° Christian Leotta programmati dall’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Lima nell’ambito dell’esecuzione integrale, programmata in otto concerti che si terranno dal 10 giugno al prossimo sette di luglio, delle sonate per pianoforte di Ludwig Van Beethoven.

Il concerto è stato seguito da un pubblico numeroso che ha riempito in ogni ordine di posti (520 poltrone) l’auditorio, riconosciuto come uno degli spazi certamente più accreditati per ciò che concerne l’esecuzione della musica classica nella capitale peruviana.

Il musicista, che nella sua performance ha dato mostra di mezzi tecnici eccezionali, oltre a dimostrare un raro equilibrio espressivo, ha proposto le sonate del musicista tedesco – una delle più grandi sintesi della cultura europea di tutti i tempi – evidenziando, attraverso un’esecuzione assai partecipata e, a detta della critica, tecnicamente impeccabile, il valore della grande scuola pianistica italiana.
Il pubblico ha decretato il successo della serata applaudendo a lungo il musicista e mostrando gratitudine per l’IIC di Lima che ha organizzato per la prima volta nella storia musicale del Peru’ l’esecuzione del ciclo completo delle sonate beethoveniane.

La stampa locale si è fatta eco della riuscita della serata manifestando, negli articoli pubblicati e nelle interviste scritte e radiotelevisive che hanno fatto riferimento al concerto, gradimento per l’impeccabile stile del M° Leotta e per la ricchezza e qualità della proposta ideata e organizzata dall’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Lima.

TRANSLATION:

The Italian Cultural Institute presents: Concerts Cycle by Maestro Christian Leotta

Last June 10th M° Christian Leotta performed the first recital of a series of eight concerts, made up of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, at the prestigious auditorium of the University of Lima, event organized by the Italian Cultural Institute of Lima scheduled from June 10th to July 5th.

The concert was attended by a numerous public completely filling the auditorium (520 seats in total), recognized as one of the most important performing venues for classical music in the Peruvian capital.

Il concerto è stato seguito da un pubblico numeroso che ha riempito in ogni ordine di posti (520 poltrone) l’auditorio, riconosciuto come uno degli spazi certamente più accreditati per ciò che concerne l’esecuzione della musica classica nella capitale peruviana.

The musician,  providing  exceptional technique gifts in his performances, showing also a rare expressive balance, presented the Sonatas of the German musician – one of the greatest synthesis of the European culture of all times – highlighting the value of the great Italian piano school, thanks to a very intense performance and, to critic’s opinion, an impeccable technique.

The success of the evening was confirmed by a very long applause by the public, which also showed gratitude to the Italian Cultural Institute of Lima which organized, for the first time in Peru’s history, the performance of the complete series of Beethoven’s Sonatas.

The local medias reported the success of the evening through press articles and radio and television interviews, expressing appreciation for the impeccable style of M° Leotta and for the importance of the event, organized by the Italian Cultural Institute of Lima.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), March 21st 2010, by Maria terraneo Fonticoli

Leotta da applausi suona Debussy e poi  Beethoven

Una vera e propria impresa quella sostenuta dal pianista Christian Leotta, sabato, al Cinema Teatro di Chiasso dove ha presentando un programma che comprendeva grandi pagine di  Debussy e Beethoven, autori entrambi pianisticamente rivoluzionari, ma epocalmente e lessicamente agli antipodi. Christian ha affrontato il programma quale sfida a sè stesso e alle sue capacità di mimesi. E l'ha vinta. La serata, affollata, ha avuto inizio con "Estampes" di Debussy dei quali  l'interprete ha saputo cogliere i policromi climi evocativi dei tre quadri:"Pagode","Soirée dans Grenade" e"Jardin sous la pluie". Concludeva la prima parte "L'isle Joyeuse", brillante esplosione di suprema felicità. Leotta ha selezionato le atmosfere con grande cura, tocco lieve e timbrica ispirata ad arcane risonanze, distillando suoni e colori con bella sensibilità poetica. Dieci minuti (il tempo dell'intervallo) e Leotta ha dovuto cambiare testa, mani e cuore per immergersi nella "summa" del  pianismo beethoveniano: le 33 Variazioni su un tema di Diabelli op. 120, che si possono considerare il testamento spirituale dell'autore dove una anodina idea iniziale viene spesso ingrandita, ma anche dimenticata per urgenza creativa. Leotta con Beethoven ha un particolare feeling per cui ne sa cogliere i diversi caratteri: dall'ironico al grottesco, dal lirico al rude, dal terreno al metafisico, dal dolente al dionisiaco. Si può intuire la difficoltà di un interprete nel sostenere un'ora di musica così problematica, reale  maratona di concentrazione che Leotta ha retto con grande intelligenza analitica, mani d'acciaio e animo disponibile. Moltissimi, ripetuti applausi; due bis.

TRANSLATION:

Many applauses for Leotta’s  Debussy and Beethoven

A  real undertaking that made by pianist Christian Leotta , on March 13th, at the Cinema Teatro of Chiasso (Switzerland), where he presented a programme which included great works by Debussy and Beethoven, both revolutionary composers for piano, but boles apart when it comes to epoch and style. Christian faced the program  as a challenge to himself and to his capacities of self identification. And he won. The evening, crowded, started with “Estampes” by Debussy, where the interpreter knew how to gather and draw out the  polychromatic evocative climates of the three paintings: “Pagode”, “Soirée dans Grenade” and “Jardin sous la pluie”. “L’Isle Joyeuse”, performed with brilliant explosion of supreme happiness ended the first half of the recital.  Leotta selected the atmospheres with great care, soft touch and tone inspired by mysterious resonances, distilling sonorities and colours with beautiful poetic sensitivity. Ten minutes (the time of the break) and Leotta had to change head, hands and heart to immerse himself in the highest pick of Beethoven’s pianism: the 33 Variations on a waltz by Diabelli Op. 120, spiritual testament of the composer where an anodyne idea at the beginning gets often bigger, but also forgotten allowing space for creative urgency. Leotta has a special feeling for Beethoven and he knows how to draw out  his different characters: from the ironical to the grotesque, from the lyrical to the rough, from the earthly to the metaphysical, from the painful to the Dionysian. It is possible to imagine the difficulty for an interpreter in sustaining an hour of music so problematic, a real marathon of concentration which Leotta  bore with great analytic  intelligence, hands of steel and a generous soul. Many full and repeated applauses; two encores.

Das Echo, Vancouver (Canada), August 2009, by Felicitas Ackermann

Für Liebhaber klassischer Musik

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  


Ende April dieses Jahres veröffentlichte der Montrealer Musikverlag Atma Classique das zweite Album in der CD Serie „Beethoven Sonaten“ mit Christian Leotta am Piano. Das Doppelalbum besteht aus zwei Teilen und präsentiert vier Werke aus den drei Schaffensperioden des Komponisten.. Die erste Scheibe enthält die Klaviersonate Nr. 21 in C-Dur, Opus 53 die sogenannte gewaltige „Waldstein Sonate“ (1803-04) und die Klaviersonate Nr. 11 in B-Dur, Opus 22 (1800). Auf der zweiten Scheibe sind die herrliche „Hammerklavier Sonate“ Nr. 29 in B-Dur, Opus 106 (1817-19) und Klaviersonate Nr. 30 in E-Dur, Opus 109 (1820).

Als ich die zwei Disks zum erstenmal hörte, war ich geradezu überwältigt von der weitreichenden Virtuosität des Künstlers. Jedoch je öfter ich die Aufnahmen spiele, desto mehr entdecke ich neue Elemente in Christian Leottas Interpretation von Beethovens Musik. Wenn Leotta spielt muß man zuhören! Das ist keine Hintergrundmusik zur Unterhaltung, sondern der Hörer wird gezwungen, die Geschichte innerlich zu erleben, die Beethoven durch Leottas Wiedergabe offenbart. Das ist echte Kunst!

Vor drei Jahren präsentierte Christian Leotta in einer Konzertserie alle 32 Beethoven-Sonaten in Vancouver. Das war bereits damals ein besonders eindrucksvolles Erlebnis für ein über 1000 zählendes Publikum. – Der Pianist spielte dieselbe Serie als 22-Jähriger zum erstenmal öffentlich 2002 in Montreal und hat die Serie mehr als ein dutzendmal auf weltweiten Konzertreisen wiederholt. – Was so beeindruckt, ist die Fähigkeit Leottas, sich in Beethovens Persönlichkeit hinein zu versetzen und des Meisters musikalisches Genie seinen Zuhörern einfühlsam und getreu zu vermitteln. Wenn ich heute dem Spiel Leottas zuhöre, merke ich wie sehr sein Musizieren sich noch weiter entwickelt hat und gereift ist. Seine Leidenschaft für Beethovens Musik begann schon in seiner Jugend. Als er mit 11 Jahren sein erstes öffentliches Konzert gab, und nachdem sein Vater ihn zum Geburtstag mit einem vollständigen Satz der Sonaten (mit Daniel Barenboim am Klavier) beglückte, war der Junge so ergriffen, daß er unbedingt diese Kompositionen selbst lernen wollte. Das zeugt von Beethovens Bedeutung in der Musikwelt über alle Zeiten und Grenzen hinweg. Junge oder Alte, alle erreicht sein Genius. Christian Leotta macht seinem Musikvorbild alle Ehre. Auch er ist ein Genie  am Flügel, durch und durch musikalisch ein Meister der Tasten, emfindsam, kraftvoll, leidenschaftlich und auch zart. 

Es fällt mir schwer, nach den zwei ersten Leotta CD-Ausgaben der Beethoven Klaviersonaten zu sagen, welche Sonate mir am besten gefällt. Volume 1 enthält 6 Sonaten: Opus 13  „Pathetique“, Opus 26, Opus 57 „Appassionata“, Opus 10 Nr.3, Opus 78 und Opus 111. Die Aufnahmen für das dritte Album mit zwei weiteren CDs sind bereits geschehen und werden wohl Anfang des nächsten Jahres erscheinen.

Es ist eine Welle von elektronischen Aufnahmen der Musik Beethovens im Gange. Doch nicht alle sind von gleicher Qualität. Versuche, die Musik großer Komponisten auf moderne Weise dem Publikum gefällig nahezubringen, sind vielleicht gut für den Umsatz, werden aber dem Verständnis für  Beethoven nicht gerecht. Weltweite Anerkennung der ersten zwei Ausgaben von Beethoven Sonaten mit Christian Leotta preisen den Künstler und empfehlen die Serie. Liebhaber klassischer Musik sollten sich diesen musikalischen Genuß nicht entgehen lassen.

TRANSLATION:

For Lovers of Classical Music, by Felicitas B. Ackermann

The “Volume II” of Christian Leotta’s complete recording of “Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas” was released at the end of last April by Atma Classique. The double CD set presents four Sonatas that belong to the composer’s three creative periods, which range from 1800 to 1820. CD I  comprises the powerful Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Opus 53 “Waldstein” (1803-04) and the Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-flat major, Opus 22 (1800). CD II includes the glorious Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major, Opus 106 “Hammerklavier” (1817-19) and the Piano Sonata No. 30 in E-major, Opus 109 (1820).

While listening to the two discs for the first time, I was totally overwhelmed by the wide ranging virtuosity of the artist. Yet,  more I play the recordings, more I discover new elements of Christian Leotta’s interpretation of Beethoven’s music. When Leotta is playing we must listen to him! This is no background music to entertain: the listener is forced by the artist to experience Beethoven’s drama, revealed by him while at the piano. That’s true art!

Three years ago Christian Leotta presented in Vancouver, in a series of 8 recitals, all of the 32 Beethoven Sonatas. It was at that time a very impressive experience for an audience of over 1000. The pianist performed the same cycle for the first time in public in Montreal in 2002, at the age of 22. He repeated the performance of the 32 Piano Sonatas at least a dozen times during concert tours overseas, in Europe and his home country Italy.

What impresses the most, is Leotta’ s ability to immerse himself into the personality of Beethoven, in order to mediate the master’s musical genius to the listener with skill, true integrity and feeling.

While listening to Leotta’s playing today, I notice how much his musical talent has further developed and matured. His passion for  Beethoven’s music began already in his youth, playing for the first time in public at age 11. After his father gave him for his birthday the complete set of the Beethoven Sonatas recorded by Daniel Barenboim, the boy was so moved that he decided to learn to play this music himself. This is witness of the significance of Beethoven in the world of music, transcending all times and borders. Young or old, all are touched by his genius. Today Christian Leotta totally honors his music idol. Leotta, too, is a genius of the piano, a deeply musical master of the keyboard, intelligent, sensitive, powerful, passionate and tender.

It is now difficult to decide, after listening to the first two double CDs issued by Atma Classique of the Beethoven Sonatas, which one is my favorite. Volume I contains six of them: Opus 13 “Pathetique”, Opus 26, Opus 57 “Appassionata”, Opus 10 No. 3, Opus 78 and Opus 111. The recording of “Volume III” is already done and will be likely to be released at the beginning of next year.

Today there is a wave of digital recordings of Beethoven’s music available. But not all of them are equally good. Attempts to present the music of this great composer in a modern way to please the public might, maybe, ensure good sales, but do not do justice to the understanding of Beethoven. Worldwide international recognition of Atma’s first two volumes of  Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas recorded by Christian Leotta praises the artist and recommend the series. Lovers of classical music should not miss the enjoyment of owning this musical treasure.

La Provincia (Como), July 22nd 2009, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli

Leotta mette in CD le Sonate di Beethoven

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  


E’ stata pubblicata la seconda coppia di cd  (parte dell’integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven per pianoforte) registrata da Christian Leotta ed edita da “Atma classique”. Leotta è stato il più giovane pianista (preceduto solo da Baremboin) che abbia affrontato a 22 anni l’opera omnia delle Sonate di Beethoven. Dopo l’esordio in Canada, le serate comprendenti il ciclo delle 32 Sonate sono state replicate subito all'Associazione Carducci e altre dodici volte nelle maggiori sale da concerto di tutto il mondo. Noi abbiamo seguito l’evoluzione del continuo studio e approfondimento che tale gigantesca opera richiede e va riconosciuta a Leotta grande capacità intellettuale e musicale nel porsi quotidianamente in discussione.

Le sue interpretazioni discendono, filtrate, da modelli eccezionali: infatti, è stato allievo, tra gli altri, di Karl Ulrich Schnabel che fino a poco tempo fa ha mantenuto viva la tradizione del pianismo del padre, il famoso Arthur, di cui è stata di recente ricuperata miracolosamente l’integrale delle Sonate, incisa tra il 1934-35 e riversata su dieci cd.

Mai come in questa sua ultima performance Leotta mostra l’artistocratico retaggio del suo percorso formativo che oggi ha raggiunto una bella e compiuta maturità. Per noi è la seconda volta, (dopo Schnabel padre) che riusciamo a seguire tutto d’un fiato quel rebus infinito che è la Sonata op. 106 detta Hammerklavier, coacervo di materiale strumentale, musicale, emozionale talmente elaborato da far tremare vene e polsi anche a ottimi concertisti. L’op. 106 è una delle più visionarie concezioni beethoveniane, ambientata in un clima di profonda intensità espressiva. Se il primo tempo ha un carattere volitivo, il secondo, Scherzo, è affidato ad una sorta di improvvisazione dall’humor teso e inquietante. Commovente l’Adagio tormentato, che si dipana da un incidere nobile e dolente. Preceduto da un Largo che sembra cercare l’ineffabile, l’ultimo tempo Allegro esplode in un fuga con “licenze”: “una fantastica avventura”, a dimostrazione della straordinaria evoluzione musicale, intellettuale ed emotiva dell’autore. Comprese nei due cd la classica Sonata op.22, la famosissima op. 53 (Aurora) e l’op. 109 carica di energia e di tenerezze emotive.

TRANSLATION:

Christian Leotta has put on CD Beethoven's Sonatas


The second double CD (part of the complete set of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas) recorded by Christian Leotta for Atma Classique has been published. Leotta is the youngest pianist (preceded only by Barenboim) to have taken on at 22 the complete cycle of the Beethoven Sonatas. After the first performance in Canada, the recitals comprising the 32 Sonatas were immediately repeated at the Carducci Concert Society of Como and other 12 times in the most important concert halls around the world. We have followed the evolution of the continuous study and deepening that such a gigantic opus requires and we must acknowledge Leotta for his great intellectual and musical capacity of putting himself daily under discussion.

His interpretations descends, filtered, from exceptional models: as a matter of fact, Leotta was a pupil, among others, of Karl Ulrich Schnabel who until recently has kept alive the tradition of his father’s pianism, the famous Arthur, by whom has been recently published the set of the 32 Sonatas, recorded between  1934 and ’35 and now available on CD.

Never as in this last performance Leotta shows the aristocratic legacy of his formative journey which today has achieved a beautiful and complete maturity. For us is the second time (after Schnabel’s father) that we are able to listen from the beginning to the end in one breath that infinite rebus which is the Sonata Op. 106, called “Hammerklavier”, a mass of instrumental, musical and emotional material so elaborated enough to scare even great pianists. The Op. 106 is one of the most visionary conception of Beethoven’s, set in an atmosphere of profound intensity of expression. If the first movement shows a determinate character, the  second one, a Scherzo, is a sort of improvisation with a tense and  unnerving humor. Touching the tormented Adagio, which develops itself with a noble and sad solemnity. Preceded by a Largo which seems to search the inexpressible, the last movement Allegro explodes in a Fuga with “licenses”: “a fantastic adventure” which demonstrates  the extraordinary musical, intellectual and emotional evolution of the composer. Included in the two CD set are the classic Sonata Op. 22, the very famous Op. 53 (the “Waldstein”) and the Op. 109, full of energy and emotional tenderness.


Pizzicato (Luxembourg), October 2009, by Marcel Louis

Une entreprise enrechisante


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

Le pianiste italien Christian  Leotta continue son intégrale des sonates de Beethoven, et Atma sort le 2e volume d’une série dont le premier avait été présenté avec une certaine prudence par votre serviteur. Le style de l’interprète deviant cependant plus clair et sa personnalité s’affrime.

Leotta continue à privilégier un sons solide qui surprend par une dynamique évolutive extrémement nuancée et une bande super-large. Mais, ici, les nuances de couleurs sont bien plus développées, surprenantes même dans ce qu’elles présentent comme teintes. Leotta n’évite d'ailleurs pas les effets pour augmenter l’expressivité de son jeu. Son affetto très personnel a finalement tout pour nous toucher, car le pianiste sait balancer emotion et pouvoir intellectual et dans les quatre sonates de ce volume, son jeu est moins démonstratif que dans le premier.
Comment ne pas aimer la légèreté et la virtuosité de la 11e sonate, voire de la 30e, très positive et animée. La Waldstein n’est pas moins impressionnante avec son premier mouvement, héroїque et admirablement rythmé, et son finale étectrisant. Leotta excelle également  dans la “Hammerklavier”, où  la différenciation de son jeu atteint un niveau extraordinaire.

Une chose est súre et certaine: malgré la présence sur le marché de nombreuses bonnes intégrales, celle-ci ne sera pas superflue. L’ imagination de Leotta semble suffisamment grande pour donner à ses lectures un caractère  personnel intéressant et enrichissant.

TRANSLATION:


Un enriching undertaking

Italian pianist Christian Leotta continues his integral of Beethoven’s Sonatas, and Atma releases the second Volume of a series of which the first one was presented with a certain caution by your critic. The interpreter’s style becomes however clearer and his personality asserts itself.

Leotta continues to privilege a solid sound which surprises for its dynamic progressions extremely well shaded and a super –large range. But, here, the colour shades are well more developed, surprising also for the tinges presented. Leotta does not avoid also using the effects in order to increase the expressiveness of his playing. His very personal being has in the end all to move us, since the pianist knows how to balance emotion and intellectual power and in the four Sonatas presented his playing is more profound than in the first volume. How could one not love the lightness and virtuosity of the 11th Sonata, as well as that of the 30th, very positive and lively. The Waldstein is not less impressive with is first movement, heroic and admirably rhythmic, and his electrifying finale.Leotta equally excels  in the “Hammerklavier”, where the differentiation of his playing achieves an extraordinary level.

One thing is sure and certain: in spite of the presence on the market of numerous good integrals, this one will be not superfluous. Leotta’s imagination seems big enough to give to his interpretations a personal character interesting and enriching.

The Beethoven Journal (USA), July 1st 2009, di Susan Kagan

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

A visit to Christian Leotta's website reveals much about this young Italian virtuoso, born in 1980. Of prime importance is the fact that his teacher was Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of Artur Schnabel and a great musician and pianist in his own right. It is perhaps stretching it a bit, but one can view the Schnabels as the musical descendants of Beethoven in a teacher-pupil line that extended from Beethoven to Czerny to Leschetizky, Artur Schnabel's teacher, and finally ro Karl Ulrich, who numbered among his students many of today's best-known pianists. Leotta also studied with Rosalyn Tureck, who predicted a major career for him.

Leotta is credited with being the youngest pianist since Daniel Barenboim to play the entire cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas in recital over a period of less than one month, a feat he accomplished at the age of twenty-two and has since repeated twelve times in various cities worldwide. He has received several honors, recorded for radio and television, and was the subject of a documentary film comprising live recordings of a Mozart concerto and the Hammerklavier Sonata. At this juncture he apparently feels ready to commit the Beethoven sonatas to a CD cycle.

It is nice to report that Leotta lives up to the hype. As expected, he has a prodigious technique - one that enables him to play with a great variety of dynamic shadings and keyboard touch, as well as to make the technical difficulties of the Hammerklavier sound almost simple. One of his great assets is the subtlety of his keyboard sound, where the fluency and clarity of his finger-work is admirable. This is especially remarkable in the first and final movements of the Hammerklavier, where passages are so often muddied. Throughout the sonata he comes extremely close to Beethoven's metronome marks, which have been declared "unplayable" by many pianists. Leotta attacks the opening measures of the first movement almost ferociously, and the whole movement is forceful and driven. He is always mindful of Beethoven's phrasing and myriad expression marks and follows them carefully. The great Adagio sostenuto slow movement unfolds with simplicity and sensitivity; note especially his playing of the heart-stopping, unexpected modulation to G Major at measure 14, and each reoccurrence of that modulation throughout the movement.

The first movement of the "Waldstein" is played very steadily, with great tension generated in the relentless repeated notes of the theme. Leotta observes Beethoven's long pedals in the finale and uses the pedal so adeptly that, although there is blurring of the harmonies (as Beethoven intended), there is also a limpid clarity as the theme unfolds over the sustained pedal. The earlier Sonata in B-flat Major, Opus 22, is also filled with thorny technical challenges in the first movement, which Leotta meets with enormous energy and brilliance. The expressive Adagio seemed a touch too slow and stolid, especially when compared with his playing of the Hammerklavier slow movement.

Finally, there is Opus 109, the first of Beethoven's final sonata trilogy. Here too Leotta's reading is intelligent, exciting, and expressive. One caveat, however: in the theme of the finale, and in a couple of the ensuing variations, Leotta sometimes toys with the rhythm, making a little hesitation just before the downbeat brings the phrase to a close. I presume this is for expressive purposes, but it is disconcerting. In the coda of the finale, as the trills change register, he sustains the sound brilliantly.

In sum, Christian Leotta is a masterful pianist whose Beethoven playing is quite special. I believe his cycle of the sonatas (beautifully recorded on an exceptionally beautiful Steinway) will be a major addition to other sets currently available.

Classic Today (USA), June 2009, by Jed Distler


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

"…Leotta’s deliberation in the Rondo (of the Waldstein Sonata) yields gorgeous, alluringly blurred sonorities at the outset as he observes Beethoven's long pedal markings, yet the extensive scales and rotary figurations run in place, moving nowhere until the Presto coda…".

Audio Video Club of Atlanta (USA), May 2009, by Phil Muse

Leotta's Beethoven the best yet?


Audio Video Club of Atlanta (USA), May 2009, by Phil Muse


Italian pianist Christian Leotta builds on his earlier release in an ongoing cycle with an even more impressive entry of Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Vol. 2. The 2-CD slimline consists of Sonatas No. 11 in B-flat, Op. 22; No. 21 in C, Op. 53, “Waldstein”; No. 29 in B-flat, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier” and No. 30 in E, Op. 109. In terms of texture, rhythm, and keyboard effects that are often nothing short of sensational, it's a formidable lineup.

Leotta's skills are more than equal to the task. His tone is beautifully centered, his timing impeccable. His feeling for the rhythm and the degree of energy to invest in any particular passage is flawless, and his dynamic prowess includes a true pianissimo in a variety of discrete shadings. Most significantly, he constantly thinks his way through Beethoven's music, balancing the intellectual end emotive elements so perfectly that we have the exciting awareness of intimately knowing the heart and mind of this composer.

Sonata No. 11 comes across here as Beethoven at his most carefree. The flowing arpeggios in the opening Allegro con brio set the tone for a work that will end in a brilliant Rondo with cross-rhythms and syncopations. In Leotta's hands, it seems as if it could go on forever and we wouldn't mind. There's even a quasi-fugal passage that foreshadows what the composer will do in the “Hammerklavier”. Sonata No. 30 is another “happy” sonata, but with a difference. Its opening, marked Vivace ma non troppo, seems to flow carelessly and easily, like a free improvisation, until it arrives at a sudden cadence, as if the heady dreams of youth were confronted by the sobering thought, “Is that all there is?” A brief, impassioned scherzo marked Prestissimo is succeeded, unusually, by a slow finale, marked Andante and twice as long as both its predecessors combined. It's in the form of a theme with six variations, which Leotta characterizes beautifully in terms of Beethoven's unusually detailed expressive markings.

In the “Waldstein” Sonata, Leotta takes the Allegro con brio opening movement with all the vivacity and high-profile rhythm that it requires, but not with the excessive velocity with which some pianists have endowed it. This, after all, is not the climax of the work. He does a great job with the development section, which is built of the most diverse materials that include some quasi-fugal stuff before the brilliant coda. His remarkable sense of timing really comes into play here in this most dramatic and suspenseful of Beethoven movements. The Adagio is not a true slow movement, but the introduction to a Rondo finale that builds in builds in complexity and excitement as it releases the harmonic tensions created by the opening movement. These are pyrotechnics with a purpose, and Leotta conveys it to us in all his explosive vitality.

Leotta's superb sense of pacing and grasp of fine distinctions in musical time receive their ultimate test in Sonata 29, the “Hammerklavier.” So does his command of the finely shaded distinctions of pianissimo phrasing that we hear at both ends of the remarkable slow movement, Adagio sostenuto, which is further marked appassionato e con molto sentimento, requiring the utmost in the pianist's expressive range. At 19:42 this movement is unhurried without losing any of the vital tension that holds it together. Here, as in the opening movement, Leotta shows a masterful grasp of Beethoven's use of trills and variations in tempi to generate excitement and lead us forward into new and ever more interesting vistas of the imagination. His mastery is undiminished in that massive whirlwind of a double fugue that concludes the work in the most decisive manner imaginable. In a two-year period when we've heard some really distinguished Beethoven performances, this new offering by Leotta may be the best yet.
 
Christian Leotta

Pianist's Profile by Luisa Trisi, published on the Atma Classique website


The careful reading and faithfulness to the score, the exceptional wisdom, sensitivity and musicality as well as his technique and virtuosity … seem to prove that the Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven have found a faithful, committed and very competent performer in the young Italian pianist”. Muzyka 21

Still in his twenties, the Catania-born, Como-based Christian Leotta is the youngest pianist to attempt the complete Beethoven piano sonatas since Daniel Baremboim performed the complete cycle in Tel Aviv in the 1960s. Leotta’s first performances of all 32 sonatas took place in Montréal in 2002 when he was just 22. Since then, he has performed the complete cycle 12 times in cities around the world including Madrid, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, Venice, and Québec City. The first two volumes of Leotta’s complete Beethoven sonatas have been released on ATMA to international acclaim — including CD of the Month from Poland’s Muzyka 21 — and the third volume is scheduled for recording in June.

How does a 22-year old decide to embark on such an undertaking? Some credit must go to Leotta’s father, who gave his 11-year old son Barenboim’s recording of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas as a gift. Despite his tender age, the young Leotta was so deeply moved by Opus 111, in particular the Arietta, that he decided to learn it.

Leotta also acknowledges the influence of one of his teachers, Karl Ulrich Schnabel, who encouraged him to learn all 32 sonatas. Interestingly, Leotta’s studies with Schnabel link him to a musical lineage that traces its roots all the way back to Beethoven: Leotta’s teacher was the son of the legendary Arthur Schnabel, who was a student of Theodor Lesketizky, in turn a student of Carl Czerny, who was taught by the great Ludwig van himself. Leotta credits another teacher, the iconic Rosalyn Tureck, with passing along one of the most important lessons a musician can learn: to convey complex musical ideas without creating barriers between the composer and the audience.

As much as Beethoven is central to Leotta’s career, his repertoire is wide-ranging and includes Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Bartók, Liszt, Mozart and Schubert, among many others. A highlight of his recent engagements is the complete cycle of five piano concertos and the Choral Fantasy by Beethoven, performed in Guadalajara’s stunning Degollado Theatre.

Both at home and on the road, Leotta is a devoted reader with broad tastes. Texts by philosophers Seneca and Kant and sociologist Georg Simmel are of major interest, and he often returns to Balzac’s classic La Comédie humaine and the novels of Sicilian-born masters Giovanni Verga and Luigi Pirandello.

Since childhood, Leotta has been fascinated by geography and architecture – two passions that he is able to indulge fully in his breathtaking surroundings on Lake Como. “When my schedule permits, I love boating on the lake, watching the splendid villas and towns go by where Bellini and Liszt composed their music.”

Though other pianists of his generation are less inclined to concentrate so much of their touring and recording repertoire on the works of Beethoven, Leotta is unapologetic about his focus. In an interview with Como’s La Provincia, Leotta declared, “Beethoven is to music what Kant is to philosophy and Dante is to poetry. His music is so universal that it will always convey a meaningful message to any audience, past, present or future. It has been my enormous privilege to spend thousands of hours in the company of this master.

Corriere di Como (Italy), May 29th 2009, by Lorenzo Morandotti

Leotta cala un doppio asso e fa centro con Beethoven


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"

“…Christian Leotta non ha scelto lo stesso destino di Glenn Gould, non ha deciso a soli 31 anni di auto confinarsi per dedicare il proprio genio solo alle registrazioni. Leotta, 29enne, gira il mondo. Instancabilmente. Con l’integrale delle Sonate – è il primo dai tempi di Daniel Barenboim che ha interpretato, così giovane, un compito tanto ambizioso – e altre pagine celebri del repertorio classico. Ma con la stessa passione di Gould accetta la sfida di una rilettura beethoveniana che sta convincendo, per brio e profondità, le principali riviste di settore del mondo. Dopo il primo volume dell’integrale edito da Atma – oltre alle “classiche” Patetica e Appassionata contiene le sonate n. 7, 12, 24 e 32 – come detto Leotta ora è al secondo volume con due perle, la “Waldstein” e la “Hammerklavier”.  Che ribadisce la freschezza interpretativa del comasco, il suo virtuosismo sempre controllato… Leotta si conferma sempre più allievo del grande Karl-Ulrich Schnabel…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta plays a double trump card and wins with Beethoven

“…Christian Leotta did not choose the same destiny of Glenn Gould, he did not decide at only 31 to cut himself off  in order to dedicate his genius exclusively to the recordings. Leotta, at 29, travels the world. Tirelessly. With the complete 32 Piano Sonatas cycle – he is the first since Daniel Barenboim to perform, so young, the ambitious corpus – and with other famous works of the Classic repertoire. But with the same passion of Gould he accepts the challenge of a new reading of Beethoven, which is convincing the most important musical magazines of the world thanks to his brio and profundity. After the Volume I of the Integral, issued by Atma – together with the “classics” Pathetique and Appassionata it comprises the Piano Sonatas No. 7, 12, 24 and 32 – Leotta has come now to the Volume II presenting two pearls, the “Waldstein” and the “Hammerklavier”. This recording proves once more the freshness of the approach of the pianist from Como and  his virtuosity always measured… Leotta confirms himself, more and more, to be a disciple of the great Karl-Ulrich Schnabel…”.

The Globe and Mail, Toronto (Canada), May 19th 2009, by Elissa Poole

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"


Some pianists record Beethoven only late in life - Mitsuko Uchida's illuminating interpretations of the late sonatas, for instance. Some, like Alfred Brendel, return again and again. Italian pianist Christian Leotta is not yet 30, but he's well into his complete Beethoven cycle for Atma. The interpretations are not revelatory but they are solid and compelling. I like Leotta in fast movements best, for his muscular energy, and stern clarity of intent. His adagios I find too slow (and slightly self-indulgent), although the "Hammerklavier's" lengthy adagio is extremely focused, notwithstanding. He does not relax his grip for almost 20 minutes - no small feat.

Le Journal de Montreal (Canada), May 9th 2009, by Christophe Rodriguez


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"

Sans être un jeune prodige, le pianiste Christian Leotta a déjà une longue feuille de route. En 2004, il recevait la médaille du president de la République italienne, importante distinction accordée à une realization artistique exceptionnelle qui, dans le cas présent, a pour sujet Beethoven. Ceux et celles d 'entre vous qui suivaient assidument la scène artistiques es ou viendrontd e son passage à Montréal en 2002  avec au programme l'intégrale des Sonates du même compositeu. En ce début de saison presque estivale, ce Volume deux des Sonates apparaît comme un cadeau inespéré. Une féérie de teintes et la Musique qui parle d'elle-même. Que demander de plus!

TRANSLATION:

No longer a child prodigy, the Italian Pianist Christian Leotta has already a long experience. In 2004 he received the medal of the President of the Italian Republic, an important distinction given thanks  to an exceptional artistic achievement, referring in this case to Beethoven. Those of you which diligently followed the artistic scene, will remember his visit to Montreal in 2002, presenting the 32 Piano Sonatas of the same composer. In this debut of this almost summer season, this Volume II of the Sonatas appears as an unexpected gift. Magic hues and Music that speaks for itself. What more can one ask for!

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), March 1st 2009, by Jaime Garcia Elias

Leotta dejó huella con los cinco conciertos de Beethoven


“Pues sí. Christian Leotta redondéo su “tour de force”: completó el ciclo de los cinco conciertos para piano de Beethoven con la ejecución del más popular de todos, el No. 5 en Mi bemol mayor, Op. 73 (Emperador)... Hubo, como en las dos sesiones precedentes, excelente respuesta de público: sala y balcones llenos, y notoria predisposición a recompensar al joven virtuoso italiano... en el segundo movimiento (Adagio un poco mosso) Leotta tocó la gloria con los dedos al interpretar fielmente las melodías, casi suplicantes, que son una prefiguración de los conciertos de Chopin, así como en la portentosa transición del segundo al tercer movimiento, y en el preámbulo final bordó fino al exquisito diálogo con los timbales...”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta has left his mark with the 5 Piano Concertos of Beethoven

“Well yes. Christian Leotta has crowned his “tour de force”: he completed the cycle of the five Piano Concertos of Beethoven with the performance of the most popular of them, the No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 (the Emperor)… He received, as well as for the previous two sessions, an excellent response from the public: hall and balconies full and the notorious predisposition to recompense the young Italian virtuoso… In the second movement (Adagio un poco mosso) Leotta touched glory with his fingers, having interpreted faithfully the melodies, almost supplicant, which are a foreshadowing of the Concertos of Chopin, as well as in the portentous transition from the second to the third movement and in the excellent finale, which brings us to the exquisite dialog with the timpani…”.

MAGAZINEMX.COM, Guadalajara (Mexico), February 28th 2009

Leotta brinda imperial interpretación de Beethoven


"El Teatro Degollado lucía lleno. Gente de todas las edades quería ser testigo por última vez del virtuosismo del pianista italiano Christian Leotta, quien interpretaría su último programa de la temporada después de haber deleitado a los tapatíos con cuatro de los cinco conciertos para piano del genio de Bonn, y que esa noche cerraría el ciclo con el concierto conocido como “Emperador”, una de las obras mas gustadas mundialmente por los melómanos. Christian Leotta y Héctor Guzmán arribaron juntos al escenario entre aplausos para dar comienzo a la velada. Un hermoso arpegio por parte del piano, acompañado de triunfales acordes de la orquesta sirven como introducción al consiguiente solo interpretado por Leotta, quien le brinda finas tesituras y matices al intrincado primer movimiento. A continuación el Adagio un poco mosso con su solemne y etéreo sonido se prestaba para sumirse en la reflexión, hasta que de pronto pasar a la alegría con la potencia y fastuosidad del tercer y último movimiento... El teatro explotó en aplausos y ovaciones, sobre todo a Leotta quien regresó tres veces al escenario para recibir el cariño del público. En la segunda parte Leotta regresó al escenario para interpretar la última pieza de la noche, la Fantasía en Do menor para piano, coro y orquesta. Con fuertes acordes seguidos de arpegios, el piano da la pauta para que las graves y oscuras notas de los cellos se integren al primero de los siete movimientos. En esta obra se pudo apreciar el fluido diálogo que se crea entre la orquesta y las voces, así como la naturalidad y fluidez de la interpretación de Leotta... Concluida la potente interpretación, el público se paró de sus asientos y se entregó completamente a la orquesta y a Leotta con aplausos y ovaciones que duraron varios minutos. El pianista italiano recibió un caluroso abrazo de Héctor Guzmán, además de un ramo de rosas, que son solo una pequeña muestra del cariño que los tapatíos le tienen a este magnífico pianista”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta gives an imperial interpretation of Beethoven


“The Teatro Degollado resplended full. People of all ages wanted to be witness to the virtuosity of the Italian pianist Christian Leotta for the last time, who interpreted his last program of the season, after having delighted the people from Guadalajara with four of the five Piano Concertos of the genius from Bonn, closing this night the cycle with the Concerto known as “Emperor”, one of the most loved works of those who have passion for music. Christian Leotta and Héctor Guzmán arrived together on the stage between applauses, in order to begin the evening. A beautiful arpeggio of the pianist, accompanied by triumphal chords of the orchestra, introduced the following “solo” of Leotta, who gave subtle textures and clarity to the intricate first movement. The Adagio un poco mosso followed with his solemn and ethereal sound, which inspired an atmosphere of reflection until, suddenly, happiness is reached with the power and pomp of the third and last movement … The theatre exploded in applauses and ovations, specially for Leotta who came back three times to the stage to receive the affection of the public. In the second half Leotta came back to interpret the last piece of the evening, the Fantasy in C minor for piano, choir and orchestra. With strong chords followed by arpeggios, the piano gave way to the grave and obscures notes of the cellos, which start the first of the seven following movements. In this work it has been possible to enjoy the fluid dialog between the orchestra and the voices, as well as the spontaneity and fluidity of the interpretation of Leotta… Once ended the powerful interpretation, the public rose from its seats and completely abandoned itself to the orchestra and to Leotta, with applauses and ovations which lasted several minutes. The pianist received a warm hug from Héctor Guzmán, and a bunch of roses, which are only a little demonstration of the love which the people from Guadalajara feel for this magnificent pianist”.

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), February 22nd 2009, by Jaime Garcia Elias

Leotta volvió a hipnotizar al público


“...con Anshel Brusilow como director huésped de la Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, el programa incluyó esta vez los conciertos No. 2 en Si bemol major, Op. 19, y el No. 4 en Sol mayor, Op. 58, como platos fuertes... Leotta logró una ejecución intensa, plena de intimidad... el Andante con moto del Concierto No. 4, en que resplandecieron los celebrados “silencios de Beethovenj”, el ejecutante hipnotizó, literalmente, a la audencia, casi obligándola a dejar de respirar para hacer eterna cada una de las notas. En el encore que obsequió (el Adagio de una sonata del mismo Beethoven), Leotta, inspirado, volvió a poner al público en trance y redondeó otra jornada memorable...”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta hypnotized the public once again

“...with Anshel Brusilow as guest conductor of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, the program has included this time the Concertos No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19 and No. 4, in G mayor, Op. 58, as major works of the evening… Leotta succeeded in giving an intense performance, full of intimacy… The Andante con moto of the Concerto No. 4, in which the famous “Beethoven’s silences” shine, the performer hypnotized, literarily, the audience, almost obliging the public to stop breathing thus rendering each note eternal. With the encore which followed (an Adagio from a Sonata of the same Beethoven), an inspired Leotta entranced the public once again and crowned another memorable day…”

El Mural, Guadalajara (Mexico), February 16th 2009, by Sergio Padilla 

Leotta


“...el pianista italiano ha demostrado alta solvencia técnica, pero más que eso, ha dejado constancia de que pone la técnica al servicio de la interpretación; sus ejecuciones no son mecánicas y no se queda sola y fríamente en lo que indica la partitura. En su partecipación en el primero programa de la temporada de la Orquesta Filrmónica de Jalisco, donde interpretó el primer y tercer concierto para piano de Beethoven, Leotta demostró que tiene en mente la estructura total de la obra y desde allí va tejiendo su discurso musical con notable fluidez, siempre en función de penetrar en los recovecos de cada pasaje de la obra”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta

“…the Italian pianist showed a very strong technique, but, more than that, his attitude in using his technique to serve the interpretation; his performances are not mechanical and they do not present only and in a cool way what has been indicated on the score. In is participation on the first program of the season of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, occasion in which he interpreted the first and the third Piano Concertos of Beethoven, Leotta demonstrated that he had in mind the total structure of the work and, from that, he continues his musical talk with notable fluidity, always with the aim of penetrating the meanderings of each passage of the work”.

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), February 15th 2009, by Jaime Garcia Elias

A Leotta solo le faltó levitar


“A Christian Leotta no hay que perderlo de vista. Hay que tener su nombre en la memoria los próximos años, porque quizá se cumpla el vaticinio de que será el mejor intérprete de Beethoven de la primera mitad del siglo XXI... Con el antecedente de la magistral interpretación de las 32 sonatas de Beethoven durante el Festival Cultural de Mayo (FCM) de 2008 como tarjeta de presentación, Leotta inició el viernes, en el Teatro Degollado, otra empresa titánica: la interpretación de los cinco conciertos para piano del mismo autor, en tres entregas... Leotta, en ambos los conciertos en Do major Op. 15 y en Do menor Op. 37, confirmó como solista la excelente impresión que había causado como recitalista: técnica impecable, fraseo nítido, interpretación inspirada. Sin detrimento del virtuosismo -patente en las cadenzas de los dos conciertos-, la mayor virtud del joven pianista italiano es la comprensión de la partitura, la identificación con el alma de la música. Si en el segundo movimiento del primer concierto, en Do major, Op. 15, fue excelente, en el correspondiente del segundo concierto, Leotta se sublimó: aportó energía, agilidad, lirismo a raudales. En el “solo” inicial de ese movimiento, con fagot y flauta a la altura de las exigencias del solista, éste desbordó inpiración. A Leotta sólo le faltó levitar”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta only missed levitating

“Christrian Leotta is a pianist to watch. You must remember his name for the following years, because perhaps the prophecy that he will be the best Beethovenian interpreter of the first half of the XXI century will come true… With a masterly interpretation of the 32 Sonatas of Beethoven performed for the Festival Cultural de Majo in 2008 as a presentation, Leotta started last Friday, at the Teatro Degollado, another titanic undertaking: the interpretation of the five Piano Concertos of the same composer, presented in three evenings… Leotta, in both the Concertos in C major Op. 15 and in C minor Op. 37, has confirmed as soloist the excellent impression made as recitalist: impeccable technique, clear phrasing, inspired interpretation. Without forgetting the virtuosity – necessary to play the cadenzas of both the Concertos – the major virtue of the young Italian pianist is the understanding of the score and capacity to identify himself with the soul of the music. If the second movement of the first Concerto, in C major, Op. 15, was excellent, in the correspondent movement of the second Concerto, Leotta was sublime: he brought energy, agility, and a cascade of lyricism. In the starting “solo” of this movement, with the bassoon and the flute playing at the level required by the soloist, this overflowed inspiration. Leotta only missed levitating”.

All Music Guide, November 2008, by James Manheim

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"...Leotta's playing is of the sort that some find self-indulgent and others would point to as the thing they go to concerts for. This is old-fashioned, Romantic Beethoven. Tempos are on the slow side, and, more important, variable at any time the pianist decides to go for a poetic effect, or to increase forward momentum. The latter is what gives Leotta's playing its particular flavor: he's the kind of pianist who makes you tap your foot (or, presumably, restrain yourself from doing so if you're hearing him live). The Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 ("Pathétique") begins with a very slow introduction and from then on seems to be straining forward restlessly. The Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 ("Appassionata") has numerous slightly different tempos in its opening movement, but essentially holds together. There's no question that Leotta bears watching, for he's capable of really seizing your attention at unexpected moments. Hear the very crisp Scherzo (CD 1, track 5) of the Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26, followed by an imposing funeral march. Few pianists have been able to bring out the strong foreshadowings of Beethoven's middle period in this sonata as well as Leotta does... the set as a whole makes you want to hear the future volumes...".

Muzika21, Warsaw (Poland), October 2008 (No. 99), by Pawel Chmielowski

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"  CD OF THE MONTH

TRANSLATION:

The recording label Atma Classique has recently released the first album of Christian Leotta’s recording of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas. This release is an event of immense significance, which should move not only fans of the great composer but also connoisseurs of great pianism. Ladies and gentlemen, in the person of a 28 year old Italian, is born one of the most extraordinary Beethovenian interpreters of our time, whose way of playing is noteworthy of everybody’s attention, including the greatest sixty-year-olds... Christian Leotta is the first pianist since Daniel Barenboim who, at such young age, has embarked on the ambitious task of performing in concert the complete cycle of the Sonatas and, considering the enthusiastic reviews gained and the recording which is the subject of this review, Christian Leotta’s decision is as courageous as absolutely well founded.

His first album for Atma, which I have great pleasure in presenting, should be very well received even by the most demanding fans of piano art; I hope that I will not have to wait long for the other recordings of the cycle: if we consider this album as an indicator of the complete series, all titles should be looked forward to. It is breathtaking to hear Leotta immersing into the world of the great composer’s masterworks in order to present it anew and to reveal it in the way he sees and perceives it through his own sensitivity, imagination, and respect for the author’s intention. The result is fascinating. I liked very much his simply phenomenal reading of the score and the way he has brought out its whole richness and showed many details which usually go unnoticed in superficial, or too fast, interpretations. Owing to such approach and to appropriate, not hurried, over tempos, his vision dazed by its power of expression, integrity of form and coherence.The scale of dynamics he uses is truly impressive; from the softest, moving pianissimo passages, subtle but expressive, to powerful fortissimo full of brilliance and power, which simply seem to blast the instrument e.g. in the wonderfully played Appasionata.

What particularly deserves an emphasis is Leotta’s skilful use of contrasts as it is a very important feature which characterises his musical approach and it is a factor which enriches the form and applies not only to the above-mentioned range of sound volume. The pianist is also skilful in differentiating pieces; outermost parts, kept in lively tempos, are full of vigour, joy, energy, elements of dance and scherzo as well as of rhythmical azement in listeners e.g. the Lar­go from Sonata in D-major op. 10 no 3 or the last Sonata in C sharp op. 111, impressive for the richness of thoughts, moods and ideas, which are far from the problems of the material world. Tempos given by the pianist are unhurried and adjusted wisely to the expression and structure of pieces. As a result, music seems richer in details, while all harmonies, counterpoints - all the structure - can be clearly heard. Followers of spectacular, fast tempos might not like this solution, but I do appreciate it, even more so since the Italian avoids shaping all parts from the same mould: where appropriate, he gives the music a lively pulse and a dramatic course and, owing to this approach, his concepts fit author’s ideas perfectly.

The careful reading and faithfulness to the score, a scrupulous transfer of the richness of the notes to the keyboard, the exceptional wisdom, sensitivity and musicality as well as his technique and virtuosity which leave no field for doubt, seem to prove that the Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven have found a faithful, committed and very competent performer in the young Italian pianist.

Much could still be said about this creation of Christian Leotta, which is mature in both musical and purely human terms. One should simply listen and let oneself be carried away and enraptured by this fascinating performance, which rivets one’s attention from the beginning to the end. It’s been a long while since I have listened to Beethoven’s masterworks played so perfectly even though they are performed by all piano masters. I am convinced that, after recording all the sonatas, the Italian pianist will be considered one of the most extraordinary interpreters of Beethoven.While looking forward to the following recordings of the cycle and continuously enjoying the performance recorded on this first album, one can only say one thing: “Bravo!”.

The Classic Voice, Milan (Italy), September 2008 (No. 112), by Gian Paolo Minardi


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"Realizzare l’integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven costituisce un obiettivo certamente estremo, una sfida che molti grandi interpreti hanno affrontato.... Ora nell’albo d’oro di questi audaci si è iscritto Christian Leotta, oggi ventottenne ma ne aveva ventidue quando a Montréal propose l’intero ciclo. Le sei Sonate riunite nei due CD costituiscono un campionario indicativo, spaziando attraverso i “tre stili” ciò che consente di osservare il modo di atteggiarsi dell’interprete di fronte a situazioni emotivamente assai diverse e pur riassunte entro una ragione di unitarietà. E’ fuor di dubbio il senso di consapevolezza con cui Leotta procede lungo il tracciato, offrendo una lettura trasparente nel mostrare tutta la ricchezza del tessuto nella sua geniale articolazione…”.

TRANSLATION:

“To realize the integral of the Sonatas by Beethoven is certainly an extreme undertaking, a challenge which many great interpreters have faced… Now in the gold book of the audacious ones has entered Christian Leotta, today 28, but only 22 when he presented in Montreal the entire cycle. The six Sonatas included in the two CDs are an indicative sample, ranging between the “Three Manners”, which allows us to observe the way of posing of the interpreter in front of situations emotionally very different but summarized into a sense of unity. It is beyond discussion the sense of awareness with which Leotta proceeds along the trail, offering a transparent reading while showing all the richness of the texture in its genial articulation…”.

Musica, Milan (Italy), September 2008 (No. 199), by Luca Segalla


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Christian Leotta mostra di essere un pianista lucido e maturo…scolpisce le frasi con eloquenza, rifinisce il fraseggio con raffinata maestria, ottiene un buon cantabile, differenziando bene i piani dinamici.…Un op. 111 così intensa da un ventiseienne è davvero una bella sorpresa”.

TRANSLATION:

“…Christian Leotta proves to be a pianist lucid and mature… he defines the phrases with eloquence, refines the phrasing with refined mastery, achieves a good cantabile, well differentiating the dynamic levels… An Op. 111 so intense from a 26 year old is really a great surprise”.

Amadeus, Milan (Italy), August 2008 (No. 8), by Antonio Brena


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Di primo acchito, trovandosi di fronte all’ennesima riproposta delle 32 Sonate per pianoforte di Ludwig van Beethoven verrebbe da pensare a un’operazione commerciale mirata esclusivamente a far conoscere un giovane pianista emergente. Poi si ascolta la registrazione e, man mano che la musica scorre, ci si può rendere conto che in questi primi due compact disc della serie c’è qualità e un qualcosa in più. Si rimane affascinati dallo scavo espressivo e, soprattutto, dall’intelligente e meditata scelta dei tempi qui considerati più appropriati per interpretare le Sonate in do minore “Patetica” op. 13, in la bemolle maggiore op. 26, in fa minore “Appassionata” op. 57, in re maggiore op. 10 n. 3, in fa diesis maggiore op. 78 e in do minore op. 111. Tempi che non raramente si mostrano fuori della consuetudine (specialmente nella “Patetica” e nell’ “Appassionata” ), che suscitano interesse e sorpresa e invitano a un nuovo ascolto. E allora ci si rende conto che l’approccio di Leotta al pianismo di Beethoven è tutto in funzione della dialettica sottesa alla musicalità di queste composizioni del maestro di Bonn, del pensiero sonoro che s’ispira a un concetto filosofico, del percorso armonico che si sviluppa come un’ascesa ideale. Christian Leotta convince e conquista l’ascoltatore all’insegna del garbo e di un gusto sapiente, soprattutto per quel suo porsi al servizio della musica anziché del mercato discografico. Un’incisione pienamente riuscita: da attendere i prossimi volumi.

TRANSLATION:

At first sight, being once again presented with a new version of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, one would be tempted to think of it as a commercial operation exclusively aimed  at launching a young emerging pianist. But once we start to listen to the recording and, while the music is flowing, we realize that in these first  two compact discs of the series there is quality and something more. One is fascinated by the expressive research and, even more, by the intelligent and meditated choice of the Tempos here considerate more appropriate for interpreting  the Sonatas in C minor “Pathetic” Op. 13, in A flat major Op. 26, in F minor “Appassionata” Op. 57, in D major Op. 10 No. 3, in F sharp major Op. 78 and in C minor Op. 111. Tempos that not rarely appear outside the normal usage (especially in the “Pathetic” and in the “Appassionata”), and which trigger interest and surprise, inviting one to listening to it over and over again. And so we realize that Leotta’s approach to the Beethoven’s pianism is all for the dialectic implied in the musicality of these compositions by the master from Bonn, for the sonic thought inspired by a philosophic concept, for the harmonic pathway, which develops itself as an ideal ascent. Christian Leotta convinces and conquers the listener with his refinement and his sapient taste, that especially by  his attitude of serving  music rather than the recording market. A very well made recording: waiting eagerly for the next volume.

Atlanta Audio Society, Atlanta (USA), July 2008, by Phil Muse

Christian Leotta: remember his name


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Pianist Christian Leotta, a native of Catania, Italy, has performed the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas no less than ten times in musical capitals around the world, beginning in Montreal in 2002. He studied for a time with the celebrated teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel, who has declared: ”The dynamic range of his playing from nearly inaudible pp to a powerful ff is truly impressive”. Not just impressive for its own sake, but for the sake of the most expressive features in Beethoven’s writing.

On a specially priced 2-CD ATMA slim line, apparently the pianist’s debut recording, we get to hear what the world has been raving about. As Volume 1 in a projected Beethoven cycle, the program consists of Sonatas Nos. 8 in C minor (“Pathétique”), 12 in A-flat major (“Funeral march”), 23 in f minor (“Appassionata”), 7 in D major, Op. 10 no. 3, 24 in F-sharp major, and 32 in C minor Op. 111. In their variety, these six sonatas show the broad range of the composer’s genius, from classical balance to romantic stress and tumult, and with moods ranging from comically playfulness to impassioned fury and finally deep, peaceful resignation. Besides his afore-mentioned prowess in dynamics, which must be heard to be fully appreciated, Leotta has a well developed feeling for rhythm and pacing, vital requisites in a Beethoven interpreter, and for the differentiation of keyboard registers, something that was easer to accomplish with the pianofortes of the composer’s day than on a modern Hamburg Steinway such as we have in these recordings.

Leotta’s keyboard technique and interpretive insight form a complete package, which we hear right from the beginning with the “Pathétique” Sonata. Here, the famous nickname notwithstanding, there is much scope for humorous music in the whimsical slow movement and the central episode in the fleet-footed finale. The most remarkable feature of Sonata No. 12 is the slow movement, described as a “Funeral March on the Death of a Hero”. Leotta makes of the movement’s orchestral sonorities in the context of a superbly paced movement. He captures also the real violence in the development section in the Allegro of the “Appassionata”, as well as the very forceful cadence at the end. And he makes a superb transition from the two diminished seventh chords at the end of the slow movement to the controlled fury of the finale, ending brilliantly in a diabolic maelstrom of jostling, syncopated notes.

Disc 2 begins with the under-sung Sonata No. 7, ranging in mood from light-hearted and impish to surprisingly sad and introspective in the slow movement, marked Largo e mesto (broad and sad), before restoring us to good spirits with a classically proportioned minuet and a humorous finale. In Sonata No. 24 Leotta captures the intimate charm of the opening movement as well as the calculated eccentricities of the Allegro vivace finale, with its many hand-crossings and sudden dynamic contrasts. That brings to No. 32 in C minor, Beethoven’s very last sonata. This amazing work is a study in opposing forces, with its contrasts in dynamics, mode, characterization, time and duration. At 22:36, Leotta takes the Arietta and five variations that make up the final movement very slowly and expressively, bringing out every nuance with consummate skill and a feeling for musical time that is ultimately timeless.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), July 15th 2008, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli

Il Beethoven di Leotta non delude


“Leotta, il giovane pianista comasco, sabato, ha concluso l’impresa dell’esecuzione integrale delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven… Ciò che a noi fa stimare assai questo pianista (oltre ai doni naturali musicali e intellettuali che possiede) è la tenacia con cui persegue i suoi progetti unita al controllo di ogni particolare. Ormai con questa programmazione Christian continua a girare tutto il mondo, oltre all’Italia…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta’s Beethoven does not disappoint

"Leotta, the young pianist from Como, last Saturday completed the undertaking of the performance of the integral of the 32 Beethoven’s Sonatas… What we really esteem in this pianist (beyond the natural musical and intellectual gifts posses by him) is his tenacity with which he pursues his projects, together with the attention to every aspect. At this point with this program Christian continues to travel all over the world, beyond Italy…”.

Das Echo, Vancouver (Canada), July 2008, by Felicitas Ackermann

Lieben Sie Beethoven?


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Leottas Interpretation ist ebenfalls meisterhaft… Leotta präsentiert das Genie Beethovens mit tiefem Verständnis und seltener Einfühlung. Er hat es sich zur Lebensaufgabe gemacht, Beethovens Musik, insbesondere die Sonaten, der Welt neu nahezubringen…”.

TRANSLATION:

Do you love Beethoven?

“...Leotta’s interpretation is really exceptional... Leotta presents the genius of Beethoven with deep understanding, becoming one with him. Presenting Beethoven’s music and especially his Sonatas to the world under a new light: Leotta has made of this his life mission”.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), July 8th 2008, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli

Christian Leotta: il teatro applaude a Beethoven


“…Leotta evidenzia costantemente una maturità incredibile: mai ovvio, mai banale, sempre con intuizioni interpretative originali. Successo vivissimo”.

TRANSLATION:

Christian Leotta: the theatre applauds to Beethoven

“…Leotta constantly demonstrates a great musical maturity: never obvious, never banal, always with original interpretative intuitions. Extraordinary success”.

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), June 16th 2008

Entre veras y bromas


“...El “tour de force” de Christian Leotta (a quien se augura un lugar entre los inmortales del teclado), de ejecutar – magistralmente, además – las 32 sonatas para piano de Beethoven en ocho sessiones, sería, tal vez, el referente por excellencia de este recién concluido undécimo Festival, que tuvo a Alemania como país invitado. A muy corta distancia se quedarían el concierto inaugural, a cargo de la Orquesta de Cámera de Stuttgart; el recital de piano de Markus Groh; la presentación del ensamble y coro Balthasar-Neumann y del Cuarteto Vogler; los conciertos en que participaron los violoncellistas Johannes Mosser y Daniel Müller-Schott, y el de clausura, con el violinista Ingolf Turban...”.

TRANSLATION:

Between truths and jokes

“…The tour de force of Christian Leotta (to whom we wish a place amidst the immortal of the keyboard) to perform – and in a masterly way indeed – the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven in 8 recitals, will be considered, most probably, as the point of reference for excellence of this just ended edition of the Festival Cultural de Mayo, which had Germany as guest Country. At a very brief distance from him, we can place the performance of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the piano recital by Markus Groh, the performance of the ensamble and the choir Balthasar – Neumann and the Vogler Quartet, the concerts of the cellists Johannes Mosser and Daniel Müller-Shott and, at the end of the Festival, the violinist Ingolf Turban…”.

Reforma, Mexico City, June 6th 2008, by Lazaro Azar

A Guadalajara por Beethoven


“...las 32 Sonatas de Beethoven, a cargo de Christian Leotta… fueron sin duda el punto climático del Festival… El furor tapatío por Leotta es digno de ser consignado: no solamente le paraban cada que salía a la calle o se escuchaban emocionados sollozos durante sus recitales, sino que hasta me tocó ver que se hincaran ante él; personalmente, me sumo a las reverencias hacia este joven cuya solvencia técnica ha sido ejemplarmente puesta al servicio deuna indiscutible madurez interpretativa”.

TRANSLATION:

In Guadalajara for Beethoven

“…The 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas performed by Christian Leotta… have been with no doubt the climax point of the Festival…The great enthusiasm of the public from Guadalajara for Christian Leotta is worthy of being remembered: not only was he stopped in the street every time he went out or that emotional sobs were heard during his concerts, it even got to the point that I saw people fall to their knees in his presence. Personally, I join in the reverence shown to this young man, whos technical gifts were put to use in an exemplary way to serve his unquestionable maturity as interpreter”.

Whole Note, Toronto (Canada), May 2008, by Pamela Margles

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"The American pianist Jonathan Biss and the Italian Christian Leotta are still in their twenties, but on the evidence of these new recordings, they are both thoroughly compelling musicians. The fact that they both reveal such deep musicality reflects their pedagogical lineage. Both studied with teachers who themselves studied with the visionary Artur Schnabel - Biss with one of Schnabel’s greatest students, Leon Fleisher, and Leotta with his son Karl-Urlich Schnabel.In these recordings of Beethoven sonatas, both pianists, in different ways, resist the many opportunities to settle for dazzling surfaces that abound in Beethoven’s writing, with its complex textures and powerful rhythms. Instead, they each use their prodigious techniques to better express the poetry of Beethoven’s music.

Biss grasps the longing behind Beethoven’s vision. His singing lines create dreamy, rhapsodic moods. But he also provides lots of the brio that Beethoven asks for, with elegant ornaments and deft passagework. His tempos can get a bit erratic, especially when he takes a big breath before reaching the top note of an ascending passage, or holds on to a chord well past its written value. But it is exciting how he highlights the bass line, and brings out the inner voices, especially in contrapuntal textures. Biss writes his own booklet notes, and they actually illuminate the music.

Both recordings offer the Pathétique sonata. Biss takes the introductory Grave slowly, but Leotta takes it even more slowly, which leads to even greater dramatic contrasts. Leotta’s approach is muscular, with driven dynamics and tempos. With Leotta you get the intense struggling Beethoven. This is passionate music-making. Details are spelled out, and the dance movements really dance. His ornaments can be so deliberate that they miss Beethoven’s playfulness. But his textures remain delightfully clear throughout, thanks to his extraordinary legato technique and light foot on the sostenuto pedal.The sound from ATMA is brighter and more present than the sound from EMI here, though not as warm".

La Provincia, Como (Italy), April 8th 2008, by Alberto Cima

Leotta, un tocco limpidissimo e preciso


“…Christian Leotta esegue le Sonate di Beethoven con rara maestria, con una visione a volte personale, ma significativa. Tecnicamente precisissimo, cura estrema della dinamica, precisione ritmica, tocco limpidissimo, timbro chiaro…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta, a touch very limpid and precise

“…Christian Leotta performs the Beethoven Sonatas with rare skill…Very precise technique, extreme care for the dynamics, rhythmic precision, limpid touch and clear timbre…”.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), April 29th 2008, by Alberto Cima

Leotta regala un Beethoven poetico e lirico


“…quanta poesia, quanto lirismo che rendono ancora più vivo e attuale il genio di Beethoven. La tecnica prodigiosa di Leotta è emersa ad abundantiam (valga come esempio l’op. 106). Delicatissimo, persino commovente, il Minuetto della Sonata op. 49 n. 2. Uno spirito semplice, calmo e felice è emerso nella “Pastorale”. Un grande Christian Leotta”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta gives a poetic and lyric Beethoven

“…what a lot of poetry, what a lot of lyricism which make even more lively and modern the genius of Beethoven. Leotta’s prodigious technique emerged “ad abundantiam” (in the Op. 106 more than ever). Very delicate, perfino moving, the Minuetto of Sonata Op. 49 No. 2… A great Christian Leotta”.

Le Journal de Montreal, Saturday April 5th 2008, by Christophe Rodriguez

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Comme son maître à penser fut le grand Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, nous pouvons d’ores et déjà affirmer que le traitement sera épuré et brillant techniquement… Cet enregistrement fait preuve d’une grande maturité. Jamais flatteuse, l’approche est rayonnante, non académique et presque visionnaire…”.

TRANSLATION:

“…Christian Leotta, as his “maître à penser” Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, offers a performance of the Sonatas refined and technically brilliant…  This recording proves great maturity. Never flattering, the approach is radiant, not academic  and nearly visionary…”.

La Provincia, Como (Italy), March 23rd 2008, by Alberto Cima

Da Leotta a Pletnev, una stagione di grandi interpreti


L’Integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven al Sociale e il Lugano Festival appuntamenti clou dopo Pasqua”.

TRANSLATION:

From Leotta to Pletnev, a season of great interpreter

The cycle of the Sonatas by Beethoven at the Sociale Theatre and the Lugano Festival are the clou events after Easther

Beethoven & Bordeaux, Montreal (Canada), March 2008, by Jean-François Laferté

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Relever le défi d'interpréter L. v. Beethoven dans ses sonates est une entreprise que plusieurs pianistes veulent réaliser au cours de leur carrière; y réussir est un but, se dépasser est un moyen... C'est ce que fait avec brio et sérieux Christian Leotta dans ce premier volume endisqué chez ATMA; il y présente outre les "classiques" Pathétique et Appassionata, les sonates no. 12, 7, 24 et 32. Toutes ces pièces nous offrent la chance de découvrir non seulement un "jeu" mais aussi une fraîcheur dans l'exécution de ces pièces qui demandent virtuosité mais aussi un choix musical pour que l'on puisse sentir une nouvelle façon de les écouter; c'est ce que nous offre ce disque!.

TRANSLATION:

To accept the challenge to play L. v. Beethoven in his Sonatas represents an undertaking that many pianists want to realize during their career; to succeed in that constitutes a goal, to surpass himself represents a way… It’s just that what Christian Leotta is able to succeed in, with liveliness and profoundness, in this first volume issued by Atma. Besides the “classic” Pathetic and Appassionata, he presents the Sonatas No. 12, 7, 24 and 32. Christian Leotta reveals an interpretative freshness which, together with his virtuosity and musical choices, leads us to listen to the Sonatas presented under a new light; that’s what this disc offers us!

Une entreprise enrechisante

Pizzicato, (Luxembourg), October 2009, by Marcel Louis

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

Le pianiste italien Christian  Leotta continue son intégrale des sonates de Beethoven, et Atma sort le 2e volume d’une série dont le premier avait été présenté avec une certaine prudence par votre serviteur. Le style de l’interprète deviant cependant plus clair et sa personnalité s’affrime.

Leotta continue à privilégier un sons solide qui surprend par une dynamique évolutive extrémement nuancée et une bande super-large. Mais, ici, les nuances de couleurs sont bien plus développées, surprenantes même dans ce qu’elles présentent comme teintes. Leotta n’évite d'ailleurs pas les effets pour augmenter l’expressivité de son jeu. Son affetto très personnel a finalement tout pour nous toucher, car le pianiste sait balancer emotion et pouvoir intellectual et dans les quatre sonates de ce volume, son jeu est moins démonstratif que dans le premier.
Comment ne pas aimer la légèreté et la virtuosité de la 11e sonate, voire de la 30e, très positive et animée. La Waldstein n’est pas moins impressionnante avec son premier mouvement, héroїque et admirablement rythmé, et son finale étectrisant. Leotta excelle également  dans la “Hammerklavier”, où  la différenciation de son jeu atteint un niveau extraordinaire.

Une chose est súre et certaine: malgré la présence sur le marché de nombreuses bonnes intégrales, celle-ci ne sera pas superflue. L’ imagination de Leotta semble suffisamment grande pour donner à ses lectures un caractère  personnel intéressant et enrichissant.

TRANSLATION:


Un enriching undertaking

Italian pianist Christian Leotta continues his integral of Beethoven’s Sonatas, and Atma releases the second Volume of a series of which the first one was presented with a certain caution by your critic. The interpreter’s style becomes however clearer and his personality asserts itself.

Leotta continues to privilege a solid sound which surprises for its dynamic progressions extremely well shaded and a super –large range. But, here, the colour shades are well more developed, surprising also for the tinges presented. Leotta does not avoid also using the effects in order to increase the expressiveness of his playing. His very personal being has in the end all to move us, since the pianist knows how to balance emotion and intellectual power and in the four Sonatas presented his playing is more profound than in the first volume. How could one not love the lightness and virtuosity of the 11th Sonata, as well as that of the 30th, very positive and lively. The Waldstein is not less impressive with is first movement, heroic and admirably rhythmic, and his electrifying finale.Leotta equally excels  in the “Hammerklavier”, where the differentiation of his playing achieves an extraordinary level.

One thing is sure and certain: in spite of the presence on the market of numerous good integrals, this one will be not superfluous. Leotta’s imagination seems big enough to give to his interpretations a personal character interesting and enriching.

The Beethoven Journal (USA), 1 luglio 2009, di Susan Kagan

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

A visit to Christian Leotta's website reveals much about this young Italian virtuoso, born in 1980. Of prime importance is the fact that his teacher was Karl Ulrich Schnabel, son of Artur Schnabel and a great musician and pianist in his own right. It is perhaps stretching it a bit, but one can view the Schnabels as the musical descendants of Beethoven in a teacher-pupil line that extended from Beethoven to Czerny to Leschetizky, Artur Schnabel's teacher, and finally ro Karl Ulrich, who numbered among his students many of today's best-known pianists. Leotta also studied with Rosalyn Tureck, who predicted a major career for him.

Leotta is credited with being the youngest pianist since Daniel Barenboim to play the entire cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas in recital over a period of less than one month, a feat he accomplished at the age of twenty-two and has since repeated twelve times in various cities worldwide. He has received several honors, recorded for radio and television, and was the subject of a documentary film comprising live recordings of a Mozart concerto and the Hammerklavier Sonata. At this juncture he apparently feels ready to commit the Beethoven sonatas to a CD cycle.

It is nice to report that Leotta lives up to the hype. As expected, he has a prodigious technique - one that enables him to play with a great variety of dynamic shadings and keyboard touch, as well as to make the technical difficulties of the Hammerklavier sound almost simple. One of his great assets is the subtlety of his keyboard sound, where the fluency and clarity of his finger-work is admirable. This is especially remarkable in the first and final movements of the Hammerklavier, where passages are so often muddied. Throughout the sonata he comes extremely close to Beethoven's metronome marks, which have been declared "unplayable" by many pianists. Leotta attacks the opening measures of the first movement almost ferociously, and the whole movement is forceful and driven. He is always mindful of Beethoven's phrasing and myriad expression marks and follows them carefully. The great Adagio sostenuto slow movement unfolds with simplicity and sensitivity; note especially his playing of the heart-stopping, unexpected modulation to G Major at measure 14, and each reoccurrence of that modulation throughout the movement.

The first movement of the "Waldstein" is played very steadily, with great tension generated in the relentless repeated notes of the theme. Leotta observes Beethoven's long pedals in the finale and uses the pedal so adeptly that, although there is blurring of the harmonies (as Beethoven intended), there is also a limpid clarity as the theme unfolds over the sustained pedal. The earlier Sonata in B-flat Major, Opus 22, is also filled with thorny technical challenges in the first movement, which Leotta meets with enormous energy and brilliance. The expressive Adagio seemed a touch too slow and stolid, especially when compared with his playing of the Hammerklavier slow movement.

Finally, there is Opus 109, the first of Beethoven's final sonata trilogy. Here too Leotta's reading is intelligent, exciting, and expressive. One caveat, however: in the theme of the finale, and in a couple of the ensuing variations, Leotta sometimes toys with the rhythm, making a little hesitation just before the downbeat brings the phrase to a close. I presume this is for expressive purposes, but it is disconcerting. In the coda of the finale, as the trills change register, he sustains the sound brilliantly.

In sum, Christian Leotta is a masterful pianist whose Beethoven playing is quite special. I believe his cycle of the sonatas (beautifully recorded on an exceptionally beautiful Steinway) will be a major addition to other sets currently available.

Classic Today (USA), June 2009, by Jed Distler


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  

"…Leotta’s deliberation in the Rondo (of the Waldstein Sonata) yields gorgeous, alluringly blurred sonorities at the outset as he observes Beethoven's long pedal markings, yet the extensive scales and rotary figurations run in place, moving nowhere until the Presto coda…".

Leotta's Beethoven the best yet?

Audio Video Club of Atlanta (USA), May 2009, by Phil Muse

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"  


Italian pianist Christian Leotta builds on his earlier release in an ongoing cycle with an even more impressive entry of Beethoven Piano Sonatas: Vol. 2. The 2-CD slimline consists of Sonatas No. 11 in B-flat, Op. 22; No. 21 in C, Op. 53, “Waldstein”; No. 29 in B-flat, Op. 106, “Hammerklavier” and No. 30 in E, Op. 109. In terms of texture, rhythm, and keyboard effects that are often nothing short of sensational, it's a formidable lineup.

Leotta's skills are more than equal to the task. His tone is beautifully centered, his timing impeccable. His feeling for the rhythm and the degree of energy to invest in any particular passage is flawless, and his dynamic prowess includes a true pianissimo in a variety of discrete shadings. Most significantly, he constantly thinks his way through Beethoven's music, balancing the intellectual end emotive elements so perfectly that we have the exciting awareness of intimately knowing the heart and mind of this composer.

Sonata No. 11 comes across here as Beethoven at his most carefree. The flowing arpeggios in the opening Allegro con brio set the tone for a work that will end in a brilliant Rondo with cross-rhythms and syncopations. In Leotta's hands, it seems as if it could go on forever and we wouldn't mind. There's even a quasi-fugal passage that foreshadows what the composer will do in the “Hammerklavier”. Sonata No. 30 is another “happy” sonata, but with a difference. Its opening, marked Vivace ma non troppo, seems to flow carelessly and easily, like a free improvisation, until it arrives at a sudden cadence, as if the heady dreams of youth were confronted by the sobering thought, “Is that all there is?” A brief, impassioned scherzo marked Prestissimo is succeeded, unusually, by a slow finale, marked Andante and twice as long as both its predecessors combined. It's in the form of a theme with six variations, which Leotta characterizes beautifully in terms of Beethoven's unusually detailed expressive markings.

In the “Waldstein” Sonata, Leotta takes the Allegro con brio opening movement with all the vivacity and high-profile rhythm that it requires, but not with the excessive velocity with which some pianists have endowed it. This, after all, is not the climax of the work. He does a great job with the development section, which is built of the most diverse materials that include some quasi-fugal stuff before the brilliant coda. His remarkable sense of timing really comes into play here in this most dramatic and suspenseful of Beethoven movements. The Adagio is not a true slow movement, but the introduction to a Rondo finale that builds in builds in complexity and excitement as it releases the harmonic tensions created by the opening movement. These are pyrotechnics with a purpose, and Leotta conveys it to us in all his explosive vitality.

Leotta's superb sense of pacing and grasp of fine distinctions in musical time receive their ultimate test in Sonata 29, the “Hammerklavier.” So does his command of the finely shaded distinctions of pianissimo phrasing that we hear at both ends of the remarkable slow movement, Adagio sostenuto, which is further marked appassionato e con molto sentimento, requiring the utmost in the pianist's expressive range. At 19:42 this movement is unhurried without losing any of the vital tension that holds it together. Here, as in the opening movement, Leotta shows a masterful grasp of Beethoven's use of trills and variations in tempi to generate excitement and lead us forward into new and ever more interesting vistas of the imagination. His mastery is undiminished in that massive whirlwind of a double fugue that concludes the work in the most decisive manner imaginable. In a two-year period when we've heard some really distinguished Beethoven performances, this new offering by Leotta may be the best yet.
 
Christian Leotta

Pianist's Profile by Luisa Trisi, published on the Atma Classique website


The careful reading and faithfulness to the score, the exceptional wisdom, sensitivity and musicality as well as his technique and virtuosity … seem to prove that the Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven have found a faithful, committed and very competent performer in the young Italian pianist”. Muzyka 21

Still in his twenties, the Catania-born, Como-based Christian Leotta is the youngest pianist to attempt the complete Beethoven piano sonatas since Daniel Baremboim performed the complete cycle in Tel Aviv in the 1960s. Leotta’s first performances of all 32 sonatas took place in Montréal in 2002 when he was just 22. Since then, he has performed the complete cycle 12 times in cities around the world including Madrid, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver, Venice, and Québec City. The first two volumes of Leotta’s complete Beethoven sonatas have been released on ATMA to international acclaim — including CD of the Month from Poland’s Muzyka 21 — and the third volume is scheduled for recording in June.

How does a 22-year old decide to embark on such an undertaking? Some credit must go to Leotta’s father, who gave his 11-year old son Barenboim’s recording of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas as a gift. Despite his tender age, the young Leotta was so deeply moved by Opus 111, in particular the Arietta, that he decided to learn it.

Leotta also acknowledges the influence of one of his teachers, Karl Ulrich Schnabel, who encouraged him to learn all 32 sonatas. Interestingly, Leotta’s studies with Schnabel link him to a musical lineage that traces its roots all the way back to Beethoven: Leotta’s teacher was the son of the legendary Arthur Schnabel, who was a student of Theodor Lesketizky, in turn a student of Carl Czerny, who was taught by the great Ludwig van himself. Leotta credits another teacher, the iconic Rosalyn Tureck, with passing along one of the most important lessons a musician can learn: to convey complex musical ideas without creating barriers between the composer and the audience.

As much as Beethoven is central to Leotta’s career, his repertoire is wide-ranging and includes Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Bartók, Liszt, Mozart and Schubert, among many others. A highlight of his recent engagements is the complete cycle of five piano concertos and the Choral Fantasy by Beethoven, performed in Guadalajara’s stunning Degollado Theatre.

Both at home and on the road, Leotta is a devoted reader with broad tastes. Texts by philosophers Seneca and Kant and sociologist Georg Simmel are of major interest, and he often returns to Balzac’s classic La Comédie humaine and the novels of Sicilian-born masters Giovanni Verga and Luigi Pirandello.

Since childhood, Leotta has been fascinated by geography and architecture – two passions that he is able to indulge fully in his breathtaking surroundings on Lake Como. “When my schedule permits, I love boating on the lake, watching the splendid villas and towns go by where Bellini and Liszt composed their music.”

Though other pianists of his generation are less inclined to concentrate so much of their touring and recording repertoire on the works of Beethoven, Leotta is unapologetic about his focus. In an interview with Como’s La Provincia, Leotta declared, “Beethoven is to music what Kant is to philosophy and Dante is to poetry. His music is so universal that it will always convey a meaningful message to any audience, past, present or future. It has been my enormous privilege to spend thousands of hours in the company of this master.

Leotta cala un doppio asso e fa centro con Beethoven

Corriere di Como (Italy), May 29 2009, by Lorenzo Morandotti

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"

“…Christian Leotta non ha scelto lo stesso destino di Glenn Gould, non ha deciso a soli 31 anni di auto confinarsi per dedicare il proprio genio solo alle registrazioni. Leotta, 29enne, gira il mondo. Instancabilmente. Con l’integrale delle Sonate – è il primo dai tempi di Daniel Barenboim che ha interpretato, così giovane, un compito tanto ambizioso – e altre pagine celebri del repertorio classico. Ma con la stessa passione di Gould accetta la sfida di una rilettura beethoveniana che sta convincendo, per brio e profondità, le principali riviste di settore del mondo. Dopo il primo volume dell’integrale edito da Atma – oltre alle “classiche” Patetica e Appassionata contiene le sonate n. 7, 12, 24 e 32 – come detto Leotta ora è al secondo volume con due perle, la “Waldstein” e la “Hammerklavier”.  Che ribadisce la freschezza interpretativa del comasco, il suo virtuosismo sempre controllato… Leotta si conferma sempre più allievo del grande Karl-Ulrich Schnabel…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta plays a double trump card and wins with Beethoven

“…Christian Leotta did not choose the same destiny of Glenn Gould, he did not decide at only 31 to cut himself off  in order to dedicate his genius exclusively to the recordings. Leotta, at 29, travels the world. Tirelessly. With the complete 32 Piano Sonatas cycle – he is the first since Daniel Barenboim to perform, so young, the ambitious corpus – and with other famous works of the Classic repertoire. But with the same passion of Gould he accepts the challenge of a new reading of Beethoven, which is convincing the most important musical magazines of the world thanks to his brio and profundity. After the Volume I of the Integral, issued by Atma – together with the “classics” Pathetique and Appassionata it comprises the Piano Sonatas No. 7, 12, 24 and 32 – Leotta has come now to the Volume II presenting two pearls, the “Waldstein” and the “Hammerklavier”. This recording proves once more the freshness of the approach of the pianist from Como and  his virtuosity always measured… Leotta confirms himself, more and more, to be a disciple of the great Karl-Ulrich Schnabel…”.

The Globe and Mail, Toronto (Canada), May 19 2009, by Elissa Poole

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"


Some pianists record Beethoven only late in life - Mitsuko Uchida's illuminating interpretations of the late sonatas, for instance. Some, like Alfred Brendel, return again and again. Italian pianist Christian Leotta is not yet 30, but he's well into his complete Beethoven cycle for Atma. The interpretations are not revelatory but they are solid and compelling. I like Leotta in fast movements best, for his muscular energy, and stern clarity of intent. His adagios I find too slow (and slightly self-indulgent), although the "Hammerklavier's" lengthy adagio is extremely focused, notwithstanding. He does not relax his grip for almost 20 minutes - no small feat.

Le Journal de Montreal (Canada), May 9 2009, by Christophe Rodriguez


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume II"

Sans être un jeune prodige, le pianiste Christian Leotta a déjà une longue feuille de route. En 2004, il recevait la médaille du president de la République italienne, importante distinction accordée à une realization artistique exceptionnelle qui, dans le cas présent, a pour sujet Beethoven. Ceux et celles d 'entre vous qui suivaient assidument la scène artistiques es ou viendrontd e son passage à Montréal en 2002  avec au programme l'intégrale des Sonates du même compositeu. En ce début de saison presque estivale, ce Volume deux des Sonates apparaît comme un cadeau inespéré. Une féérie de teintes et la Musique qui parle d'elle-même. Que demander de plus!

TRANSLATION:

No longer a child prodigy, the Italian Pianist Christian Leotta has already a long experience. In 2004 he received the medal of the President of the Italian Republic, an important distinction given thanks  to an exceptional artistic achievement, referring in this case to Beethoven. Those of you which diligently followed the artistic scene, will remember his visit to Montreal in 2002, presenting the 32 Piano Sonatas of the same composer. In this debut of this almost summer season, this Volume II of the Sonatas appears as an unexpected gift. Magic hues and Music that speaks for itself. What more can one ask for!

Leotta dejó huella con los cinco conciertos de Beethoven

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), March 1 2009, by Jaime García Elías


“Pues sí. Christian Leotta redondéo su “tour de force”: completó el ciclo de los cinco conciertos para piano de Beethoven con la ejecución del más popular de todos, el No. 5 en Mi bemol mayor, Op. 73 (Emperador)... Hubo, como en las dos sesiones precedentes, excelente respuesta de público: sala y balcones llenos, y notoria predisposición a recompensar al joven virtuoso italiano... en el segundo movimiento (Adagio un poco mosso) Leotta tocó la gloria con los dedos al interpretar fielmente las melodías, casi suplicantes, que son una prefiguración de los conciertos de Chopin, así como en la portentosa transición del segundo al tercer movimiento, y en el preámbulo final bordó fino al exquisito diálogo con los timbales...”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta has left his mark with the 5 Piano Concertos of Beethoven

“Well yes. Christian Leotta has crowned his “tour de force”: he completed the cycle of the five Piano Concertos of Beethoven with the performance of the most popular of them, the No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 (the Emperor)… He received, as well as for the previous two sessions, an excellent response from the public: hall and balconies full and the notorious predisposition to recompense the young Italian virtuoso… In the second movement (Adagio un poco mosso) Leotta touched glory with his fingers, having interpreted faithfully the melodies, almost supplicant, which are a foreshadowing of the Concertos of Chopin, as well as in the portentous transition from the second to the third movement and in the excellent finale, which brings us to the exquisite dialog with the timpani…”.


Leotta brinda imperial interpretación de Beethoven

Guadalajara (Mexico), February 28 2009, by Medios Informativos


“El Teatro Degollado lucía lleno. Gente de todas las edades quería ser testigo por última vez del virtuosismo del pianista italiano Christian Leotta, quien interpretaría su último programa de la temporada después de haber deleitado a los tapatíos con cuatro de los cinco conciertos para piano del genio de Bonn, y que esa noche cerraría el ciclo con el concierto conocido como “Emperador”, una de las obras mas gustadas mundialmente por los melómanos. Christian Leotta y Héctor Guzmán arribaron juntos al escenario entre aplausos para dar comienzo a la velada. Un hermoso arpegio por parte del piano, acompañado de triunfales acordes de la orquesta sirven como introducción al consiguiente solo interpretado por Leotta, quien le brinda finas tesituras y matices al intrincado primer movimiento. A continuación el Adagio un poco mosso con su solemne y etéreo sonido se prestaba para sumirse en la reflexión, hasta que de pronto pasar a la alegría con la potencia y fastuosidad del tercer y último movimiento... El teatro explotó en aplausos y ovaciones, sobre todo a Leotta quien regresó tres veces al escenario para recibir el cariño del público. En la segunda parte Leotta regresó al escenario para interpretar la última pieza de la noche, la Fantasía en Do menor para piano, coro y orquesta. Con fuertes acordes seguidos de arpegios, el piano da la pauta para que las graves y oscuras notas de los cellos se integren al primero de los siete movimientos. En esta obra se pudo apreciar el fluido diálogo que se crea entre la orquesta y las voces, así como la naturalidad y fluidez de la interpretación de Leotta... Concluida la potente interpretación, el público se paró de sus asientos y se entregó completamente a la orquesta y a Leotta con aplausos y ovaciones que duraron varios minutos. El pianista italiano recibió un caluroso abrazo de Héctor Guzmán, además de un ramo de rosas, que son solo una pequeña muestra del cariño que los tapatíos le tienen a este magnífico pianista”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta gives an imperial interpretation of Beethoven


“The Teatro Degollado resplended full. People of all ages wanted to be witness to the virtuosity of the Italian pianist Christian Leotta for the last time, who interpreted his last program of the season, after having delighted the people from Guadalajara with four of the five Piano Concertos of the genius from Bonn, closing this night the cycle with the Concerto known as “Emperor”, one of the most loved works of those who have passion for music. Christian Leotta and Héctor Guzmán arrived together on the stage between applauses, in order to begin the evening. A beautiful arpeggio of the pianist, accompanied by triumphal chords of the orchestra, introduced the following “solo” of Leotta, who gave subtle textures and clarity to the intricate first movement. The Adagio un poco mosso followed with his solemn and ethereal sound, which inspired an atmosphere of reflection until, suddenly, happiness is reached with the power and pomp of the third and last movement … The theatre exploded in applauses and ovations, specially for Leotta who came back three times to the stage to receive the affection of the public. In the second half Leotta came back to interpret the last piece of the evening, the Fantasy in C minor for piano, choir and orchestra. With strong chords followed by arpeggios, the piano gave way to the grave and obscures notes of the cellos, which start the first of the seven following movements. In this work it has been possible to enjoy the fluid dialog between the orchestra and the voices, as well as the spontaneity and fluidity of the interpretation of Leotta… Once ended the powerful interpretation, the public rose from its seats and completely abandoned itself to the orchestra and to Leotta, with applauses and ovations which lasted several minutes. The pianist received a warm hug from Héctor Guzmán, and a bunch of roses, which are only a little demonstration of the love which the people from Guadalajara feel for this magnificent pianist”.

Leotta volvió a hipnotizar al público

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), February 22 2009, by Jaime García Elías


“...con Anshel Brusilow como director huésped de la Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco, el programa incluyó esta vez los conciertos No. 2 en Si bemol major, Op. 19, y el No. 4 en Sol mayor, Op. 58, como platos fuertes... Leotta logró una ejecución intensa, plena de intimidad... el Andante con moto del Concierto No. 4, en que resplandecieron los celebrados “silencios de Beethovenj”, el ejecutante hipnotizó, literalmente, a la audencia, casi obligándola a dejar de respirar para hacer eterna cada una de las notas. En el encore que obsequió (el Adagio de una sonata del mismo Beethoven), Leotta, inspirado, volvió a poner al público en trance y redondeó otra jornada memorable...”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta hypnotized the public once again

“...with Anshel Brusilow as guest conductor of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, the program has included this time the Concertos No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19 and No. 4, in G mayor, Op. 58, as major works of the evening… Leotta succeeded in giving an intense performance, full of intimacy… The Andante con moto of the Concerto No. 4, in which the famous “Beethoven’s silences” shine, the performer hypnotized, literarily, the audience, almost obliging the public to stop breathing thus rendering each note eternal. With the encore which followed (an Adagio from a Sonata of the same Beethoven), an inspired Leotta entranced the public once again and crowned another memorable day…”


Leotta

El Mural,  Guadalajara (Mexico), February 2009, by Sergio Padilla

“...el pianista italiano ha demostrado alta solvencia técnica, pero más que eso, ha dejado constancia de que pone la técnica al servicio de la interpretación; sus ejecuciones no son mecánicas y no se queda sola y fríamente en lo que indica la partitura. En su partecipación en el primero programa de la temporada de la Orquesta Filrmónica de Jalisco, donde interpretó el primer y tercer concierto para piano de Beethoven, Leotta demostró que tiene en mente la estructura total de la obra y desde allí va tejiendo su discurso musical con notable fluidez, siempre en función de penetrar en los recovecos de cada pasaje de la obra”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta

“…the Italian pianist showed a very strong technique, but, more than that, his attitude in using his technique to serve the interpretation; his performances are not mechanical and they do not present only and in a cool way what has been indicated on the score. In is participation on the first program of the season of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra, occasion in which he interpreted the first and the third Piano Concertos of Beethoven, Leotta demonstrated that he had in mind the total structure of the work and, from that, he continues his musical talk with notable fluidity, always with the aim of penetrating the meanderings of each passage of the work”.


A Leotta solo le faltó levitar

El Informador – Guadalajara (Mexico), February 15 2009, by Jaime García Elías


“A Christian Leotta no hay que perderlo de vista. Hay que tener su nombre en la memoria los próximos años, porque quizá se cumpla el vaticinio de que será el mejor intérprete de Beethoven de la primera mitad del siglo XXI... Con el antecedente de la magistral interpretación de las 32 sonatas de Beethoven durante el Festival Cultural de Mayo (FCM) de 2008 como tarjeta de presentación, Leotta inició el viernes, en el Teatro Degollado, otra empresa titánica: la interpretación de los cinco conciertos para piano del mismo autor, en tres entregas... Leotta, en ambos los conciertos en Do major Op. 15 y en Do menor Op. 37, confirmó como solista la excelente impresión que había causado como recitalista: técnica impecable, fraseo nítido, interpretación inspirada. Sin detrimento del virtuosismo -patente en las cadenzas de los dos conciertos-, la mayor virtud del joven pianista italiano es la comprensión de la partitura, la identificación con el alma de la música. Si en el segundo movimiento del primer concierto, en Do major, Op. 15, fue excelente, en el correspondiente del segundo concierto, Leotta se sublimó: aportó energía, agilidad, lirismo a raudales. En el “solo” inicial de ese movimiento, con fagot y flauta a la altura de las exigencias del solista, éste desbordó inpiración. A Leotta sólo le faltó levitar”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta only missed levitating

“Christrian Leotta is a pianist to watch. You must remember his name for the following years, because perhaps the prophecy that he will be the best Beethovenian interpreter of the first half of the XXI century will come true… With a masterly interpretation of the 32 Sonatas of Beethoven performed for the Festival Cultural de Majo in 2008 as a presentation, Leotta started last Friday, at the Teatro Degollado, another titanic undertaking: the interpretation of the five Piano Concertos of the same composer, presented in three evenings… Leotta, in both the Concertos in C major Op. 15 and in C minor Op. 37, has confirmed as soloist the excellent impression made as recitalist: impeccable technique, clear phrasing, inspired interpretation. Without forgetting the virtuosity – necessary to play the cadenzas of both the Concertos – the major virtue of the young Italian pianist is the understanding of the score and capacity to identify himself with the soul of the music. If the second movement of the first Concerto, in C major, Op. 15, was excellent, in the correspondent movement of the second Concerto, Leotta was sublime: he brought energy, agility, and a cascade of lyricism. In the starting “solo” of this movement, with the bassoon and the flute playing at the level required by the soloist, this overflowed inspiration. Leotta only missed levitating”.

All Music Guide, November 2008, by James Manheim

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"...Leotta's playing is of the sort that some find self-indulgent and others would point to as the thing they go to concerts for. This is old-fashioned, Romantic Beethoven. Tempos are on the slow side, and, more important, variable at any time the pianist decides to go for a poetic effect, or to increase forward momentum. The latter is what gives Leotta's playing its particular flavor: he's the kind of pianist who makes you tap your foot (or, presumably, restrain yourself from doing so if you're hearing him live). The Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 ("Pathétique") begins with a very slow introduction and from then on seems to be straining forward restlessly. The Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57 ("Appassionata") has numerous slightly different tempos in its opening movement, but essentially holds together. There's no question that Leotta bears watching, for he's capable of really seizing your attention at unexpected moments. Hear the very crisp Scherzo (CD 1, track 5) of the Piano Sonata No. 12 in A flat major, Op. 26, followed by an imposing funeral march. Few pianists have been able to bring out the strong foreshadowings of Beethoven's middle period in this sonata as well as Leotta does... the set as a whole makes you want to hear the future volumes...".

Muzika21, Warsaw (Poland), October 2008 (No. 99), by Pawel Chmielowski

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"  CD OF THE MONTH


"The recording label Atma Classique has recently released the first album of Christian Leotta’s recording of Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas. This release is an event of immense significance, which should move not only fans of the great composer but also connoisseurs of great pianism. Ladies and gentlemen, in the person of a 28 year old Italian, is born one of the most extraordinary Beethovenian interpreters of our time, whose way of playing is noteworthy of everybody’s attention, including the greatest sixty-year-olds... Christian Leotta is the first pianist since Daniel Barenboim who, at such young age, has embarked on the ambitious task of performing in concert the complete cycle of the Sonatas and, considering the enthusiastic reviews gained and the recording which is the subject of this review, Christian Leotta’s decision is as courageous as absolutely well founded.

His first album for Atma, which I have great pleasure in presenting, should be very well received even by the most demanding fans of piano art; I hope that I will not have to wait long for the other recordings of the cycle: if we consider this album as an indicator of the complete series, all titles should be looked forward to. It is breathtaking to hear Leotta immersing into the world of the great composer’s masterworks in order to present it anew and to reveal it in the way he sees and perceives it through his own sensitivity, imagination, and respect for the author’s intention. The result is fascinating. I liked very much his simply phenomenal reading of the score and the way he has brought out its whole richness and showed many details which usually go unnoticed in superficial, or too fast, interpretations. Owing to such approach and to appropriate, not hurried, over tempos, his vision dazed by its power of expression, integrity of form and coherence.The scale of dynamics he uses is truly impressive; from the softest, moving pianissimo passages, subtle but expressive, to powerful fortissimo full of brilliance and power, which simply seem to blast the instrument e.g. in the wonderfully played Appasionata.

What particularly deserves an emphasis is Leotta’s skilful use of contrasts as it is a very important feature which characterises his musical approach and it is a factor which enriches the form and applies not only to the above-mentioned range of sound volume. The pianist is also skilful in differentiating pieces; outermost parts, kept in lively tempos, are full of vigour, joy, energy, elements of dance and scherzo as well as of rhythmical azement in listeners e.g. the Lar­go from Sonata in D-major op. 10 no 3 or the last Sonata in C sharp op. 111, impressive for the richness of thoughts, moods and ideas, which are far from the problems of the material world. Tempos given by the pianist are unhurried and adjusted wisely to the expression and structure of pieces. As a result, music seems richer in details, while all harmonies, counterpoints - all the structure - can be clearly heard. Followers of spectacular, fast tempos might not like this solution, but I do appreciate it, even more so since the Italian avoids shaping all parts from the same mould: where appropriate, he gives the music a lively pulse and a dramatic course and, owing to this approach, his concepts fit author’s ideas perfectly.

The careful reading and faithfulness to the score, a scrupulous transfer of the richness of the notes to the keyboard, the exceptional wisdom, sensitivity and musicality as well as his technique and virtuosity which leave no field for doubt, seem to prove that the Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven have found a faithful, committed and very competent performer in the young Italian pianist.

Much could still be said about this creation of Christian Leotta, which is mature in both musical and purely human terms. One should simply listen and let oneself be carried away and enraptured by this fascinating performance, which rivets one’s attention from the beginning to the end. It’s been a long while since I have listened to Beethoven’s masterworks played so perfectly even though they are performed by all piano masters. I am convinced that, after recording all the sonatas, the Italian pianist will be considered one of the most extraordinary interpreters of Beethoven.While looking forward to the following recordings of the cycle and continuously enjoying the performance recorded on this first album, one can only say one thing: “Bravo!”.

The Classic Voice, Milan (Italy), September 2008 (No. 112), by Gian Paolo Minardi


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"Realizzare l’integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven costituisce un obiettivo certamente estremo, una sfida che molti grandi interpreti hanno affrontato.... Ora nell’albo d’oro di questi audaci si è iscritto Christian Leotta, oggi ventottenne ma ne aveva ventidue quando a Montréal propose l’intero ciclo. Le sei Sonate riunite nei due CD costituiscono un campionario indicativo, spaziando attraverso i “tre stili” ciò che consente di osservare il modo di atteggiarsi dell’interprete di fronte a situazioni emotivamente assai diverse e pur riassunte entro una ragione di unitarietà. E’ fuor di dubbio il senso di consapevolezza con cui Leotta procede lungo il tracciato, offrendo una lettura trasparente nel mostrare tutta la ricchezza del tessuto nella sua geniale articolazione…”.

TRANSLATION:

“To realize the integral of the Sonatas by Beethoven is certainly an extreme undertaking, a challenge which many great interpreters have faced… Now in the gold book of the audacious ones has entered Christian Leotta, today 28, but only 22 when he presented in Montreal the entire cycle. The six Sonatas included in the two CDs are an indicative sample, ranging between the “Three Manners”, which allows us to observe the way of posing of the interpreter in front of situations emotionally very different but summarized into a sense of unity. It is beyond discussion the sense of awareness with which Leotta proceeds along the trail, offering a transparent reading while showing all the richness of the texture in its genial articulation…”.

Musica, Milan (Italy), September 2008 (No. 199), by Luca Segalla


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Christian Leotta mostra di essere un pianista lucido e maturo…scolpisce le frasi con eloquenza, rifinisce il fraseggio con raffinata maestria, ottiene un buon cantabile, differenziando bene i piani dinamici.…Un op. 111 così intensa da un ventiseienne è davvero una bella sorpresa”.

TRANSLATION:

“…Christian Leotta proves to be a pianist lucid and mature… he defines the phrases with eloquence, refines the phrasing with refined mastery, achieves a good cantabile, well differentiating the dynamic levels… An Op. 111 so intense from a 26 year old is really a great surprise”.

Amadeus, Milan (Italy), August 2008 (No. 8), by Antonio Brena


CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Di primo acchito, trovandosi di fronte all’ennesima riproposta delle 32 Sonate per pianoforte di Ludwig van Beethoven verrebbe da pensare a un’operazione commerciale mirata esclusivamente a far conoscere un giovane pianista emergente. Poi si ascolta la registrazione e, man mano che la musica scorre, ci si può rendere conto che in questi primi due compact disc della serie c’è qualità e un qualcosa in più. Si rimane affascinati dallo scavo espressivo e, soprattutto, dall’intelligente e meditata scelta dei tempi qui considerati più appropriati per interpretare le Sonate in do minore “Patetica” op. 13, in la bemolle maggiore op. 26, in fa minore “Appassionata” op. 57, in re maggiore op. 10 n. 3, in fa diesis maggiore op. 78 e in do minore op. 111. Tempi che non raramente si mostrano fuori della consuetudine (specialmente nella “Patetica” e nell’ “Appassionata” ), che suscitano interesse e sorpresa e invitano a un nuovo ascolto. E allora ci si rende conto che l’approccio di Leotta al pianismo di Beethoven è tutto in funzione della dialettica sottesa alla musicalità di queste composizioni del maestro di Bonn, del pensiero sonoro che s’ispira a un concetto filosofico, del percorso armonico che si sviluppa come un’ascesa ideale. Christian Leotta convince e conquista l’ascoltatore all’insegna del garbo e di un gusto sapiente, soprattutto per quel suo porsi al servizio della musica anziché del mercato discografico. Un’incisione pienamente riuscita: da attendere i prossimi volumi.

TRANSLATION:

At first sight, being once again presented with a new version of the 32 Piano Sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, one would be tempted to think of it as a commercial operation exclusively aimed  at launching a young emerging pianist. But once we start to listen to the recording and, while the music is flowing, we realize that in these first  two compact discs of the series there is quality and something more. One is fascinated by the expressive research and, even more, by the intelligent and meditated choice of the Tempos here considerate more appropriate for interpreting  the Sonatas in C minor “Pathetic” Op. 13, in A flat major Op. 26, in F minor “Appassionata” Op. 57, in D major Op. 10 No. 3, in F sharp major Op. 78 and in C minor Op. 111. Tempos that not rarely appear outside the normal usage (especially in the “Pathetic” and in the “Appassionata”), and which trigger interest and surprise, inviting one to listening to it over and over again. And so we realize that Leotta’s approach to the Beethoven’s pianism is all for the dialectic implied in the musicality of these compositions by the master from Bonn, for the sonic thought inspired by a philosophic concept, for the harmonic pathway, which develops itself as an ideal ascent. Christian Leotta convinces and conquers the listener with his refinement and his sapient taste, that especially by  his attitude of serving  music rather than the recording market. A very well made recording: waiting eagerly for the next volume.


Christian Leotta: remember his name

Atlanta Audio Society, Atlanta (U.S.A.), July 2008, by Phil Muse

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Pianist Christian Leotta, a native of Catania, Italy, has performed the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas no less than ten times in musical capitals around the world, beginning in Montreal in 2002. He studied for a time with the celebrated teacher Karl Ulrich Schnabel, who has declared: ”The dynamic range of his playing from nearly inaudible pp to a powerful ff is truly impressive”. Not just impressive for its own sake, but for the sake of the most expressive features in Beethoven’s writing.

On a specially priced 2-CD ATMA slim line, apparently the pianist’s debut recording, we get to hear what the world has been raving about. As Volume 1 in a projected Beethoven cycle, the program consists of Sonatas Nos. 8 in C minor (“Pathétique”), 12 in A-flat major (“Funeral march”), 23 in f minor (“Appassionata”), 7 in D major, Op. 10 no. 3, 24 in F-sharp major, and 32 in C minor Op. 111. In their variety, these six sonatas show the broad range of the composer’s genius, from classical balance to romantic stress and tumult, and with moods ranging from comically playfulness to impassioned fury and finally deep, peaceful resignation. Besides his afore-mentioned prowess in dynamics, which must be heard to be fully appreciated, Leotta has a well developed feeling for rhythm and pacing, vital requisites in a Beethoven interpreter, and for the differentiation of keyboard registers, something that was easer to accomplish with the pianofortes of the composer’s day than on a modern Hamburg Steinway such as we have in these recordings.

Leotta’s keyboard technique and interpretive insight form a complete package, which we hear right from the beginning with the “Pathétique” Sonata. Here, the famous nickname notwithstanding, there is much scope for humorous music in the whimsical slow movement and the central episode in the fleet-footed finale. The most remarkable feature of Sonata No. 12 is the slow movement, described as a “Funeral March on the Death of a Hero”. Leotta makes of the movement’s orchestral sonorities in the context of a superbly paced movement. He captures also the real violence in the development section in the Allegro of the “Appassionata”, as well as the very forceful cadence at the end. And he makes a superb transition from the two diminished seventh chords at the end of the slow movement to the controlled fury of the finale, ending brilliantly in a diabolic maelstrom of jostling, syncopated notes.

Disc 2 begins with the under-sung Sonata No. 7, ranging in mood from light-hearted and impish to surprisingly sad and introspective in the slow movement, marked Largo e mesto (broad and sad), before restoring us to good spirits with a classically proportioned minuet and a humorous finale. In Sonata No. 24 Leotta captures the intimate charm of the opening movement as well as the calculated eccentricities of the Allegro vivace finale, with its many hand-crossings and sudden dynamic contrasts. That brings to No. 32 in C minor, Beethoven’s very last sonata. This amazing work is a study in opposing forces, with its contrasts in dynamics, mode, characterization, time and duration. At 22:36, Leotta takes the Arietta and five variations that make up the final movement very slowly and expressively, bringing out every nuance with consummate skill and a feeling for musical time that is ultimately timeless.

Il Beethoven di Leotta non delude

La Provincia, Como (Italy), July 15 2008, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli


“Leotta, il giovane pianista comasco, sabato, ha concluso l’impresa dell’esecuzione integrale delle 32 Sonate di Beethoven… Ciò che a noi fa stimare assai questo pianista (oltre ai doni naturali musicali e intellettuali che possiede) è la tenacia con cui persegue i suoi progetti unita al controllo di ogni particolare. Ormai con questa programmazione Christian continua a girare tutto il mondo, oltre all’Italia…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta’s Beethoven does not disappoint

"Leotta, the young pianist from Como, last Saturday completed the undertaking of the performance of the integral of the 32 Beethoven’s Sonatas… What we really esteem in this pianist (beyond the natural musical and intellectual gifts posses by him) is his tenacity with which he pursues his projects, together with the attention to every aspect. At this point with this program Christian continues to travel all over the world, beyond Italy…”.


Lieben Sie Beethoven?

Das Echo, Vancouver (Canada), July 2008, by Felicitas B. Ackermann

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Leottas Interpretation ist ebenfalls meisterhaft… Leotta präsentiert das Genie Beethovens mit tiefem Verständnis und seltener Einfühlung. Er hat es sich zur Lebensaufgabe gemacht, Beethovens Musik, insbesondere die Sonaten, der Welt neu nahezubringen…”.

TRANSLATION:

Do you love Beethoven?

“...Leotta’s interpretation is really exceptional... Leotta presents the genius of Beethoven with deep understanding, becoming one with him. Presenting Beethoven’s music and especially his Sonatas to the world under a new light: Leotta has made of this his life mission”.


Christian Leotta: il teatro applaude a Beethoven

La Provincia, Como (Italy), July 8 2008, by Maria Terraneo Fonticoli

“…Leotta evidenzia costantemente una maturità incredibile: mai ovvio, mai banale, sempre con intuizioni interpretative originali. Successo vivissimo”.

TRANSLATION:

Christian Leotta: the theatre applauds to Beethoven

“…Leotta constantly demonstrates a great musical maturity: never obvious, never banal, always with original interpretative intuitions. Extraordinary success”.


Entre veras y bromas

El Informador, Guadalajara (Mexico), June 16 2008


“...El “tour de force” de Christian Leotta (a quien se augura un lugar entre los inmortales del teclado), de ejecutar – magistralmente, además – las 32 sonatas para piano de Beethoven en ocho sessiones, sería, tal vez, el referente por excellencia de este recién concluido undécimo Festival, que tuvo a Alemania como país invitado. A muy corta distancia se quedarían el concierto inaugural, a cargo de la Orquesta de Cámera de Stuttgart; el recital de piano de Markus Groh; la presentación del ensamble y coro Balthasar-Neumann y del Cuarteto Vogler; los conciertos en que participaron los violoncellistas Johannes Mosser y Daniel Müller-Schott, y el de clausura, con el violinista Ingolf Turban...”.

TRANSLATION:

Between truths and jokes

“…The tour de force of Christian Leotta (to whom we wish a place amidst the immortal of the keyboard) to perform – and in a masterly way indeed – the 32 Piano Sonatas by Beethoven in 8 recitals, will be considered, most probably, as the point of reference for excellence of this just ended edition of the Festival Cultural de Mayo, which had Germany as guest Country. At a very brief distance from him, we can place the performance of the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the piano recital by Markus Groh, the performance of the ensamble and the choir Balthasar – Neumann and the Vogler Quartet, the concerts of the cellists Johannes Mosser and Daniel Müller-Shott and, at the end of the Festival, the violinist Ingolf Turban…”.


A Guadalajara por Beethoven


Reforma, Mexico City (Mexico), June 6 2008, by Lázaro Azar


“...las 32 Sonatas de Beethoven, a cargo de Christian Leotta… fueron sin duda el punto climático del Festival… El furor tapatío por Leotta es digno de ser consignado: no solamente le paraban cada que salía a la calle o se escuchaban emocionados sollozos durante sus recitales, sino que hasta me tocó ver que se hincaran ante él; personalmente, me sumo a las reverencias hacia este joven cuya solvencia técnica ha sido ejemplarmente puesta al servicio deuna indiscutible madurez interpretativa”.
TRANSLATION:

In Guadalajara for Beethoven

“…The 32 Beethoven Piano Sonatas performed by Christian Leotta… have been with no doubt the climax point of the Festival…The great enthusiasm of the public from Guadalajara for Christian Leotta is worthy of being remembered: not only was he stopped in the street every time he went out or that emotional sobs were heard during his concerts, it even got to the point that I saw people fall to their knees in his presence. Personally, I join in the reverence shown to this young man, whos technical gifts were put to use in an exemplary way to serve his unquestionable maturity as interpreter”.


Whole Note, Toronto (Canada), May 2008, by Pamela Margles

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


"The American pianist Jonathan Biss and the Italian Christian Leotta are still in their twenties, but on the evidence of these new recordings, they are both thoroughly compelling musicians. The fact that they both reveal such deep musicality reflects their pedagogical lineage. Both studied with teachers who themselves studied with the visionary Artur Schnabel - Biss with one of Schnabel’s greatest students, Leon Fleisher, and Leotta with his son Karl-Urlich Schnabel.In these recordings of Beethoven sonatas, both pianists, in different ways, resist the many opportunities to settle for dazzling surfaces that abound in Beethoven’s writing, with its complex textures and powerful rhythms. Instead, they each use their prodigious techniques to better express the poetry of Beethoven’s music.

Biss grasps the longing behind Beethoven’s vision. His singing lines create dreamy, rhapsodic moods. But he also provides lots of the brio that Beethoven asks for, with elegant ornaments and deft passagework. His tempos can get a bit erratic, especially when he takes a big breath before reaching the top note of an ascending passage, or holds on to a chord well past its written value. But it is exciting how he highlights the bass line, and brings out the inner voices, especially in contrapuntal textures. Biss writes his own booklet notes, and they actually illuminate the music.

Both recordings offer the Pathétique sonata. Biss takes the introductory Grave slowly, but Leotta takes it even more slowly, which leads to even greater dramatic contrasts. Leotta’s approach is muscular, with driven dynamics and tempos. With Leotta you get the intense struggling Beethoven. This is passionate music-making. Details are spelled out, and the dance movements really dance. His ornaments can be so deliberate that they miss Beethoven’s playfulness. But his textures remain delightfully clear throughout, thanks to his extraordinary legato technique and light foot on the sostenuto pedal.The sound from ATMA is brighter and more present than the sound from EMI here, though not as warm".

Leotta, un tocco limpidissimo e preciso

La Provincia, Como (Italy), April 8 2008, by Alberto Cima


“…Christian Leotta esegue le Sonate di Beethoven con rara maestria, con una visione a volte personale, ma significativa. Tecnicamente precisissimo, cura estrema della dinamica, precisione ritmica, tocco limpidissimo, timbro chiaro…”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta, a touch very limpid and precise

“…Christian Leotta performs the Beethoven Sonatas with rare skill…Very precise technique, extreme care for the dynamics, rhythmic precision, limpid touch and clear timbre…”.


Leotta regala un Beethoven poetico e lirico

La Provincia, Como (Italy), April 29 2008, by Alberto Cima


“…quanta poesia, quanto lirismo che rendono ancora più vivo e attuale il genio di Beethoven. La tecnica prodigiosa di Leotta è emersa ad abundantiam (valga come esempio l’op. 106). Delicatissimo, persino commovente, il Minuetto della Sonata op. 49 n. 2. Uno spirito semplice, calmo e felice è emerso nella “Pastorale”. Un grande Christian Leotta”.

TRANSLATION:

Leotta gives a poetic and lyric Beethoven

“…what a lot of poetry, what a lot of lyricism which make even more lively and modern the genius of Beethoven. Leotta’s prodigious technique emerged “ad abundantiam” (in the Op. 106 more than ever). Very delicate, perfino moving, the Minuetto of Sonata Op. 49 No. 2… A great Christian Leotta”.


Le Journal de Montreal, Saturday April 5 2008, by Christophe Rodriguez

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


“…Comme son maître à penser fut le grand Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, nous pouvons d’ores et déjà affirmer que le traitement sera épuré et brillant techniquement… Cet enregistrement fait preuve d’une grande maturité. Jamais flatteuse, l’approche est rayonnante, non académique et presque visionnaire…”.

TRANSLATION:

“…Christian Leotta, as his “maître à penser” Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, offers a performance of the Sonatas refined and technically brilliant…  This recording proves great maturity. Never flattering, the approach is radiant, not academic  and nearly visionary…”.

Da Leotta a Pletnev, una stagione di grandi interpreti

La Provincia, Como (Italy), March 23 2008, by Alberto Cima


“L’Integrale delle Sonate di Beethoven al Sociale e il Lugano Festival appuntamenti clou dopo Pasqua”.

TRANSLATION:

From Leotta to Pletnev, a season of great interpreter

"The cycle of the Sonatas by Beethoven at the Sociale Theatre and the Lugano Festival are the clou events after Easther”

BEETHOVEN & BORDEAUX, Montreal (Canada), March 2008, by Jean-François Laferté

CD Rewiev on "Beethoven 32 Piano Sonatas, Volume I"


Relever le défi d'interpréter L. v. Beethoven dans ses sonates est une entreprise que plusieurs pianistes veulent réaliser au cours de leur carrière; y réussir est un but, se dépasser est un moyen... C'est ce que fait avec brio et sérieux Christian Leotta dans ce premier volume endisqué chez ATMA; il y présente outre les "classiques" Pathétique et Appassionata, les sonates no. 12, 7, 24 et 32. Toutes ces pièces nous offrent la chance de découvrir non seulement un "jeu" mais aussi une fraîcheur dans l'exécution de ces pièces qui demandent virtuosité mais aussi un choix musical pour que l'on puisse sentir une nouvelle façon de les écouter; c'est ce que nous offre ce disque!.

TRANSLATION:

To accept the challenge to play L. v. Beethoven in his Sonatas represents an undertaking that many pianists want to realize during their career; to succeed in that constitutes a goal, to surpass himself represents a way… It’s just that what Christian Leotta is able to succeed in, with liveliness and profoundness, in this first volume issued by Atma. Besides the “classic” Pathetic and Appassionata, he presents the Sonatas No. 12, 7, 24 and 32. Christian Leotta reveals an interpretative freshness which, together with his virtuosity and musical choices, leads us to listen to the Sonatas presented under a new light; that’s what this disc offers us!