P1351. SERGIO FIORENTINO: Chopin Recital. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-1058, Live Performance, 13 July, 1997, Ochre Court, Newport Music Festival, Rhode Island. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Fiorentino is one of those lost legends of the last century, known by far too few, whose singular musicality enriches all who encounter it. Without going into too much detail, his career was marked by numerous retreats from the public eye, including a span of 20 years where he did little but teach. After resurfacing in 1996 at the Newport Music Festival, he took up international public performance in earnest until his untimely death in 1998….I’ve never heard long-breathed melodies like this that seemingly go on for minutes at a time. The piano also magnifies the sound. Everything sounds bigger in Fiorentino’s hands – not just the grandest passages, but even the ones played piannissimo. It sounds simply majestic….Fiorentino may have been overlooked for too long, but his is a voice that is too powerful to ever be forgotten.”
- Brent Auerbach, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2012
“'He is the only 'other' pianist', said the legendary Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli of Sergio Fiorentino (1927-1998). How is it that one of the greatest musical geniuses of the 20th century is still so unknown? Sergio Fiorentino was an exceptional pianist who turned his back on the concert arenas at the peak of his powers to concentrate on teaching and returned twenty years later with mastertly technique and musicality undiminished to an acclaim that most artists only dream of. Fiorentino was badly hurt in an air crash in 1954 which put an end to illustrious engagements throughout Europe and America. At that time he was being described as one of the the most promising pianists of his generation.
He received a scholarship to San Pietro Majella Conservatory in 1938 and although his teachers were among the most distinguished of their time, he stressed that his influences came from watching Alfred Cortot, Walter Gieseking and Edwin Fischer and from listening to recordings, principally those of Rachmaninov playing his own music. From 1947 the young virtuoso was noticed in Europe and was awarded top prizes in the international competitions in Naples, Genoa and Geneva. The most prestigious agents sought him out and by 1953 he had made his American début in the Carnegie Hall. All seemed set for the predicted glittering career, but the following year, while on tour in South America, the aircraft carrying him crashed. He was unable to play for some years and when he was able to return to the instrument he had to relearn some of his technique. By the late 1950s he decided to set about re-establishing himself and embarked on a series of recordings in Britain, principally for Saga, Fidelity, Summit labels and their regularly reincarnated successors which often offered intriguing budget-priced repertoire. Most recordings were never reviewed as a result.
Quite why he decided in 1974 to give up playing concerts and return to a professional role at the Conservatory where he had studied is not entirely clear, but points to the self-effacing and non-combative temperament of the artist Fiorentino who was no career-hunter, lacked a big ego and was always focused on serving the music instead of himself. He disliked the publicity machine and cocktail circuit that often went with concerts and the music business. His decision to remove himself entirely from international career ambitions until the end of his life was entirely his own and one he did not appear to regret.
Ernst Lumpe, a German record collector and a long-time admirer of the pianist through the 30 or so London recordings, had begun a friendship that led to an invitation to play publicly again in Germany. These engagements were in small local halls with a tiny audience and perhaps that is why Florentino responded to the idea. His return to the stage, after his retirement from the Conservatory in 1993, must be one of the rare examples of an enthusiast persuading a professional artist to think again. During his five last years, Sergio Fiorentino was dubbed a pianist of the Golden Age and was lauded wherever he went. The deep musical insights which he used to turn the most familiar repertoire into a revelation and his understanding of composers from Bach to Scriabin will ensure that his name and stature remain at the forefront wherever great piano playing is appreciated.”