Pianist Sophie Pacini, German of Italian background, emerged in the 2010s as living proof that the traditional career path leading through well-established Classical-Romantic repertory was still viable. A native of Munich, Germany, Pacini was born on December 12, 1991. She showed major talent even before taking any serious lessons, making her concert debut in 2000 at the age of eight. At ten she entered the Salzburg Mozarteum in Austria, studying with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling and winning admission after two years to the school's new institute for highly gifted students. Pacini won the Jugend Musiziert (Young People Making Music) prize in 2002 and 2005, gaining media attention as a near prodigy. She appeared in 2007 on the Klassik-Kids program on the ZDF television network in Germany. Pacini won several more prizes and scholarships late in the 2000s decade, but her next real breakthrough came in 2010, when she met top German pianist Martha Argerich. Argerich invited Pacini to give a recital at her Martha Argerich Project series in Switzerland in 2011, and she has since emerged as the young pianist's mentor. Pacini graduated with honors from the Mozarteum that year but has continued to study in master classes from the likes of Dmitri Bashkirov and Fou Ts'ong. The following year she made debuts at several European festivals and appeared on the ZDF show Stars von Morgen (Stars of Tomorrow). Her concert-season profile grew from Salzburg appearances with the Mozarteum Orchester and Camerata Salzburg to wider-ranging appearances with the Dresden Philharmonic and the Tokyo Philharmonic at Suntory Hall. In 2012 Pacini made her recording debut on the Onyx label, the result of a Rothschild Foundation prize she won. She moved to CAvi Music for recordings of Liszt and Chopin in 2012 and 2014. An ECHO Klassik newcomer prize in 2015 and subsequent signing by the major Warner Classics label seemed to confirm Pacini's star trajectory. She released her Warner debut, a Beethoven-Liszt recital, in 2016, took the program on the road, and appeared that year with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, among other top ensembles. With Argerich encountering health problems that year, her replacement seemed ready to take the stage. ~ James Manheim
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Classical - Released November 5, 2012 | CAvi-music
Classical - Released September 9, 2016 | Warner Classics
The young pianist Sophie Pacini has been touted as the next big thing by Martha Argerich, something that should make you sit up and take notice. The evidence from this album is positive. The pairing of Beethoven and Liszt, the Viennese theme-worker and the exotic Parisian showman, is not that common today, but it certainly would have been in Liszt's own time, and Liszt might easily have played this exact program (and enjoyed the way Pacini plays it). Pacini opens with the Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53 ("Waldstein"), given a detailed reading that isolates all the sixteenth notes and emphasizes the work's poetic qualities, as if to whet the appetite for the fireworks to come. And come they do, although this is rather poetic Liszt itself, not the keyboard-pounding stuff. Again, this is something with which Liszt would have had no problem. Pacini's strength lies in capturing the breadth of Liszt's conceptions, which would have seemed as amazing as his keyboard heroics to listeners of his own time. Sample the relatively rarely recorded transcription of the Overture to Wagner's Tannhäuser, which shows you something both of Liszt's pianism and of Pacini's. With fine sound from the Sendesaal Bremen, Warner Classics propels its young find to the front of the pack of new pianists.
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