Formenti seeks to merge old
by Bret Bradigan
For Marino Formenti, the best part of playing the Ojai Music
Festival is having a chance to "demonstrate new things can
be as exciting, or even more so, than old things."
The critically acclaimed pianist will have that chance for the
Saturday, June 1, 2:30 p.m. performance in Libbey Bowl, when
his repertoire will be made up of the works of seven modern composers,
including one world premiere and two West Coast premieres.
These works, by Olga Neuwirth, Salvatorre Sciarrino, Hanspeter
Kyburz and others, may be out of the ordinary, but for Formenti,
that's the point.
He compared the piano to "an old tool," and the goal
of the Saturday performance will be to see what new uses can
be found for that old tool. "I want to see what can be done,
at a very high level, with the piano, to use it in different
For the Neuwirth composition, "incidendo/fluido," a
teapot will be placed inside the piano, with a recording pickup
inside the teapot, hooked up to a MacIntosh computer running
a playback program. "It will be a duet between man and machine,"
During that afternoon performance, he will also use two Steinway
pianos, with one tuned a quarter-note flatter. That trick tuning,
he said, will give the music "a deeper resonance."
Formenti will be busy throughout the festival; his first performance
on May 29 kicks off the festival with a marathon concert from
6 p.m. to midnight at the Art Center. He will play about three
He has two concerts on Saturday in Libbey Bowl - the family concert,
"Latest Sounds for Eager Ears: Today's Music for Today's
Kids," featuring some of the same works from modern composers
that he will play again at 2:30 p.m. that day.
During the past couple of years, since Formenti, a native of
Italy, began playing in America, he has drawn rave reviews for
his idiosyncratic style. "Formenti's playing is phenomenal,"
wrote Timothy Mangan in the Orange County Register. "He
put his whole physical being into it; he gets a workout - stomping,
hammering, pumping, sniffing, growling, swooping, lunging. Everything
is aggressive, athletic and in-your-face, even the delicate nuance,
of which there was plenty."
This distinctive style caught the ear of Ernest Fleischmann,
the Ojai Music Festival's venerable artistic director, last year.
Fleischmann extended an invitation to the festival, which Formenti
was happy to accept.
"Everyone says it is wonderful - very, very inspiring,"
Working with the theme "Last and Latest Thoughts" also
proved to be inspiring for Formenti, especially the Sonata in
B Flat by Schubert and Morton Feldman's "For Bunita Marcus."
These composers, he said, facing the end of their life, found
"a common quality, an essentiality. The music has a lack
of superficial thoughts.
"When you are confronted with death, you experience what's
really important in life, and what's not. Through death, you
understand life," he said.
For more information: call the Music Festival office at 646-2094
or point your browser to www.ojaifestival.org.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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