Performing latest work by Hastings-based composer Polo Piatti

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It was by chance that American virtuoso pianist Thomas Pandolfi came across the work of Hastings-based composer Polo Piatti.

The result is the newly-released recording of Polo’s Bohemian Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, featuring Thomas and the National Symphony Orchestra under conductor John Andrews, available on the Seafront Records label.

It’s a piece of music of huge significance for Polo personally. It’s a about the life of the artist, and that artist is very much Polo himself. And Thomas is delighted to be part of it: “It just happened through the brilliance of the internet. I just happened to hear one of Polo’s pieces by chance. I don't even remember how it happened. Maybe it just popped into one of my feeds and I was absolutely mesmerised. It is his gift for melody. Sometimes you think of modern composers not embracing the melodic gift but Polo has retained a great love of melody and I just found myself thinking ‘I need to speak to this gentleman!’ I sent him a quick message and said to him I was wondering whether he had any pieces that he might be interested in having an American pianist work on and he wrote back and said ‘It’s funny you ask that as I have just got a piano concerto that I'm looking at to premiere.”

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Polo sent across a computerised version: “It was just to give me an idea of the scope of the piece and he sent me the score. I took a listen and I read through it and I just gave him an emphatic yes. It was the melodic content that I loved and also his high virtuosity. He takes the 19th century ideal of the piano as being a true virtuoso instrument and carries it through into our own time in language that is his own but it really all grows out of that sense of 19th century pianism. But I also feel that his music has got cinematic scope to it. I said to him that I could easily hear this as being part of a film.”

Thomas Pandolfi (contributed pic)Thomas Pandolfi (contributed pic)
Thomas Pandolfi (contributed pic)

The pleasure was then working with Polo directly: “It is the most interesting way to go into a composition. When you are playing a piece which is already there, there are so many different recordings of all the great masterworks that you can find from the past. There is a tradition in the audience’s mind and also in the performer’s mind but that's not the case with a new work. It’s a really exciting thing when you're working with a living composer on a piece that has never been performed before. It just feels so much more fresh and you feel that you are actually part of the creative process.

“Polo came to the premiere and we had had maybe two or three meetings on Zoom and I had asked him any questions I wanted to ask but generally I form my own conception of how I feel a piece should be based on my own study of the score and he welcomes that feedback. Sometimes you might do something a little differently and that's a fascinating thing to see the reaction of the composer. So many students if they're doing something like Beethoven or Mozart treat it as almost like sacred ground that you just can't change but when you're working with a living composer you can enjoy so much more flexibility.”

The piece is now out there and the hope is that it will be picked up for many, many more performances: “You just want it to percolate and hopefully get noticed but I would certainly love to work with Polo again in the future.”