Benedetti Michelangeli, Arturo. (1920–1995)
Early Signed Wartime Program
Very uncommon early signed wartime program from the legendary Italian pianist, then just twenty-two years of age, who performed a recital at the Teatro Adriano - Governatorato di Roma - Regia Accademia di Santa Cecilia on April 29, 1942. Performed during the period in which he was actively serving in the Italian Air Force, the program included works by Tomeoni, Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel and Debussy and Benedetti Michelangeli has signed and inscribed in bold fountain pen ink to the lower blank area of the program listing. 8 pp. Light folding wear and scattered light foxing; overall fine. 7 x 10 inches (18 x 25 cm).
According to The New York Times, he was perhaps the most reclusive, enigmatic and obsessive among the handful of the world's legendary pianists. But the present program dates from the very beginning of his career. Three years earlier, in 1939, he had earned first prize in the Geneva International Music Competition, where he was acclaimed as "a new Liszt" by pianist Alfred Cortot, a member of the judging panel, which was presided over by Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Upon winning the competition, Benito Mussolini gave Michelangeli a teaching position at the Martini Conservatory in Bologna, Italy. But the outbreak of World War II interrupted Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli’s career just as it had begun. Despite the efforts of Maria Jose di Savoia (later Queen of Italy) to exonerate him, Michelangelo was also drafted into the army and from 1941 to 1943 served in the Italian Air Forces. Michelangeli saw the war through the eyes of a pilot, a partisan and a prisoner. "I’m a pilot above all," he declared. "A pilot; then a doctor; and only then, maybe, a suonatore." (player). Michelangeli remained an independent spirit, resisting conformity and the mindless regimentation of the fascists. He quit the Italian air force to join the Resistance. Little is known about his eight months of incarceration by the Nazis, from whom he is reported to have escaped. But according to Roy McMullen in High Fidelity magazine, the pianist’s flight from his captors was made in "spectacular fashion" and he then awaited the complete liberation of Italy to resume his career. With World War II over in 1945, he played in his homeland. In 1946 he made his first tour of Europe. He played in England in 1946, and was invited to the USA for the first time in 1948.