Classical Piano is Not Your Thing? Giulia Mazzoni will Change your Mind

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The first woman to compose and perform original music of a new instrumental genre on stage at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino has a lot to say about mistakes, freedom and challenges.

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By Gherardo Ulivi. Cover image: Giulia Mazzoni. Photo by Fabrizio Cestari.

The fusion of art and music has always fascinated and transported people, as demonstrated by the inspiring creative work of Giulia Mazzoni, a world-renowned Tuscan composer and pianist.
The fusion of artistic expression and musical melody is capable of making us feel alive and deeply moved. It is said that Leonardo da Vinci painted The Mona Lisa in an atelier filled with musicians for the occasion, while Delacroix frescoed the Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice with an organ in the background.
Kandinsky believed that there was a realm that could not be expressed in words but only through pure, untethered art. Giulia Mazzoni’s work embraces this inclusive relationship with shows that combine classical music, electronics, video art, and performance. On January 5, 2024, she premiered her new recording project, YAS – Your Anima System, inaugurating the new season of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Giulia Mazzoni with John Axelrod and the Czech Film Orchestra, Prague. Photo: Jarno Iotti.

She played the played the piano while interacting with the theatre’s prestigious orchestra conducted by Maestro John Axelrod. The performance integrated electronic music produced by 16-time Grammy Award-winning American producer Thom Russo, all accompanied by emotional images and contemporary dancing performed by the YAS Dance Project group. Giulia Mazzoni, the first woman to compose and perform original music of a new compositional style on the stage of the renowned Florentine theatre, talks about her revolutionary approach to art.

Giulia Mazzoni. Photo: Jarno Iotti.

How did your career take shape, and when did you realise that you liked composing more than performing?

I discovered the piano by chance; it was just an ordinary day, actually the most extraordinary day of my life. I was playing in my elementary school courtyard when I heard the sound of this instrument; from that moment on, I never stopped playing music. Whenever I could, I played with that piano, composing melodies. So I started my musical studies in Prato, where I learned classical piano, and then at the Conservatory of Music ‘Giuseppe Verdi’ in Milan, where I focused on composition, which has always been central to me. Even before I had the necessary technique, I used to write melodies and paint stories and emotions with music. Over time, I started giving equal importance to the performance part, which helped me emphasise and bring out the melodies and images I created. Initially, I followed an academic path, but eventually, I chose to find my own voice. Now, I compose, perform, interpret, and create my own world.

Giulia Mazzoni. Photo: Jarno Iotti.

How important is it to never stop believing in your dreams?

Never give up, and always strive for growth. While studying classical music was crucial to me, it is not sufficient on its own. Creative minds need constant sources of inspiration, such as art, film, and culture in general. You need an insatiable appetite for knowledge, and you must not be afraid of challenges because overcoming difficulties allows us to soar to greater heights.

What is the story behind YAS, the name of your new album?

YAS – Your Anima System – is an international project with music composed and performed by me on the piano with the wonderful and unique production of the American producer Thom Russo. It features the piano as the main instrument in conjunction with electronic music and the Czech Film Orchestra. The project was produced in Prague, Los Angeles and Florence and is a blend of traditional and modern instrumental pop. YAS – Your Anima System – is a conceptual album dealing with the theme of the soul and self-discovery.
The piano takes centre stage, leading us on a journey to the YAS constellation, which is only accessible to those who daydream every day. YAS had its world premiere at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, with me at the piano, as well as 40 members of the theatre orchestra conducted by Maestro John Axelrod, along with electronic programming, emotional videos, narrative interventions and dance actions choreographed by Maestro Luca Lupi. The show was an extraordinary interactive experience that broke down the barriers between classical theatre and contemporary genres.

Giulia Mazzoni. Photo by Fabrizio Cestari.

You’re the first woman at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

Being the first female composer and performer of a new instrumental genre is an immense joy and a great responsibility. I would like to inspire the new generation, infuse them with determination, and show everyone who shares my passion for music that you can achieve your dreams.

What are the new frontiers of art and music?

Art and music are two interconnected worlds. The project was developed entirely under my artistic direction and involved other professionals, such as graphic designers and choreographers like Luca Lupi. In my performance, the visual element amplifies the musical experience and extends the acoustic narrative to the optical field, covering different themes and completely engaging the viewer. The images, projected on a large screen, serve as a guide to connect with the music and embark on an emotional journey.

Giulia Mazzoni. Photo by Fabrizio Cestari.
Giulia Mazzoni. Photo by Fabrizio Cestari.

How do the orchestra and electronics come together?

We are talking about a complex musical universe between digital and analogue, acoustic and electronic, with the piano at the centre. It is definitely a great challenge.

What is the best way to introduce young people to instrumental music as well?

Using popular channels for promoting lesser-known music genres is still the easiest way to reach specific categories of people. However, these channels are governed by different market rules, so it falls upon me to approach them by producing lively music. I try to engage and excite audiences, providing more than the typical concert we expect to experience in theatres. In addition, to encourage younger generations, I have decided to offer a special discount on tickets. Everyone deserves the opportunity to sit in one of the world’s most beautiful theatres and attend a premiere.

Are there any barriers that music can overcome?

Music erases differences and brings together individuals and communities. I had a first-hand experience of this during my tour in China. Through music, I even had the opportunity to teach classes for female inmates at the prison of San Vittore. With the help of the association Hauser Lombardia, we also performed together on the day against violence towards women at the Wall of Dolls in Milan. Music not only heals but also provides new perspectives. Moreover, learning how to play an instrument improves focus, encourages growth, and teaches us how to learn from our mistakes, especially when we play in a group. It is an ongoing process that requires relating to oneself and others, listening and learning to accept one’s own and others’ weaknesses and imperfections.

Giulia Mazzoni. Photo: Jarno Iotti.
Giulia Mazzoni. Photo: Jarno Iotti.

Is the decision to not limit oneself to a specific artistic definition a choice that leads to freedom?

It is who I am. My music is free, like me, sensitive to influences. It is a continuous and unstoppable journey of falling in love with the world. I do not use a specific language, but I’m inspired by what I hear. I use notes to create vivid images. When I sit at the piano, I seek the same emotions as our initial encounter.

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