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ART BODEGA Magazine Interview with Rosa Antonelli

Rosa Antonelli, the renowned pianist from Argentina

By Rebeca Herrero

She has an innocent smile, and delicate yet powerful hands which have created some of the most poetic and inspiring classical music at Carnegie Hall.  Rosa Antonelli, a descendant of Italian nobility, whose family moved at a young age to Argentina, reminisced about her youth.  “Since I was four years old I was fascinated with the piano.  My mother was an opera singer and actress, so she recognized my ability and early passion for the piano,” explains Antonelli from her Manhattan flat.  This is where she teaches piano to international students, as well as to talented children and adults from the New York area.   Her love of teaching dates back to both Buenos Aires and New York where she was a University piano professor.

Traveling constantly all over the world, Antonelli makes sure she stays at her best by practicing several hours each day.  “It can be a very strenuous routine if you do not know how to take care of your body.  The pianist must have intense awareness and control of the technique in order to stay in mastery of the instrument.  It is a very hard thing to do, especially preparing for Carnegie Hall.”  It is there that she has delighted many top music critics and fans of Astor Piazzolla, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Ernesto Nazareth, Enrique Granados and Isaac Albeniz amongst others.

“I want to let the world know that Latin music is not only salsa, bachata,  mambo ,merengue etc. Even though I personally love to dance these rhythms, my mission has been for the past seven years to  promote and expose music lovers everywhere to the incredible classical composers from Latin America through my performances and recordings.  I was the first pianist to perform a program consisting  exclusively and only  of   Latin  masterpieces in the United States.  It was such an honor for me, but having that feeling and responsibility can also be nerve wracking,” explains the iconic figure who is also one of the top artists at Steinway & Sons in Manhattan.

As we did our photo shoot with Rosa, wearing jewelry from Tiffany & Co., you get an idea of the great cultural contributions she has given us.  As she visits Steinway & Sons headquarters in Manhattan, she explains the attributes of being part of this illustrious brand.

“The new hall is a perfect realization of what cultural contribution these pianos provide to the world.   Steinway has been synonymous with the pinnacle of artistry.   Since I feel that the best classical music is  played in New York City, even after being a world renowned pianist that traveled to many continents it was still daring for me to come here.  Leaving everything behind, family, friends and home to come here in 1998 was risky, but it was my dream and it is now a reality,” said Antonelli.

Rosa Antonelli is revered by the Administration and staff at Steinway& Sons. It is like a family for her  “They come to all of my concerts in New York and encourage and support me. They expressed how much  they like the way I play, they think it is unforced and spontaneous, but perhaps, more like a technique that comes naturally and that is played with so much sensibility and heartfelt feelings  . That’s what they’ve told me, after my performance s and always meant so much to me ” admits Antonelli.  At Steinway & Sons she spends hours admiring the instrument that gives tremendous joy and meaning to her life.

The wood reflects the brilliance of what this magical instrument represents. ” Even at Carnegie Hall concerts, when you play a Steinway & Sons piano, either the one from USA or  from Germany, audiences are listening to the best since they allowed me to connect my heart to the soul of the piano  and giving to the audience” she effused  emotionally.

Rosa has a style that is unique; her contagious enthusiasm is a reflection of her artistic capabilities.  Knowing that she has to prepare to the annual concerts when she performs at the Carnegie Hall, the pianist explains, it can be very stressful.  “I got very nervous before my first big concert there; I couldn’t believe it was sold out.  But I have this remarkable gift that when I walk onto the stage and especially when I start playing, I feel a strong spirit is protecting me and guiding me.   I feel only calm and beauty.   I performed two solo piano recitals at the Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hal  .  Now  I feel that I  have given the public a unique taste of what Latin America is about.  Doing a solo performance, can be very intimidating.  I remember my first concert at Carnegie in 2011, because of New York traffic and street closures; I did not arrive until a few minutes before the show.  The staff at Carnegie Hall very nicely  was calling me, and asking” are you coming Rosa”? She said:  ” oh sure, I just have to walk to blocks from my house to get there.  When I finally arrived, I was praying to God to do a beautiful and heartfelt performance  of the Latin American classical composers .  I was nervous thinking that not too many people would come to listen to this particular Repertoire and also because even though I had performed in the best halls all over the World, Carnegie Hall is Carnegie Hall! And marks your final  reputation  in the United States .  I did not ask how many seats we have sold.  When I finally entered the stage, the venue was packed, each of the 2,800 seats and as a  surprise for me they received me with a very warm applause and saying my name in loud voice!.  I was not nervous then, I was so  proud, and so happy,  and I felt at that moment that my heart was reaching out to the audience , and my mission and dream , a reality” admits the lovely Rosa.

At her home, a luxury apartment she shares with her husband Dr. Robert Veligdan, Antonelli has posters of some of her best performances from around the world.  She has performed  and toured extensively with more than 1000 concerts all over the globe in Europe, Asia, Africa  Latin America and North America and has introduced to them to many World Premiere pieces by Classical Latin  American composers .  Invited by many governments and cultural ministries, she has delighted audiences from these  dozens of countries offering her unique playing style and introducing this marvelous music.   In addition she has donated  her time and talents to  many worthy causes in the United States and abroad.

An Argentinian musical prodigy , Antonelli received American Citizenship from the government of the United States as an “Artist of Extraordinary Ability”.  “It was not easy; I had a lot of setbacks in life and lost many of my relatives in Argentina.

“ I was presenting lectures and seminars on piano technique and interpretation in various European and Latin countries. But in Buenos Aires I held the position of Professor of the Piano Department at the National University of La Plata, at the National Conservatory of Buenos Aires and a Chairwoman of the  Piano Department at the Provincial Conservatory Alberto Ginastera . As I was losing my loved ones including my mother, who was my heart and soul, I decided to not be a coward and move to New York, once Steinway had included  me as one of their roster of Steinway Artists in 1998.”

Antonelli said it was tough at the beginning, she had to learn English and did not know anyone.  Her struggles were hard, but she had perseverance and people loved her.  She got help to bring her piano from Argentina, the one she had owned since she was 14 years old ,a  special gift from her mom.  “My landlord thought it was too heavy to be carried upstairs, so I had to return it.”   But Finally  Steinway helped her to find  a studio where she could practice–but it had to be from 4 am to 10 am before they started with Recording sessions .  “I did not get sleep at all,” but I was happy as time passed, she garnered the love of piano lovers and the rest is history.

Having delivered the Latin American and Spanish music to the classical world of New York has been my biggest mission and  accomplishment,” admits Antonelli. The producer of several classical recordings of the Latin American masters, her three CD’s  are something beyond words.  “Remembranza, Remembrance of Latin Sounds”, “Esperanza, Sounds of Hope” and “Abrazando, Latin Embrace” on the  ALBANY RECORDS  label have become big hits in the classical music industry .The New York Concert Review critic Frank Daykin has described Rosa’s cds as full of surprises and melodious compositions.  In his own words:  “Two of Piazolla’s Four Seasons, Spring and Summer are played with great poetry and longing, amid the angular musical gestures of the tango underlying all:  the seduction, rejection, re-approach, and eventual union of two imaginary dancers in the brothel district.  Also Villa-Lobos is represented  by BachianasBrasileiras No. 4, its prelude movement showing the “Brazilian Bach” at his most neo-baroque with perfectly descending sequences that satisfy the ear to no end…..

Her book, ” Piano: The Spirit of Technique and Interpretation” was published in the United States in 2013

Beautiful music, thanks to the innate talent of a wonderful pianist, Rosa Antonelli.