Costanza Principe is a very talented and charismatic Italian pianist. She grew up with a strong passion for music and she started to take piano lessons when she was six. She performed in many Countries such as: UK, France or Italy and she says that in music she finds the strongest way of expression.
Hello Costanza, tell us something about you. How did your passion for music start and when did you realize it would have been a fundamental part of your life?
Hello to you at D.A.R.E. and thank you!
My passion for music started very naturally within my family environment. Both my mother and my father are pianists and my grandfather is a musicologist. I started taking piano lessons with my mom’s teacher – Edda Ponti – when I was six, and that’s how my journey began.
Surely, I was “initiated” to the study by my family which has always followed me along my study path closely until adolescence, but the real choice I made later – at sixteen – at a concert by Enrico Pace, who was playing Schumann’s Novelletten. It was right afterwards that I rediscovered my passion for the piano and the wonderful repertoire I had forgotten and neglected after a period of deep crisis.
What does music mean to you and what did it teach you over the years?
Music has taught me and given me a lot – from different perspectives. Certainly, the study of an instrument at a young age teaches discipline more than anything else and, in this sense, it is quite similar to a competitive sport – with the difference that it moves and touches other spheres as well, including emotionality, self-knowledge and inner awareness. The difference, for example, between what we do and how we are perceived by others. Knowing how to listen to ourselves as if we were performers and audience at the same time is something very difficult – the two levels are often very different – and it is a great lesson from which I think we can all benefit, with due differences, even in everyday life as well as in interpersonal relationships. Music, for me, is a means of expression – the one I have always trained and worked on over the years, and therefore, the only one with which I can truly express myself completely – it all starts with us and has the audience as its recipient. It’s a beautiful act of sharing.
What’s the greatest satisfaction you have achieved in your career so far?
I am always very critical of what I do, so I always focus more on the goals I would like to achieve, I don't necessarily mean concert halls, stages, or career, but especially on a personal level, that is to be able to play this profession with serenity, seriousness, commitment, and especially desire. That desire that we have been missing a little during these hard months of closures and that now is fortunately going back the way it was before, rather, more than before!
What are the stages on which you have performed that have thrilled you the most?
Surely, performing in my city – Milan – is always very exciting, and I guess it’s like that for, say, everyone. As for the rest, I have a lot of good memories related to precise concerts, but also to the whole concert experience – the journey, which is always part of our work, and which takes us to a very special dimension, with all its pros and cons.
Definitely, now that I think about it, all the concerts I held after the 2020 lockdown had a special aura for me, because coming back to performing after such a long forced stop was decidedly a breath of fresh air, an experience with a strong symbolic value of restart and rebirth.
What was it like to perform at the Wigmore Hall in London? Where would you like to perform in the future and why?
It was a wonderful experience! I’ve lived in London for six years, and performing in one of the most important halls in the city – and with a history like the one of the Wigmore Hall – was very exciting. Definitely, one of the greatest things about London is the opportunities it gives to young musicians, even when they’re still studying. There exist some foundations and trusts that select young pianists to play in very prestigious halls, and it was thanks to one of these very auditions for the Kirckman Concert Society that I had this opportunity for which I am still profoundly grateful.
What is your relationship with the audience during a concert? What makes you really feel the relationship with the audience before, after and during your performance?
Nowadays, social media have definitely changed the relationship with the audience. There is a greater level of interaction on both sides, and the level of sharing with the outside world, such as the moments leading up to the concert – from the months of preparation to the moment of silence before the first note – has increased exponentially in the last few years. I believe that, in this sense, technology has surely given and not taken away – as it has probably done in other sectors instead.
During a concert, I think you can tell right away if you can create that somewhat magical interaction between performer and audience – the very first minutes are enough to understand if you have the attention and if you’ll keep it throughout the show. When it happens, it's magical, and that's one of the reasons I find this job extraordinary.
“I am always very critical of what I do, so I always focus more on the goals I would like to achieve”
You perform a lot of compositions by composers such as Schubert, Schumann or Bach. Which of these maestros is your favourite – if you have any – and why?
They are definitely the three composers I’ve been playing the most during these years. I have a very special bond with Schumann, and it has become stronger over the years...From the very first piece I studied – Papillons Op. 2, I was 11 – I immediately fell in love with his world full of colours, masks – as a child I would obviously appreciate his more imaginative, and, if you like, more immediate aspects. And I have never abandoned his music ever since. I think Schumann's repertoire is particularly akin to my inner world – with its sudden changes of mood, obsessions, madness and great passion. I have recently recorded my first album entirely dedicated to Schumann and it will be released in the coming months by the label Brilliant Classics.
Young people today find it difficult to approach classical music, and often listen to other genres instead. What’s the reason in your opinion?
In Italy, we have been increasingly impoverishing the musical education of the very young. Of course, we will have fewer and fewer young people in the concert halls if we don't get children interested in music in schools – and this is true for any kind of teaching, because, besides the family, I believe that schools have a primary role in building the values and tastes of tomorrow’s adults. What I’m saying may sound banal, but it is true – the preconception that classical music is boring, difficult, or has to be understood is very sad. I’m not too keen on the idea that a musician can be a populariser at the same time, because I think those are two very different aspects within the same field, but no doubt a young classical musician today can do much more than one could do in the past. Using social networks in a smart way, for instance. Showing themselves for what they are, that is, a young person, the same age as many other young people who do not have that passion because they feel it terribly distant. And this, in the end, brings them closer. Even if there is still a very long way to go.
We’re living a very tough period for musicians and for all kinds of artists. How do you think this will weigh on the universe of music, theatre and in general on the love for classical art?
The Covid19 health emergency forced us to stop – since the beauty of our profession is precisely the aspect of sharing. And so, we stayed put for many months, even if in the end it turned into a paradoxical situation – many activities reopened but not the theatres, the planes were full, the transfers from the gate to the planes were swarming with people, but the concert halls remained closed – and I think many misjudgements were made. There have been demonstrations, requests for dialogue with the government, in short, we have lived months of hell. Now, it’s time to start again, little by little, and I hope to see what I thought I saw in July 2020, after the first lockdown – an audience that can’t wait to get back to enjoying live music, and that perhaps, after being deprived of it for a long time, will re-evaluate and appreciate it even more than before.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
My first album is about to drop, and I'm already working on the next one – let's just say that Schumann will be my fellow traveller for a few more months, or rather, hopefully years!
Starting to look a little further ahead by thinking about record making during closures certainly helped me a little to keep the stimuli alive. Unfortunately, as a musician, I find it very difficult to work if I don't have a project in mind or well-defined deadlines – so let’s say I've been living this period in a wavering way. Now, thanks to the return to concerts, the project Preludes will finally see the light – I’m participating together with the dancers Anbeta Toromani, Alessandro Macario, Mick Zeni, Amilcar Moret Gonzalez and the choreographer Massimo Moricone. That’s a show where dance and live piano music are fused together and that has already been skipped twice because of the pandemic, but – at last – it will start in mid-June and will take place in different cities. This is the first time I have collaborated with the world of dance and I am very curious and full of enthusiasm in view of the fusion between these two disciplines.
“What I’m saying may sound banal, but it is true – the preconception that classical music is boring, difficult, or has to be understood is very sad”
What other types of music do you listen to?
I listen to a lot of Italian songwriting and a lot of French chansons as well. I'm very fascinated by the songwriters of the past, such as Tenco, Endrigo, De Andrè, Battisti, Brel, but I'm also deeply nostalgic – I've always been! – and I like to retrace my steps from time to time and just listen to songs related to periods of the past. At some stage, during adolescence, I would also listen to metal music – I was also part of a band in which I played electric bass! – but a lot of rock as well. Now, I'm, say, re-studying the Queen's discography – my first non-classical love at the age of eleven – and they resonate in my car for several kilometres every week while I'm heading to the Conservatory of Rovigo to teach my students.
What would you suggest to young people willing to pursue the same career as yours? What and who was inspirational to you? And who did help you dealing with the sacrifices that study and career entail?
I have certainly drawn inspiration from all my piano teachers and the great pianists of the past, whose recordings have kept me company throughout my whole human and artistic growth. The suggestion I would give to a young musician is to be committed, not to look at what others do and focus only on themselves. It’s about a lot of dedication but at the same time a lot of curiosity. I guess it’s fundamental for a young musician to keep their eyes and mind open on everything that's out there, without neglecting essential aspects, such as extra-musical education – that broadens our horizons and always gives important stimuli – but also the dimension of entertainment which is vital. We put ourselves and our emotions into music and if we don't live our lives to the fullest –compatibly with the commitment of studying an instrument, which is really great – how are we supposed to communicate with others?
“Music, for me, is a means of expression – the one I have always trained and worked on over the years, and therefore, the only one with which I can truly express myself completely”
Follow Costanza and join her on her musical journey through her instagram.
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