Award-winning pianist all over the world, from Carnegie Hall in New York to Salle Cortot in Paris, passing through Japan, China, South America and important Italian and European theaters; musician with a big heart who passionately devotes himself to teaching and humanitarian projects to bring classical music to less fortunate children and young people, from the Favela Rocinha of Rio de Janeiro, the largest in Brazil to Myanmar, where he also played the first classical music concert in the history of the nation after the dictatorship. The list would still be very long and the space too narrow to enclose all the commitment, depth, talent of Gloria, a talent that does not stop only at being an affirmed, esteemed, exceptional musician but extends and goes to shine in other parts of his life, those linked to his humanity and his noble ability to put his precious gift at the service of everyone, to offer without discrimination. An art, that of music, which crosses borders, which universally unites and enriches the soul. With her great enthusiasm she managed to “pierce” the PC screen that physically divided us, and to tell me, thrilling me, about her work, projects, travel, music and all that it conveys going beyond the surface.
Why did you decide to be a musician?
It all started by accident. One of my aunts, the only classical music fan in the family, had a piano, and when I turned two she gave me a small one, white and red. Strangely, given the age, I didn’t try to destroy or devour it! I played it badly but my mother noticed that I had a particular connection with this instrument. Over time, growing up, I invented performances. I put the dolls to attend, dimmed the lights, made a kind of auditorium with sofas. It is incredible because at the time I had never seen concerts. Rai broadcast them only late at night. My mom never understood how I got these ideas. The episode that then marked the turning point was during a course of musical propaedeutics to classical music that I started at three and a half years with another little girl, my neighbor. Two young teachers made us sing and play with many different instruments. This very shy neighbor of mine stood in a corner and cried all the time. I, on the other hand, was having a great time. Her mom decided to withdraw it while I continued. One day one of the teachers said to my mother, “This little girl has something special.” He recognized in me musical skills, the predisposition to play easily and to have a good ear. I began studying the piano with her. Learning to read the notes on the staff was a great challenge. I think that talent is a kind of gift that is given to us and we must water it every day for the good of our neighbor and for ours, to be grateful for it. It is something that we find in our pockets but the point is to see it, understand it, have this sense of continuous gratitude. I am sure that sooner or later it will be returned. What we can do is have a good heart and make it vibrate in the right direction.
What were the biggest difficulties you have encountered in building your career?
It is really very special to live in the artist’s dimension. When I was younger I went through many difficult moments. I had a lucky childhood, full of love, but there was also a lot of family suffering. While growing up although I studied a lot, I wasn’t sure I would do this job. As a teenager I had a rock band with some friends, I often thought that I would have preferred to devote myself only to rock that seemed more fun to me than studying the piano repertoire for exams in the Conservatory. If I had only followed that path, which leads you to have a certain lifestyle with the risk of being lost, who knows what I would have done. The constant commitment of classical music, which I sometimes hated, however, saved me.
What is an essential daily routine for you that makes you feel good and helps you with your work?
For years I have been practicing morning and evening meditation. I drink water and lemon as soon as I wake up and do weekly fasting on Wednesdays. Then I practice yoga for twenty minutes. I concentrate on breathing and make sure that he is my teacher. I always dedicate my daily practice to someone since I have many loved ones who are far away. It is the only fixed appointment that I can have, everything else is random.
Your “Creativity workshop” entitled C # / SEE SHARP dedicated to young talents in the performing arts, where you use yoga, meditation and breathing techniques to help them manage performance stress, is having great success in music schools all over the world. Where did your idea come from?
The life of the artist is often chaos and finding a balance is not easy. Thanks to all the experiences I have tried on myself, I decided to create this workshop of creativity based on breathing and inner listening and to relieve the psychophysical stress that this job entails. Through it I would like to raise awareness and spread a holistic vision of the artist. I understand, for example, how you can lower your heart rate to better manage performance anxiety. I see that the boys and girls I teach in schools are often lacking in this awareness. My workshop would therefore like to fill an aspect that is not yet sufficiently taken into consideration and that goes beyond the teaching of the technique needed to know how to play an instrument well. I started with C # / See sharp in Sweden at Royal College then in the two universities in South Africa, where I teach. In November I took this project to many universities in the United States, then recently in India and Japan. I also took it to Paris and London to Trinity College.
You have been to India, favelas in Brazil, Africa, Laos, in many countries to support, to give emotions to people in the poorest and most disadvantaged conditions. What are the latest experiences you have had?
In December and January I went to India where, among the various centers, I visited the University of Tagore in the heart of Bengal. I made absurd journeys by car from 12 to 18 hours. This university is completely surrounded by nature and lessons are held under the trees. There I carried out a study on the songs of the Bāul, itinerant mystical singers from the area. Their tradition is to consecrate their lives to the expression of love and joy through music, dance and song. Their spirituality is based on a philosophy of experience, strongly linked to the body. The singers use a pentatonic scale in the music system which we do not use. (The Bāul songs were recognized by UNESCO in 2005 among the 43 masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity, ed.). In the vast Bāul repertoire it is frequent to listen to the lyrics of three great Bengali poets, including Lalon Shah who was of great inspiration to the poet Rabindranath Tagore, who published many of his masterpieces. I did a tour dedicated to the songs and poems of Tagore, based on the Raga which in Indian classical music are particular musical structures for us Westerners that are difficult to perform. These music have been translated, set to music and arranged by the French Alain Daniélou, friend of Tagore, and main speaker of Indian and Eastern culture in the west. He lived in India in the 1930s for a long time and managed to transcribe all of this music. He did an extraordinary job at a time when these two worlds didn’t talk to each other. I was lucky enough to read the scores translated by Daniélou. I was in New York to carry out the project and I worked with a singer, Francesca Cassio, who dedicated her entire life to ethnomusicology. We studied all the originals together to understand how to make them better. The result was very beautiful. For the first time this experience led me to immerse myself as I had never done in Indian culture.
How does music intertwine with a more spiritual dimension of life?
One aspect that I have studied in recent years is related to intonation. I think that when the intonation is a little lower you get to a sort of golden proportion, a dimension that makes you feel good, “makes you move” in and out. For this reason, I always look for delicate intonations that do not exceed 432 Hertz. Furthermore, I came to another awareness: I understood very clearly that if we completely extricate ourselves from the technical fact of the performance, even if it remains a fundamental part of our work, in the end the pure sound that vibrates in the air already symbolizes in itself the life, creation; it is therefore an act of pure love, in its highest form.
There is a lot of research that attests to how beneficial music is. Have you ever participated in such projects?
I happened to play at the Genote center of research in Salt Lake City (USA) in the Auditorium of Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. This study does research on the beneficial effects of music on those with certain pathologies such as insomnia, Parkinson’s and other disabilities. I have witnessed, for example, how much music has made deaf-mute children in school feel better. Thanks to advanced and technological mechanisms they have managed to ‘listen’ to music for the first time through amplified vibrations and to have a pseudo-acoustic sensory experience. Some were in their parents’ arms, some were elongating: they were all more relaxed. The beneficial power of music is immense. Life has given me the gift of being able to decipher it and of being able to give it to others also in different ways. I am learning a lot from these experiences.
You have collaborated with great jazz musicians. In a book “Stories of life, Jazz and Buddhism” (Esperia Edizioni) Herbie Hancock says: “I firmly believe that anyone who wants to become a great artist must live with great passion and enthusiasm. Of course, it is necessary for an artist to master their tools and techniques, just as they need to practice and practice. But as a musician, I feel that in addition to music it is above all important to develop one’s humanity. ” What do you think about it?
When you listen to Hancock you realize how it sounds that it has entered everything, opened all doors and had incredible inner growth. Music saves the lives of those who play it and those who listen to it. It is an enormous form of awareness and responsibility. Those who are very sensitive spiritually while playing enter a sort of channeling, but at the same time they must not be overwhelmed and must “be awake and present”, for themselves and for those who listen.
You were the testimonial of a fashion brand “Es Givien” that launched the #ilfashionbelloebuono project for the circular economy and, precisely, sustainability. How did this collaboration develop?
Es Given called ‘the line of positive thinking’, is a fashion brand born of three sisters, Nives, Gaia and Vivilla. I wanted to join because the values they promote such as Italian quality, sustainability and innovation also feel mine. On 22 November 2019 Es Given launched the first edition of #ilfashionbelloebuono at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. I opened with some songs that day, dedicated to the theme ‘network of innovation and sustainability for and with the new generations of young people’. It has been an honor as well as a pleasure to be able to contribute with my work to projects that ‘bring into being’ such true and important values, today more than ever.
Have you ever experienced gender discrimination experiences?
I am baffled and I still feel enormous dismay at the injustices that have been in the field of entertainment and beyond. I recently returned from India and one cannot help but notice what the real condition of women is in that country. It is a place in some ways very developed, in others it is not. In March last year I participated in the “Dafne” project, a female concert against violence against women which was held in Veneto. I am very active in this area and I am infinitely grateful to life for not having experienced any serious form of discrimination. Unfortunately, many positions of power are in the hands of men and the discrimination that we also experience in our country is still very strong. If you look good it is very easy that you can be a victim of prejudice. I would like to tell my colleagues who live these injustices to be strong and not to be afraid.
Is there anything you particularly like playing?
I have a predilection which is definitely Robert Schumann’s music, all of it. My latest record is entirely dedicated to him. He is a composer who speaks to me deeply. I did my Master’s thesis on him that I attended in Germany, dedicating it to his cryptographic ability. Schumann, like a minstrel, put signals in his passages by inserting notes that correspond to letters. Together they could create a word or a message or the memory of a theme. If you know his language, you know he is sending a message. I find it very romantic. Another composer I love very much is Beethoven. The strength and energy that his music exerts on who plays and who listens is truly incredible. 2020 is his year and we must remember it by listening to his music as much as possible. Beethoven’s music has a structure and solidity that can positively change the course of your day.
What songs would you recommend listening to these days?
Absolutely Beethoven’s music, also played by someone who has had joy in doing it like Friedrich Gulda. I recommend the Adagio from Ravel’s Concerto in G performed by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli. Or Chopin, for example The preludes in Ivo Pogorelich’s controversial and extreme interpretation. And also listening to a voice, which however being the human voice can only give comfort now, for example the 3 mélodies Op.85 by Gabriel Fauré. As for the symphonic repertoire, everything is directed by Theodor Currentzis, which is pure energy.