“I began to study piano at the age of six,” says Italian pianist Scipione (it’s pronounced SHEEP-ee-OH-nay) Sangiovanni. “It was not an idea of mine. My mother decided for me. When I was six, I wanted to play football—but today I thank her, because I understand that with music, she gave me a better opportunity.”
Still, his mother must have seen the musician within—because when asked about his “best” memory of the piano when he was a small child, he remembers this: “I listened to the Lacrimosa by Mozart [the title means “tearful”] at the age of seven, and this was my happiest musical moment. I was a strange child.”
Sangiovanni was born, and continues to live, in the small southern Italian city of Lecce, which he calls “one of the most Baroque Italian cities.” Near the Adriatic Sea in the heel of the Italian boot, Lecce is famous for its gorgeous 17th-century Baroque churches and for a long, leisurely night life that takes advantage of the city’s cool evenings. And besides the fact that Lecce is home, Sangiovanni says “here I have everything I need to deepen my relationship with music.”
He studied both at the Conservatory Tito Schipa and at the Mendelssohn Piano Academy of Lecce. His competition credits include first prize in Zagreb’s Svetislav Stancic International Piano Competition (2011), as well as top prizes at the Jaen International Piano Competition, the Maria Canals International Music Competition, and the Rina Sala Gallo International Competition. Sangiovanni has performed throughout Europe, in the United States and China—and will be at the “Top of the World” piano competition in Norway just a week after the Cliburn ends on June 9.
Favorite composers for the piano?
“Bach, Scarlatti, Handel,” he says. “Why? Because they are not piano composers.” He likes opera and the “operatic” style—listing as favorites (and in no particular order) Maria Callas, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Giacomo Puccini, Queen (see the pattern?), Pink Floyd, Lucio Battisti, Genesis.
What does he do for fun? “I think music must represent the best fun in life for a musician,” he says first. “But it’s hard to practice all the day—so I love to cook pasta, polenta, risotto.” And he’s a reader, too: book favorites are Melville’s Moby-Dick, Dante’s La Divina Commedia and Hugo’s Les Misérables.
What does he hope to do in Texas (besides win, of course)?
Good boy—he says he’d be very happy “to visit the important museums of art” we have in the area. His mother would be proud…but it sounds like he means it, too!
◊ Here is a video of Sangiovanni performing Lizst in Zagreb in 2011:
Scipione Sangiovanni's Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Repertoire
Preliminary Recital, Phase I
BACH Partita No. 6 in E Minor, BWV 830
BUSONI Indianisches Tagebuch
BACH-BUSONI Komm, Gott, Schöpfer!
BACH-BUSONI Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
BACH-BUSONI Nun freut euch, lieben Christen
Preliminary Recital, Phase II
BEETHOVEN Sonata No. 3 in C Major, op. 2, no. 3
FRANCK Prelude, Chorale and Fugue
HANDEL Suite in D Minor, HWV 437
SCHUMANN Fantasie in C Major, op. 17
MENDELSSOHN-RACHMANINOV Scherzo from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
DVOŘÁK Piano Quintet in A Major, op. 81
BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, op. 15
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, op. 16
◊ To see a slideshow of all of the competitors, with bios and links to our profiles of them, click here.