Born and raised in Foggia, Italy, Antonio Pompa-Baldi first came to the U.S. in 1999 to participate in the Cleveland International Piano Competition in which he then won First Prize. Shortly there after he and his wife, Italian pianist Emanuela Friscioni, decided to make Cleveland Heights their home.
Mr. Pompa-Baldi has toured extensively in four continents gracing the world’s most distinguished concert halls from Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall to our own Severance Hall. His performances have included National Television and Radio. He is a Steinway Artist and also serves as Distinguished Professor of piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
What is a typical day for you, how does your day unfold? There aren’t really many typical days, but when I am not traveling, I usually get up around 6:30, wake my daughter Eleanor up, the whole family has breakfast and then I take her to school. After that, I head to CIM, where I usually spend the whole day on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, teaching and practicing in between lessons. On most weekends I am out of town performing. In the last three weeks I played in Oregon, South Africa, California, and Florida. When I am traveling I go with the flow and try not to let anything affect me or stress me too much, as I am prepared for the unexpected.
What are your favorite aspects of living in the Heights? There is a lot of culture here, many people being artists and/or patrons of the arts. I also love being so close to CIM and University Circle.
If you could change anything about the Heights, what would it be? I think it is pretty great the way it is!
What is your favorite restaurant in town? What’s the best thing on the menu? I like several restaurants on Coventry, however, being Italian and so close to little Italy, we often go to our very favorite Italian restaurant, “Gusto”. Riccardo Salerno is a great host, and his great performances on the “Fisarmonica” are as exquisite as the food.
When did you know you wanted to study the piano? According to my parents, I was 3 years old when I heard/watched a piano concerto on TV. Apparently, I was mesmerized by it, and after it was over said that I wanted to play the piano. My parents bought me a toy piano, and I started playing by ear. When I was 4, they decided to take me to a piano teacher, and that I actually remember myself.
If you could go back in history and listen to any one pianist – who would it be? And why? There are many I’d love to hear. I’d love to be able to witness that “competition” between Mozart and Clementi, to hear those two styles and watch one of the greatest composers of all time, and the Italian Clementi, who is considered the father of piano music. If I only had to choose one, it would have to be Franz Liszt. He was apparently able to do things on the piano that no one else could even fathom, and his impact was such that he made the piano the true king of instruments.
What is the best thing about your job? Again, so many things come to mind. First and foremost, you get to touch people, to move them through your sound, to connect with even strangers on a very deep level. As a teacher, I like to try and inspire. I don’t know if I always do, but it is my goal, and when I know that I have attained it, it makes me happy.
Who are you favorite composers you turn to for inspiration? The piano has such an incredibly rich and fantastic repertoire! I always say, and truly believe, that my favorite composer, and my favorite piece, is the one I am playing, while I am playing it.
What books are you reading at the moment? I just re-read Bel Ami, by Guy de Maupassant, one of my favorite authors. I am re-reading a novel by Sicilian great Luigi Pirandello, called “Uno, Nessuno e Centomila”, about a man who discovers that he is not who he thought he was, but is “one, no one, and one hundred thousand” depending on how others perceive him to be, and that thought seems to drive him insane, but leads him to make some very liberating gestures and decisions.
What world topics are you most interested in? The role of the arts and culture in society, which countries strive to give culture a prominent role, both through government policies and private support. What is being done in places where that role has been reduced, or never really existed in the first place. I am often appalled by the fact that often, politicians and people of power do not seem to understand that culture is as necessary as the air we breathe, and the food we eat.
Who are your heroes in real life? Those who try to enhance the emotional, cultural, spiritual life of their fellow human beings, in whichever domain they might operate, provided they did it with total acceptance of everyone else’s point of view.
Do you have a motto you live by? It is better to travel well than to arrive. – The Buddha and Every wall is a door. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mr. Pompa-Baldi will be performing at the Cleveland Museum of Art‘s Gartner Auditorium: May 4th and 5th as a guest artist with the Ohio Philharmonic Orchestra playing Edvard Grieg‘s Piano Concerto in A Minor alongside the Holberg Suite by Grieg and Le Tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel.