Piano Street visited Cremona last weekend to meet with Italian and international pianists and piano brand representatives at the Piano Experience.
At the recent Cremona Mondomusica – an international music exhibition held every year at the end of September – about 300 exhibitors displayed thousands of fine, handcrafted musical instruments. The city of Cremona, situated in the region of Lombardy in northern Italy, is legendary for its distinguished history of violin making – it was the birthplace of the Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri families, whose 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century instruments still hold that special mystique, sell for many millions, and are played in the world’s greatest concert halls. The city still upholds its proud tradition – around almost every corner, you find a specialist violin maker’s shop.
US readers may be aware of Mondomusica New York, which is the largest American violin making trade show. Its European counterpart is held in a large exhibition hall on the edges of Cremona, and this year’s edition counted around 20 000 visitors. As you would expect, the fair presents an overwhelming array of violins, plus everything you need to make one – from wood to varnish – and, of course, all sorts of accessories like cases, shoulder rests, sheet music…
Piano Experience in Cremona
But Cremona Mondomusica isn’t all about violins. In fact, what you first encounter when entering the exhibition is a large hall devoted exclusively to pianos from some of the world’s leading brands. This part of the fair is called the “Piano Experience”, and that’s just what is – a quite overwhelming experience at that. Somebody described it rather fittingly as both a pianist’s heaven and a pianist’s hell: while it is wonderful to be able to spend the whole day trying out great quality pianos of all sizes, the effect of dozens of pianists playing bits and pieces of Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov that are echoing around the large concrete hall is a less wonderful experience for a musician’s sensitive ears.
The exhibitors who are in this pianistic crossfire for three whole days seemed not to mind very much. Alexander Kerstan, production manager of Steingraeber Pianos, described it as a “typical piano exhibition – very noisy, everybody is playing – of course, you cannot really test the pianos properly, because it’s just not possible to hear yourself! But actually, I think this is not the point – for the visitors, it’s important to see all the different brands and meet the manufacturers, to get a feel for the instruments, talk about prices and so on.”
For a smaller brand like Steingraeber, with their main sales in Germany, Cremona is of course an important opportunity to get a foot into the Italian market. But even someone like Giovanni Doria from Steinway Italia would never miss the opportunity of going: “Some other important brands, Fazioli for example, are actually missing this year, but I simply cannot understand their politics – we have had a lot of new contacts, lots of public – a lot of pianists have tried our instruments. It’s very important to get a chance to meet people outside of the shops. And Cremona is such an interesting location with its great tradition of instrument making.”
Roberto Prosseda, pianist and artistic advisor to Cremona Mondomusica, has good hopes of bringing Fazioli back to the 2017 edition of Mondomusica Piano Experience. When he speaks about the organizer’s vision, it seems to fit very well with the exhibitors’ motives and experiences. The all-important objective from Prosseda’s point of view is to get people to meet, “exchanging experiences and points of view – making new friends and, of course, discovering new instruments, new ideas, new projects…! You never know what you will discover in Cremona, but for sure, you will discover a lot! That’s why the exhibition also includes many symposiums, round tables and presentations, inviting key persons in the fields of music organization and music production, in order to help the system to improve, and to bring about a vision of the future.”
So what does Prosseda’s engagement as artistic advisor to the exhibition include? “I am one of nine artistic advisors, and my main focus is on planning the concerts. This year I am responsible for a Deutsche Grammophone/Decca showcase series, with 15 artists who will present their recent CD:s. I’m also involved in the Cremona International Music Awards, whose recipients this year are the violinist Shlomo Mintz and the film maker Bruno Monsaingeon. And I organize round table talks, for example about financing classical music, to which we have invited some important sponsors of classical music, to hear about their thoughts and about what they expect from musicians. I think the most important thing if you want success, not only in the musical world but in general, is to understand the points of view of other people. And in order to understand others, you need to meet them! You need to understand what they think, what they expect, what they are looking for. Again – meeting one another is the best way to achieve this, and that is what Cremona is all about.”
Read more about some of the seminars and presentations:
- Workshop: New Gewa Digital Piano 2016. Development and production “Made in Germany” – Guarneri del Gesù Room
- Decca-Deutsche Grammophon Showcase – Zelioli Lanzini Room
- Workshop: Recording a piano in studio – Area Workshop 4.0
- Roundtable: Quality and evaluation of today’s music education – Guarneri del Gesù Room
- Beauty of sound get’s a new shape with the Bogányi piano at Cremona – Monteverdi Room
Visit the Piano Experience website: