Story and photos by Elaine Anne Watt

Saturday evening, November 4th, found many dedicated music lovers in one of the beautiful ballrooms at Salamander Resort & Spa to enjoy a program by famed pianist Maestro Giuliano Mazzoccante. Co-founders Miguel Diaz, President, and Nikita Fitenko, Artistic Director of the Middleburg Music Fest International, warmly welcomed guests to the event, and they expressed deep gratitude to the sponsors and donors who had made it possible, particularly the Town of Middleburg, Salamander, Boxwood Winery, The Piano Company and Middleburg Eccentric.

Mr. Diaz spoke of how committed he is to bringing the universal language of music to the idyllic surroundings of Middleburg through innovative programming that is both accessible to and appreciated by the audience here. Through music each of us can recognize the shared emotional ties and experiences that connect us, drawing us into the common humanity within.

“Music can bring us together beyond our national identities,” said Diaz.

Miguel Diaz, President, Giuliano Mazzoccante and Nikita Fitenko, Artistic Director

Miguel Diaz, President, Giuliano Mazzoccante and Nikita Fitenko, Artistic Director

Mr. Fitenko next spoke of how the music was selected for the evening. “Classical music should not be boring, and I promise you it will not be so tonight,” he said. True to his word, the concert that followed was remarkably well executed and thoroughly captivating.

Maestro Mazzoccante hails from Italy by way of Austin, Texas, where he completed his training after his earlier years at the “Accademia Musicale Umbra” and mentoring by the legendary pianist Lazar Berman.  Also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Music and Arts International Academy in Chieti, Maestro Mazzoccante often has served as part of the jury for prestigious piano competitions in Germany, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Mexico and Spain.

Maestro Mazzoccante began his performance with Beethoven’s Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 “Appassionata.” And, so it was. The swell of sound that filled the room left no one untouched.  Next, he performed Two Etudes from Chopin, Op. 10 No. 1 and Op. 25 No. 12.

After a short intermission where guests enjoyed the wine provided by Sean Martin and Boxwood Winery, Mazzoccante again took his place at his instrument with Liszt’s transcription for the piano of Wagner’s “Isolde’s Liebestod” (Isolde’s Love Death). Exhibiting a sensitive touch and expressive flow, he delivered a piece that was passionate from beginning to end, almost dreamlike in effect towards the beginning, and then building climatically until we were plunged into the beautifully tragic strains of the final release.

Bill Anglin, Vincent Bataoel and another guest enjoy the wine pre-performance. Mr. Bataoel was thanked for his support in bringing the evening to fruition

Bill Anglin, Vincent Bataoel and another guest enjoy the wine pre-performance. Mr. Bataoel was thanked for his support in bringing the evening to fruition

He next thrilled us with Scriabin’s Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2, a work for the left hand only, that required amazing dexterity and mastery of the pedals to capture the essence of this lovely piece. Closing the program with Liszt’s translation of a work by Verdi, “Miserere” from the opera Trovatore, the audience jumped to their feet after sitting spellbound by the powerfully moving artistic magnitude of this world-class performance. After the standing ovation, Maestro Mazzoccante treated us to a brief encore before being embraced by the enamored crowd.

It turns out that the performance was not just special to us, the listeners.  Maestro Mazzoccante shared his thoughts on how he was a bit reluctant at first to depart from the usually large stages in front of adoring crowds that is his norm. He spoke of how he could “feel the people, breath and movement, and that made me want to give more and more.” The intimacy and reciprocity between him and his audience made for an incredibly moving and successful second year of the Music Fest.

With two years of stunning performances, Diaz and Fitenko hope to continue to build the organization within our community.  Well done.  ML

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