Rosa Antonelli

‘I felt connected to music right away’

My initial motivation probably came from my mother, who was an opera singer: she was singing all the time during my childhood and so I felt connected to music right away. Also, most of my other family members were musical hobbyists who played different instruments.

But in a mysterious way, I would say that it was the piano, itself. “Mysterious” because something about the instrument attracted me immediately, even before I’d played it: you could say it was love at first sight.

When I went to kindergarten, I saw a grand piano and told my mother that I wanted to play it. She said that after that I spent a lot of time looking at my hands and fingers with great fascination. I had already started dreaming about connecting myself, my fingers, with the instrument.


Besides my mother, I would say that the person who most influenced me as a pianist was my first piano teacher. To understand why, it’s necessary to know a bit about my background.

It was not easy for me to pursue my love of music as a child. I did not have my own piano to practice on until I was fourteen years old.

Even though both my parents were from royalty back in Italy, because of the war and moving to Argentina my family lost everything except hope. My mother and I somehow always found a way. My piano teacher saw what a passion I had for the piano and was an angel to me. She had a little guesthouse in the back yard with a piano.

The first piece I learned by Liszt was the Consolation No. 3, and it touched my heart so much I wanted to learn it as fast as I could. My teacher allowed me to practice it in her guesthouse until late at night. To see that I was OK she would look out her window and see a little light and hear the piano. She named me ‘the musical light of the back yard.’ That was my ‘secret place.’ My mother didn’t know where I was and often worried about me. One night when it was particularly late she searched for me and, knowing my habits, went to my piano teacher’s house. My piano teacher pointed to the little light in the back yard and my mother was relieved and happy that I was safe in my ‘secret place.’

 When I was fifteen years old I knew so much of the piano repertoire that I was a prodigy child. My teacher asked me to become her assistant, so I ended up teaching my own classmates. Later on, at the National Conservatory, in which I was the youngest student, my teacher Roberto Caamano was a big influence. Among world-famous pianists, Marta Argerich and Claudio Arrau have been the most inspirational.

Earliest memories involving piano playing?

I remember how much I loved to practice, it was never enough, I always wanted to learn more and more pieces. When my teacher used to organize two or three recitals every year I was always chosen to perform, but of course she would notify my mother first. I remember that nothing else gave me more joy than when I was told that I would be playing in a concert. If my mother said to me, “Oh, I bought you a dress,” I would say, ok [without much enthusiasm]. “I bought you a doll.” [same response] “You have a concert,” and I was the happiest girl in the world: The happiest thing in the world for me was to perform.

Besides annual recitals, my teacher used to take me to a private conservatory where I had an exam every year from the age of six. When it was my turn to play, I remember all the other students and teachers would gather around, ready to listen as if it was a live concert by a famous pianist.

My first public concert was in the Municipal Theater, I was seven years old. My teacher asked me to announce what I was going to play and I remember being very nervous before going onstage, but once there it felt so natural, so comforting, it was the best feeling I could ever have.

‘Artist of extraordinary ability’

I’ve been lucky to have many memorable moments in my career, but among those of which I am proudest was when the United States of America conferred American Citizenship upon me as an artist of extraordinary ability. I felt as if the United States had literally placed their arms around me and asked me to stay in this wonderful country. In a similar way, it gladdened my heart when Steinway’s artist and concert department approached me to add my name to their roster of Steinway artists: They’ve been so helpful to me in many ways.

Other outstanding memories include having had the opportunity to introduce the Scriabin Piano Concerto in many countries around the world, performing on Vladimir Horowitz’s piano, having Georgina Ginastera, the composer’s daughter, attend my concerts when I performed her father’s music, and of course, my recent Carnegie Hall debut.

 Favorite Concert Venues

Having played in many famous halls around the world, it’s clear to me that each has its own special ambiance. When I played in Carnegie Hall I couldn’t help but recall the many famous musicians who have graced its stage, and of course, the acoustics were magnificent. In the same way, at the Palazzo Visconti, in Milan, it was as if I were in the company of Mozart and Liszt, who played there often.

I’d also like to mention my invitation to perform at Chopin’s home in Zalazowa, Poland. While a scheduling conflict prevented me from doing so—I was giving a concert at the Ostrovsky Palace, sponsored by the Chopin Society—I did eventually visit and the experience was overwhelming.

Biggest challenge overcome in piano playing?

It seems to me that there are two sides to this question: One involves becoming the most proficient pianist possible, so that the piano serves as the vehicle for my thoughts and feelings. Only in that way can I communicate in the most direct fashion to my audience. But once I had reached the level expected of a touring artist, I had to overcome challenges that were not purely musical. Primarily, these were related to the political upheavals that periodically threaten some of the countries in which I have performed. For example, I was once detained on suspicion of being a spy and in Israel my “welcome basket” included a gas mask!

Any tips to aspiring concert pianists?

My advice is to cultivate discipline and aspire to reach perfection, even if it is never attainable; not to limit yourself to the piano or even music, but to explore many other areas of the arts.

To pursue the final goal, which is to transmit the composer’s feelings to the audience, to forget about the ego, and to compete only with yourself. If you know this is your passion, never give up, you have a message to communicate.

On October 15th at Carnegie Hall a star was born. Her name is Rosa Antonelli and that name will soon be flashing in lights at all the great concert halls all over the world. I have seen many “greats” at Carnegie Hall including the incomparible Horowitz and Rosa Antonelli is the closest I’ve seen to that master. Rosa’s performance was riveting. The sound was rich and emotionally powerful. Ms. Antonelli’s artistry on stage was absolutely stunning; the musical poetry mesmerizing. The standing ovations were second to none and truly deserved.

– Joe Franklin, Legendary TV talk show host and current Bloomberg talk show host


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