Whenever Italy throws up a brilliant young pianist, hopeful comparisons are made.
The new Michelangeli! the new Maurizio Pollini! Such things have already been said of 26-year-old Federico Colli, winner of the 2012 Leeds Piano Competition, who has now made his debut in the Southbank International Piano Series.
And although his artistry is completely different from that of either of his great predecessors, the comparison is appropriate because he really is extraordinary.
Cutting a dandyish figure in his grey suit and trademark silk cravat, he launched into a Mozart sonata (No 5 in G) regarded by many pianists as downright trivial, but which in his hands opened up like a spring flower, its outer movements shot through with brilliant lights, and its Andante exquisitely shaded; he tended to brush the keys rather than striking them, and he was very sparing with the pedal.
Transferred to Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata’, this touch supported a reading of that majestic work which was immaculately controlled, faithful to the architecture, and at white heat throughout.
He wound up with an account of Schumann’s first sonata so quirky and original that it might have been a brand-new piece, yet it still felt true to Schumann’s spirit.
For that is Colli’s greatest gift: absolute clarity of intention.