Important notice: one of a kind, world renowned pianist Julian Gargiulo is taking the “stuffy” out of Classical music and showcasing his incredible talent, warmth and humour at the Glasshouse this month …
Multi-national, multi-faceted and multi-talented … Steinway Artist Julian Gargiulo is all of these things! Born in Italy, Julian’s mother and father are American and Italian respectively, he speaks fluent Italian, Russian and English, he’s married to a beautiful Greek wife and is a father to two gorgeous young children … and these days calls Paris home.
Julian’s performed around the world, including on the world-famous stage at Carnegie Hall, New York. He’s created a competition for emerging young Classical artists called “Getting to Carnegie”, is the Artistic Director of the Water Island Festival in the Virgin Islands, and in his spare time is a composer and a genuinely likeable, humorous guy! We couldn’t cover all of these achievements in just one interview, so we spent a few minutes discussing Julian’s upcoming show and where his musical inspiration all began …
Hi Julian. When you were growing up in Italy, of all the instruments you could have chosen to play – why did you choose the piano?
I’m afraid the answer’s not very exciting! It was because we had a piano at home, and one does gravitate towards the things that are accessible.
I’m the youngest of three. My brother and sister were getting piano lessons, but my parents didn’t want to waste any more money getting me lessons – so I’d listen to my brother and sister play, and then repeat by ear. At age 12, I finally decided to try out for the Music Conservatory in Verona, though most people tried to dissuade me, because you needed to be able to read music and prepare a programme to sit the entrance exam.
But, I was not to be deterred … and to cut a long story short, I got in! I met an incredibly inspiring teacher (Professor Randone) so from age 13, all I did was practice, practice, practice. It was very structured and rigorous training (i.e. brutal) and quite different from anything I’d ever experienced, but also very inspiring and rewarding.
You have dual citizenship – Italian and American – and you’ve studied music in both these countries. How did it come about that you studied in Russia as well?
Ha ha! I was serving back to back life sentences! So, first I studied at the Conservatory in Verona, which is a 10-year programme – it kind of does sound like a prison sentence! – but I got out early, after only six years – for “good behaviour”.
After I graduated from the Conservatory, I was given my Diploma, wished good luck, and sent on my merry way; becoming a musician is like becoming an actor – you need to be at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately, that course doesn’t seem to be taught anywhere.
I ended up at the Moscow Conservatory, which was my first year away from home and the best musical and growth experience of my life (something my mother never fails to be surprised by (“How can you mean ‘best’? I wasn’t even there!”)
You’re not only a classical pianist, but a composer. Will we be able to hear any of your personal compositions when you play for us in Port Macquarie?
Yes, I always include some pieces I’ve written on my programme. Composing is something I’ve been doing for around 10 years now, and is a very important part of what I do – of who I am. It’s very exciting for me to be able to write a new piece of music – perform something that’s never been heard before – and perhaps never will be again (laughs)!
When I visit Australia and perform at the Glasshouse, I’ll also be playing some very familiar pieces of Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata), Chopin (Minute Waltz), Debussy (Clair de Lune), along with some of my Tango transcriptions; it’ll be a mix of standard Classics, Tango, and original compositions.
Your shows are very interactive. What are some of the ways in which you get the audience involved – and, why do you want them to be involved?
I would say “normal” Classical concerts can get a bit “serious” at times – the main interaction with the audience seems to be the applause … or lack thereof!
My concerts contain a fair amount of narration, conversation, and general silliness – just like we’re having now – and this usually makes for a more comfortable experience.
I may discuss my homemade remedy for jet lag (having children) or to not be confused if I close my eyes while playing – it’s not inspiration, but sleep deprivation. I like to bring people onstage, but don’t worry about sitting in the front: I always pick people from the back seats (smile).
The “chat” will be interactive, informal and fun. The playing will be full-on. A bit schizophrenic perhaps, but this is what works for me.
Australians love to have a great time, and I love to have a great time – so we’ve always hit it off when I’ve visited. I’ve always had a really great time playing in Australia and can’t wait to be back!
All of your shows on this Australian tour are in regional areas. Have you seen much of Australia, apart from the major cities, before?
I have not, and I’m really excited about this! When I visited Australia before, I visited mainly the larger cities – though I also played twice in beautiful Noosa at the NOOSA Alive Festival.
This tour is a different side of Australia, and I’m looking forward to seeing what audiences think of me!
Interview: Jo Robinson.
See Julian at the Glasshouse on September 9 at 3pm. Visit glasshouse.org.au or call the Box Office on 6581 8888 for tickets.