Marino Formenti, conductor/pianist


Marino Formenti, conductor/pianist
Photo credit: Alessandro Cavana
Click on image to enlarge.

"a Glenn Gould for the 21st century, a visionary for whom the usual limitations of either technique or tradition are not an issue"
~ Los Angeles Times

Marino Formenti and Liszt Inspections

On June 4, Marino Formenti performed his wonderfully questing recital program Liszt Inspections, in the magical atmosphere of the Kaplan Penthouse as part of the New York Philharmonic's celebration of contemporary music and voices, the NY PHIL BIENNIAL. 

"Speaking to the audience that packed Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse on Wednesday night for his adventurous recital titled 'Liszt Inspections,' the probing Italian pianist Marino Formenti ended his introductory comments with two words of encouragement.

'Good luck,' he said.

"...Wishing his audience good luck was an acknowledgment that he was asking a lot of us: to listen with open minds, put aside assumptions and join him in taking historical leaps. And the extent to which Liszt pointed the way to the future came through thrillingly in this revelatory program, played with sensitivity and fervor."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, June 6, 2014


Click here to see the full Liszt Inspections program and watch excerpts of Formenti performing Liszt Inspections here (Liszt) and here (Ustwolskaja).

And watch this interview from his last visit to the New York Philharmonic. 

(June 2014)

MARINO FORMENTI: collaborations and recitals at Wigmore Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus

Pianist, conductor and musical visionary MARINO FORMENTI is internationally renowned for his intense performances of original programs that defy traditional categories, and illuminate both new and deeply familiar core repertoire with surprising contextual juxtapositions. 

On April 6 Formenti joined Wigmore Hall's expansive George Benjamin Day, a series of programs celebrating and exploring work by Wigmore's 13/14 Composer in Residence, in a concert solo and chamber works with violinist Carolin Widmann and Adam Walker, flute.  He returns to Wigmore in June for his extraordinary solo recital program, The Liszt Inspections, through which he explores the continuing influence of Liszt on contemporary composers. Click here to see the program on the Wigmore site, and here for a video of highlights from his performance of the work at KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen 2012. 

Recent programs (in February and March,) have included collaborations with Stile Antico at the Elb Philharmonie in Hamburg, and performances at the Salzburg Biennale as both a conductor and performer; first with the Ensemble für Neue Musik of the Mozarteum University of Salzburg in "Dialoge with Music,"  a program featuring homages, deconstructions, transcriptions, and reconstructions of works by Xenakis and Scelsi, and second with a solo piano recitalfeaturing Schubert's Sonata in F Minor, D571, Debussy's Feuilles Mortes, Webern's Kinderstück 2 and Jean Barraqué's Piano Sonata. (rev. version)

"There’s a lot of anxious debate these days about how we can 'reinvent the concert experience'. This recital by the Italian-born pianist Marino Formenti proved that to achieve that you don’t need giant screens, purple lighting or multi-media bolt-ons. You just need a genuinely musical idea, which can shape a whole programme down to the smallest details, and allow us to hear the music in a different way." -- Ivan Hewett for The Telegraph on Formenti's 2011 Wigmore performance of Kurtag's Ghosts

To learn something more about Formenti's distinctive creative programming, watch this video interview in which he speaks about his conceptual presentation THE PARTY

(April 2013)

MARINO FORMENTI with the Berliner Festspiele

On September 29, pianist/conductor MARINO FORMENTI begins a three-week piano performance at the Berliner Festspiele: NOWHERE, a remarkable installation he describes as “A kind of pagan chapel where life and music can become one.”  The entire performance will be streamed live through his website, -- tune in any time, day or night, to commune with this wildly original artist.

(September 2012)

Expanding the Concert Experience:MARINO FORMENTI
Pianist/Conductor MARINO FORMENTI is a true musical explorer, seeking the edges of the contemporary concert experience, and pushing past "business as usual" barriers. From his recital presentations of Kurtag's Ghosts to his conducted, curated programs like The Party, he challenges typical concert structures while illuminating the heart of music with delicate, sensual light.

April and May see two of these projects in full force. 

NOWHERE: In the Cage
NOWHERE is a Formenti invention in which he uses a duration of time -- anywhere from 24 hours to two weeks -- to live (eat, sleep, perform) in a public space, while playing music in a near continuous fashion, to allow the listeners to be a visceral part of the experience.  It is a form of meditation, and a journey deep into the essential nature of music.
From April 24 through May 5, Formenti presented NOWHERE: In the Cage, in Bologna's Piazza de'Celestini, as part of the Angelica Festival Internazionale di Musica. 

This particular iteration of NOWHERE focused on the music of John Cage, alongside works by Brian Eno, Erik Satie, Morton Feldman, Louis Couperin and others.  The performance was live-streamed through Formenti's website for the duration of the event. Although that video is no longer available, you can get a taste of the NOWHERE experience through this video from the first presentation of the project, at the Steireisher Herbst Festival in 2010.

This weekend, on Saturday, May 12, Formenti and the inventive Ensemble Dal Niente present The Party.
Featuring a menu of excellent food and drink directly inspired by the works on the program, The Party invites the audience to a communal event where each individual can move through the space, sit, stand, eat, listen, watch and ultimately shape their own experience.

In this environment, Formenti will both conduct Dal Niente and play the piano in a program featuring works by Stockhausen, Xenakis, Alex Mincek, Bernard Lang, Marcos Balter, Scelsi, Feldman, Ustwolskaja and others.

Learn more about the event here and click here  for a WFMT program with host Andrew Patner that describes Formenti's work and reasoning behind this unusual concert program.  (Please note, Mr. Patner's discussion of Formenti and The Party is on the second half of the program.)
(May 2012)

MARINO FORMENTI plays the Diabelli Variations
Pianist/conductor MARINO FORMENTI may be known for his mesmerizing performances of modern repertoire -- Kurtag, Lachenmann, Cage, Ligeti, etc. -- but it cannot be denied that his insight reveals surprising and beautiful truths in performances of core repertoire. (For example, watch this video of him playing Haydn at The Greene Space in New York City.)

Formenti brings his insight to one of the cornerstones of piano repertoire next month, on January 7, for the Philharmonic Society of Orange County: Beethoven's Diabelli Variations.

In the program note, Philharmonic Society President and Artistic Director Dean Corey explains:
"Who should play the Diabelli Variations? Alfred Brendel is retired from concertizing and Maurizio Pollini hates flying to California. The performer needs to be special, unique. This is the piece of music that started me on this unattainable journey. The right choice became clear. Marino Formenti is, I feel, the most amazing pianist for new and avant-garde music. His insight into music is uncanny. We have presented him at our Eclectic Orange Festival. He has appeared numerous times in L.A. On one of those occasions, he played a little D minor sarabande of Bach with such tenderness and understanding that I was moved to tears. I asked him a short time later, 'Do you know the Diabelli Variations?' He replied, 'No,' to which I responded, 'Please learn it.' '

Click to see the full program.

Formenti returns to the US later in the spring for a presentation of his visionary program, "The Party," with the Chicago-based new music ensemble Dal Niente. With solo and ensemble works, food, visual art, drink and more, "The Party" lasts approximately six hours, and is designed to allow audiences to experience the music outside any constraints; they can stand, lie down, move around the space, talk, eat, listen or not. (December 2011)

24 May 2011 MARINO FORMENTI plays a new program in Hamburg: LISTZ INSPECTIONS
"What James Joyce did for the novel, Formenti seems intent on doing for the piano recital. The results were unforgettable...He is a unique artist, whose presentations should not be missed."- THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Tonight, 20:00 in the Laeiszhalle Elbphilharmonie Hamburg
pianist/conductor MARINO FORMENTI unveils a new program

Franz Liszt: Ungarisches Volkslied f-moll S 245/5 • György Kurtág: Doina (Játékok)
 • Franz Liszt: Klavierstück Nr. 2 S 189a
 • György Kurtág: ... waiting for Susan ...
 • Franz Liszt: Bagatelle sans Tonalité S 216a
 • Gérard Pesson: Speech of Clouds (aus: »Vexierbilder II«)
 • György Ligeti: Touches bloquées / Étude Nr. 3 (Études pour piano, premier livre)
 • Franz Liszt: Funérailles S 173/7 (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses)
 • Wolfgang Rihm: Klavierstück Nr. 7 • 
Galina Ustwolskaja: Sonate Nr. 6 für Klavier solo


Franz Liszt: Au lac de Wallenstadt S 160/2 (Années de Pèlerinage, Première Année, Suisse)
 • Luciano Berio: Wasserklavier (Six Encores Nr. 3)
 • Franz Liszt: En rêve S 207 • 
György Ligeti: En suspens / Étude Nr. 11 (Études pour piano, deuxième livre)
 • Tristan Murail: Cloches d'adieu, et un sourire
 • Franz Liszt: Cloches du Soir (aus: L'Arbre de Noël S 186) • 
John Adams: China Gates
 • Franz Liszt: In festo transfigurationis Domini S 188 • 
Salvatore Sciarrino: Polveri Laterali • 
Franz Liszt: Resignazione • 
Morton Feldman: Piano Piece

(May 2011)

Marino Formenti NY Phil broadcasts, recitals at Duke & LPR
Earlier this month, pianist-conductor MARINO FORMENTI made an unexpected but triumphant New York Philharmonic debut, playing the Ligeti Piano Concerto in the first concert of the Hungarian Echoes festival, programmed and led by Esa-Pekka Salonen:

The Italian-born pianist Marino Formenti, making his Philharmonic debut, was an impressive replacement, capturing the color and character of the music in his brilliant performance, complemented by Mr. Salonen and the Philharmonic." - THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 11, 2011

The performance will be broadcast today at 9pm EDT on New York City's WQXR, and will be available for listening on the New York Philharmonic's site from March 25- April 8.

You can also watch video of Formenti speaking about the Ligeti Concerto here, and the webcast of the NY Phil's visit to WQXR's new Greene Space, in conversation with Esa-Pekka Salonen, and with performances by Formenti and members of the Philharmonic.

Next week, on Tuesday, March 29, Marino Formenti returns to New York City for a performance of a new recital program, "The Eclectic Nite: Song Project No. 1" at (Le) Poisson Rouge. With works by John Adams, George Antheil, Kurt Weill, Conlon Nancarrow and modernist "covers" of songs by Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Björk, Brian Eno and Nirvana, it promises to be a special evening!

He also brings his "Kurtag's Ghosts" recital to Duke Performances on Sunday, March 27. Click for video of his performance of this extraordinary program (available on Kairos Records), at San Francisco Performances in 2007. (April 2011)

MARINO FORMENTI in New York City this March

Formenti appears with the NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC March 10, 11, 12 & 15, 2011 playing the Ligeti Piano Concerto led by ESA-PEKKA SALONEN as part of Hungarian Echoes: A Philharmonic Festival and in recital at (LE) POISSON ROUGE - March 29, 2011 - for a new recital program, "The Eclectic Nite: Song Project No. 1".

March 4, 2011: This month, more than six years since his last New York City appearance for Great Performers at Lincoln Center, the dynamic, unique pianist MARINO FORMENTI returns in a series of New York dates, including debut performances with the New York Philharmonic, and in recital at (Le) Poisson Rouge.

On March 10, 11, 12 and 15, Formenti joins Esa-Pekka Salonen and the New York Philharmonic, playing the Ligeti Piano Concerto for the first program of Hungarian Echoes: A Philharmonic Festival. The festival, which runs March 10-26, explores the music of three composers of different periods, styles, and approaches - Haydn, Bartók, and Ligeti - all bearing strong ties to Hungary. The performances mark Formenti's New York Philharmonic debut; he replaces Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who has withdrawn from the concerts due to illness.

Then, on March 29, Formenti unveils a new recital program, "The Eclectic Nite: Song Project No. 1" at the classically serious, coolly informal NYC venue, (Le) Poisson Rouge.

In this program, Formenti explores the fractal relationship of modern music with pop and jazz, setting music of Jacques Brel, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk and others in dialogue with composers including John Cage, Harrison Birtwistle, Erik Satie, George Antheil et al.

The result is a modern musical family portrait of sorts, reflecting the scope of music in the 20th century, as well as the history of the Greenwich Village venue itself: in the 20th century as the Village Gate (where Brel, Holiday and Monk all performed), and now in the 21st century as a home to adventurous modern music, (Le) Poisson Rouge.

Formenti explains the Song Project No. 1: "The challenge of performing at LPR consists in trying to create a dialogue with this space - its history, aura, etc. Since I think that many of the real masters of the 20th and 21st centuries are not only in ‘ernste Musik' - written, classical music - but in jazz, pop, blues and rock as well, my thoughts have been: how can I integrate this music into myself, how can I approach it? The Song Project No. 1 is the result: a very personal homage to artists I absolutely worship - Billie Holiday, Jacques Brel, Thelonious Monk (some of whom have even played in that space) - infused by my experiences playing John Cage, Harrison Birtwistle, Erik Satie, etc."

Ronen Givony of (Le) Poisson Rouge says: "As a lover of piano music and pianists, I was immediately taken by Marino Formenti's ‘Kurtag's Ghosts' album and have since looked forward to the day Marino was able to perform at LPR, which is a treat that I and our audience will finally get to experience on March 29."

Formenti also brings his "Kurtag's Ghosts" program to Duke Performances on March 27, 2011.

"Marino Formenti was the exhilarating, superhuman piano soloist. The performance was, in every respect, fabulous." Mark Swed for THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, Jan. 17, 2008, Messiaen "Des canyons aux étoiles" with Esa-Pekka Salonen & the Los Angeles Philharmonic

"Formenti is clearly a rare sort of pianist...Surely the most original and brilliantly executed solo recital any of us are likely to see this year." Ivan Hewett for THE TELEGRAPH, Feb. 10, 2011, "Kurtag's Ghosts" at Wigmore Hall

Click for video of a live performance of "Kurtag's Ghosts".

Hungarian Echoes 1: Esa-Pekka Salonen & Marino Formenti
Avery Fisher Hall
Thu, 7:30pm, Mar. 10, 2011
Fri, 11:00am, Mar. 11, 2011
Sat, 8:00pm, Mar. 12, 2011
Tue, 7:30pm, Mar. 15, 2011
Haydn: Symphony No. 6, Le Matin
Ligeti: Piano Concerto
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra
Click for event and ticket information.

Marino Formenti plays "The Eclectic Nite: Song Project No. 1"
Tue, March 29, 2011
doors open 6:30pm, show 7:30pm
with works by Jacques Brel, Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk,
John Cage, Harrison Birtwistle, Erik Satie and others
Click for event and ticket information.

(March 2011)

MARINO FORMENTI and Kurtag's Ghosts at Wigmore Hall

This month pianist MARINO FORMENTI brought his fascinating program, KURTAG'S GHOSTS to London's Wigmore Hall:

"There's a lot of anxious debate about how we can 'reinvent the concert experience.' This recital by the Italian-born pianist Marino Formenti proved that to achieve that you don't need giant screens, purple lighting or multi-media bolt-ons. You just need a genuinely musical idea, which can shape a whole programme down to the smallest details, and allow us to hear the music in a different way. To pull that off is a rare thing, but Formenti is clearly a rare sort of pianist...surely the most original and brillantly executed solo recital any of us is likely to see this year." - Ivan Hewett for THE TELEGRAPH, Feb. 10, 2011

Watch video of Formenti playing Kurtag's Ghosts here.

Next month, Formenti brings Kurtag's Ghosts to Duke Performances, and unveils a new program: THE SONG PROJECT #1 at New York City's (le) Poisson Rouge.

Looking forward, Formenti unveils another explorative program, LISZT INSPECTIONS at the Philharmonie Hamburg , juxtaposing the music of Liszt, Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, John Adams, and Stockhausen.

(March 2011)

Marino Formenti returns to the LA Phil for West Coast, Left Coast with Dudamel
Marino Formenti joined Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the opening concerts of the West Coast, Left Coast Festival (curated by John Adams,) playing Lou Harrison's Piano Concerto:

"Magic arrived when the expansive Asian-Californian fusion opening tune found its sweep. In the high-stomping second movement, which Harrison called a "Stampede," he asked the pianist to bang the keys with a large board in duet with drums. Formenti is a showman and delightfully used palms and forearms instead...the wondrous slow movement took my breath away. Formenti suspended chords in the air like bells in the clouds of lush string sonorities."  - Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 29, 2009

"Formenti offered the requisite dexterity and raw muscle for this wide-ranging work, but was most persuasive in its more intimate moments, whether in Bach-like precision or almost Brahmsian lyricism."  - David Mermelstein,, Nov. 30, 2009 (subscribers) (December 2009)

Marino Formenti returns to LA Phil with Dudamel

Marino Formenti returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto, led by Maestro Gustavo Dudamel -- a re-engagement following Formenti's wildly acclaimed performance of Messiaen's "Des Canyons aux étoiles" with Esa-Pekka Salonen. It’s just another highlight in a wonderful fall season: Formenti was artist-in-residence at the Weimar Festival, performed at the Hitzacker Festival, reunited with Maurizio Pollini to lead the Pollini Perspectives programs in Paris and Milan, and performed his renowned Kurtag’s Ghosts recital program at the Vienna Konzerthaus and at Peak Performances for Montclair State University.

Next month he returns to San Francisco Performances for a recital series Aspects of the Divine. It features Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus” and a program, Seven Last Words, presenting Haydn’s masterpiece in conjunction with a new work by Bernhard Lang.

(November 2009)

Pianist/conductor Marino Formenti returns to LA's Monday Evening Concerts
This week pianist and conductor Marino Formenti returned to LA's Monday Evening Concerts, conducting and performing in For Galina Ustvolskaya, a special program conceived by Formenti as a tribute to Ustvolskaya's unique compositional voice. The appearance was a critical and popular hit, with a full house and praise from Mark Swed at the Los Angeles Times:

"Marino Formenti, the Italian keyboard phenom, was on hand as pianist and conductor, and he was entirely in his element. That Formenti makes everything he touches, whether new music or old, seem astonishing is well known in Los Angeles, and the hall was full...The Monday Evening Concerts turns 70 next week. Although the series has had its ups and downs through the years, it now thrives full of extraordinary new and exciting life. What a way to celebrate!"

Formenti begins next fall as artist-in-residence at Nike Wagner's Weimar Kunstfest, and reunites with Maurizio Pollini to lead "Pollini Prospettive" at the Salle Pleyel in Paris and in Milano. He also joins Gustavo Dudamel, in his inaugural season with the LA Philharmonic, for Lou Harrison's Piano Concerto.

Recent highlights include a performance of Kurtag’s Ghosts at the Vienna Konzerthaus, as well as Kurtag's Ghosts on Kairos Records. (April 2009)

New-music dynamo MARINO FORMENTI performs Messiaen with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Phil
This month pianist/conductor MARINO FORMENTI leads works by Luigi Nono for Maurizio Pollini's Prospettive in Rome, before landing in Los Angeles to perform Messiaen's Des canyons aux étoiles with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the LA Phil. It's a welcome return to California, where Formenti's exquisite "San Francisco Piano Trips", a three-recital series for San Francisco Performances, made Joshua Kosman's Top Ten Classical Performances of 2007: "The Italian pianist's gorgeous stream-of-consciousness trek through music from Guillaume de Machaut to György Kurtág...redefined the possibilities of the solo recital." SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, December 30, 2007

Upcoming dates include a performance of Messiaen's "Visions de L'Amen" at the Mozartwoche in Salzburg, a return to New York City for masterclasses at the Manhattan School of Music, performances of Stefano Gervasoni's "Irrene Stimme" with Lothar Zagrosek and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and performances of Fabio Nieder's new piano concerto with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln. (January 2008)

Pianist and musical dynamo MARINO FORMENTI returns to the US for musical explorations at San Francisco Performances
Pianist and musical dynamo Marino Formenti returns to the US this spring with an exploration of the contemporary landscape for San Francisco Performances. The series includes three programs - Dynamic Motion; Waves of Sorrow, Waves of Joy; and Nothing is Real – musical journeys through the 20th century into the present day and beyond. The performances will be capped with two children's programs, in which Mr. Formenti encourages people of all ages to challenge traditional concert expectations. Formenti last appeared on the West Coast in spring 2006, closing the Monday Evening Concert Series at LACMA - an experience that prompted Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times to say "That Formenti embodies opposites may not seem remarkable; all musicians must. Even the fact that he embodies extremes in the louder, softer, faster, slower senses is not the full story. What astonishes is the mercurial speed with which he can change emotions, the lightning shifts from brutal violence to unworldly calm." (January 2007)

Marino Formenti - Inspired pianist and conductor
Inspired pianist and conductor Marino Formenti returns to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this month for in-depth explorations of contemporary repertoire. He examines Kurtágšs inspirations and influences, and offers an expansive program of music, wine and discussion. Mr. Formentišs hands-on, unconventional interpretations defy standard labels. (April 2006)

"Demon" pianist Marino Formenti brings two spikey, innovative programs to L.A. this season.
21st century pianist MARINO FORMENTI began the season by making a recording of Michael Jarrell's "Abschied" with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, a work he premieres in France this month in concerts with l'Orchestre de la Radio France and Peter Eotvos. And he continues to champion Helmut Lachenmann in recital at the Konzerthaus in Berlin, and plays the composer's piano concerto, "Ausklang," in Berlin and Vienna.

The spring see his third return to Los Angles for a pair of Monday Evening concerts at LACMA: "Kurtag's Ghosts" April 24 focuses on the life and soul of Gyorgy Kurtag in a program of works by those who inspired him, including Machaut, J.S. Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Webern, Bartok, Ligeti and Stockhausen. The second program May 1 will be an Homage to Monday Evening Concerts and to the man who guided this series with such love and care, Dorrance Stalvey; a celebration with wine and conversation between Formenti's performances of works by Salvatore Sciarrino, John Cage, Lachenmann, and Morton Feldman -- a precursor of Formenti's "Die Party", an 8 hour event of music, visual arts, food and drink, a fashion show, and art installations that he is slated to play and produce in the next seasons at the Konzerthauses in Vienna and Berlin. (October 2005)