Interview: Ilio Barontini

Today we are sharing an interview with talented composer and pianist - Ilio Barontini.

1. First of all, tell us about how did you start your music career?

- My music career started in 1972 just after my piano degree. I was 21 years old. 1972 was a turning point in my life - I also got married and got a job as a piano teacher at the Music Institute of my city of birth, Livorno, in Tuscany. Since then I have been playing as a soloist and in many chamber ensembles. The important prizes I got in 1975-1978 in the context of italian and international piano competitions made me start performing a lot around Italy and abroad (Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria). I would like to highlight that my performances have mainly been as a pianist, but occasionally as a harpsichordist too. As a chamber piano player, I would like to mention my experiences with successful musicians, for example with the violinists Augustin Hadelich, Domenico Pierini and Marco Fornaciari, the violist Lina Lama, the oboist Omar Zoboli, the bassoon player Paolo Carlini or the singer Manuela Custer. In the last few years, I have focused on performing as a soloist and with my daughter Caterina. We love playing piano duets at four hands or at two pianos.

2. Who are your music inspirations?

- I must point out that good music have always been my source of inspiration, without distinction of any kind.  As an example, my love for the Beatles never dies. The Fab Four inspired my concert paraphrases “Back to Beat” for two pianos, in two parts, and “Back to Beatles” for solo piano, both produced by Sifare Publishing, Rome. Regarding the classical repertoire, I have always admired Béla Bartók for his  revolutionary approach to piano teaching and composing. In 1981, during the centenary of his birth, I performed the complete piano works by Bartók. That recital was presented by Boris Porena.  I have recently chosen 20 pieces from “Mikrokosmos” and “For Children” and transcribed them for piano four hands,  creating the collection named “Bartókiana” (Sifare Publishing, 2017) fully respecting his thought and his music ideas. It was Bartók himself who encouraged composers to work creatively on his material, in the preface of Mikrokosmos.  My interest towards popular music led me to write “Five Nursery Rhymes” (Sifare Publishing, 2017) for piano four hands.

3. Our readers would like to know more about your latest release Life is Love. Any interesting facts?

- The most interesting fact “behind the scenes” of this work... is the great friendship and the enthusiastic synergy between Francesco Digilio and me. The liaison between his music ideas and my piano versions is as perfect as a mathematical formula... that’s a rare thing! Experimenting new textures and new composing techniques is so exciting when you have a brother to share them with.

4. What opinions have you received about your music?

- I have received enthusiastic opinions, both from people on the net and from my family, friends and colleagues. Also my students love it. I am happy to feel that I am spreading good emotions around through this work.

5. What do you like to do more: composing or performing?

- That’s a hard question to answer, but... I think the answer is the synthesis of both, it’s to say, performing my music. 

6. Which countries do you want to visit with tour?

- The USA.

7. How do you deal with haters?

- I don’t mind about them, they are the sign that I have done something special.

8. What would you tell to your fans?

- I would like to tell them that life is a fascinating path towards maturity. It’s like composing music. Never discard your ideas, because working on the good ones will let you create a masterpiece.

9. How did the meeting with the pianist and arranger Francesco Digilio start?

- It started in 2017, at the end of January, when my daughter Caterina was called by Sifare (his label in Rome) for a recording session of contemporary music written by a young composer. That’s a great thing that I gave my daughter a ride to Rome that day! Digilio made me listen to his music and I told him about his charming chords and ideas, like “Wow, listen, this D!”, or “So interesting this F sharp, no one expects it!”. He felt so glad because he realised that we understood each other completely. It all sounds great between us since then!