Says Russo: “I have found an instrument that can communicate everything I hope to be able to express in my program, thus once more connecting my sentiments and attachments to an historic area of piano playing.”
Ever since I met pianist Sandro Russo at the home of my neighbors, Pierra and Peter, I had followed many of his performances. His ravishing Chopin Grand Polonaise at the Meisel Gallery in Soho, New York particularly stands out in my memory. Among the evening’s guests was composer Lowell Lieberman; Russo had been performing both the US premiere of Lieberman’s 10th Nocturne (2007, in New York) and the Worldwide Premiere of his Etudes on Brahms Songs, op. 88 (2009, in Atlanta). Here was a sensitive pianist whose ‘grand’ style reminded me of the traditions and splendor of the ‘Golden Age’ of the piano.
He must have made a similar impression on Terry McNeill, producer of the Concerts Grand Series at Santa Rosa Junior College in California. In his review of Sandro’s performance in April 2010 he says:
“Recently pianists (e. g., Schiff, Fellner, Biss) have been playing the Sonata and especially the concluding Allegro ma non troppo in an 'architectural' style, emphasizing structure and inner thematic relationships over passion. Mr. Russo would have none of this, seizing the emotional drive and sweep of the movement and bringing the audience to its feet with the final fortissimo chords. The piano would have been hot to the touch as he left the stage amid cheers.”
In 2008, Sandro had the opportunity to play and record another historic instrument, the 1862 Bechstein Piano (#576), formerly owned and played by Franz Liszt himself.
When on display at the Bechstein Showroom in New York for its first ever American tour, Sandro commenced his performance on a modern grand, appropriate for the pyrotechnical works of his program. He then introduced the 147-year-old ‘grande dame’ with Liszt’s Consolation No.3; later, he recorded a selection of his encore program on the instrument.
After most of the guests had left the Bechstein showroom that night, I stayed on with Sandro and was able to play my favorite Liszt piece, ‘Un sospiro’ on the squeaky-sounding instrument that, nevertheless, made me able to relate to the historic connection of the instrument.
In her interview with Russo about the recording of the Liszt piano, Maria Thompson Corley remarks on Broad Street Review: “...the Liszt piano had never been recorded or even used for public performance after Liszt’s death, so such unprecedented access was special indeed.”