The following interview of Mario Feninger by Lois P. Jones originally aired on KPFK Los Angeles (reproduced with permission).
Biographical Information—Mario Feninger
BORN IN CAIRO, EGYPT in 1923, Mario Feninger received his early music training from his mother, Teresa de Rogatis, a noted pianist, guitarist, composer and teacher. He made his debut at the Salle Gaveau, whereupon the Figaro declared him “a remarkable artist… an important musical personality (with) a very beautiful, powerful tone.” From Paris, Mario proceeded to London’s Wigmore Hall, where the Daily Telegraph proclaimed him to have “found the essential poetry in Chopin.”
Mario made his GRAND NAPLES DEBUT at the Sala del Conservotorio San Pietro a Majella, performing the Busoni Konzertstruck, Op. 31a with the A. Scarlatti Orchestra. The Italian press lauded Mario’s “brilliant virtuosity,” celebrating him as “a complex artist searching for his soul and animated by a great ideal.”
PERFORMING his extensive repertoire in the great halls of Europe, North Africa, North and Central America and the Middle East, Mario established a distinguished international reputation as a soloist and recitalist.
“A powerhouse virtuoso in the grand manner.”
~ New York Times
“Urgent style, comprehensive technique and command of tone and color, won repeated cheers and standing ovations.”
~ Los Angeles Times
“Feninger belongs to a distinctive part of European pianistic literature.”
~ Il Giornale De Bergamo – Oggi, Italy
Performs as guest artist with:
• Centre Culturel de Valprivas
• The Castle in Baja (Naples)
• Summer Musical Festival at Sorrento, Italy
• International Festival at Echternach, Luxembourg
• Liszt Festival at Angers, France
• American Liszt Society in San Francisco
• Mozart & Company in Beverly Hills
The first American performance of Busoni’s Concerto, Op. 17 for piano and strings
Performed an entire program of Busoni in Empoli, Italy (Busoni’s native city)
Busoni program performed at Schoenberg Institute
Performed at Busoni Festival in New York
MARIO FENINGER currently resides in Los Angeles, California where, in addition to his performance schedule, he conducts master classes and continues his research into piano technique. www.mariofeninger.com
CAN WE CREATE ARTISTS?
THE VARIOUS musical seasons, with all the marvelous artists we have the opportunity to hear, give rise to some thoughts that I would like to share.
IT IS more and more self-evident that, as the civilization of leisure is brought into existence, we shall need more and more great artists.
THERE ARE three communication lines from the performer to the public: Technique, Expression, and Presence. A performer with any one of three lines “well in” is a good performer; a performer with any two of these lines in will be an arresting performer; and a performer with the three lines in could be called a genius.
WHY IS the public thrilled by technique? Why do thundering octaves, pearly scales, fleeting arpeggios, etc., leave them agape? Why is it that technique by itself is sufficient to create an impact? The answer I found is that technique represents the mastery over and control of those parts of the physical universe involved in the performance; and those parts are the instrument and the body of the performer! Technique also presumes certainty. It is a science in that it has very precise laws that work every time. This is true of a juggler, a car racer or a pianist.
AS REGARDS expression, Busoni gave a very exhaustive and impressive description of it as poetry, imagination, elegance, sense of style, of form, or colors, feeling for distance, for volumes, etc. In other words, anything dealing with the mind, the mental machinery and the emotions would pertain to expression.
THE THIRD line, presence, would be the being himself, his ability to command attention, to hold together, spellbound, three or four thousand people, all stranger, and infuse them with a unanimity of feelings and reactions. This is the least visible ability, but one that makes the difference between Busoni, Horowitz, etc., and most pianists.
IT MAY APPEAR that I am an optimist. How many times have I heard that without “talent” or “gifts,” there is nothing in the way of greatness. However, I say that anybody with interest and persistence should be given the chance of reaching the heights he has perceived or the goals he has formulated. In fact, it is my experience that although “gifts” may help at the start, often the so-called “gifted pupil” is fixated in his gifts, and cannot change and/or beyond them. Of course, there are no gifts that cannot be expanded or improved upon.
TECHNIQUE, expression, and presence have each their own separate technology, but it is impossible in a short article to describe in detail each one. One thing is certain, though: when one has applied a new true datum, the piece that was once difficult has now improved, at least in some respect. It is definitely not the number of hours of practice that will create audible technique, but intelligent practice in the right direction. No amount of drudgery will ever produce a lovely tone, but know-how will!
ARTISTS ARE, after all, creators of universes and it is indisputable that any training insight, revelation, etc., into the world of personal magic associated with a grounding in the natural technique would create artists. We must not forget what Schoenberg said: “The laws of the man of genius are the laws of future humanity.”