It’s easy to write off the piccolo as just a pipsqueak younger brother to the flute. Many flute players even think that way. The piccolo — which plays an octave higher — is something they pick up only when the music requires it.
But Janette Erickson, principal flutist for the Fresno Philharmonic, has worked long and hard to bring one of the world’s most accomplished piccolo players to Fresno.
Nicola Mazzanti, born in Florence, Italy, is the Solo Piccolo of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Orchestra, a position he has held since 1988, and is in high demand for clinics, master classes and solo performances with both chamber and orchestral concerts. He is flute superstar Sir James Galway’s personal pick for teaching piccolo at Galway’s annual Switzerland class each summer, Erickson says.
Mazzanti will perform and teach in a piccolo recital and master class on Saturday, Feb. 28, in the Fresno Pacific University atrium. The event is presented by the university and sponsored by the Bonner Family Foundation.
Because Erickson is friends with Mazzanti, we thought it would be fun for her to interview him by email.
Erickson: I’ve heard of flute soloists. Is it unusual to have a piccolo soloist?
Mazzanti: Yes, it is still unusual, but the piccolo is much more popular now, and with a quite huge repertoire. Several piccoloists in the world (including me) are raising the level of soloism on the piccolo, and several American orchestras have piccolo works in their programs. Unfortunately for me, in Europe we are a bit more conservative and to play as soloist with an orchestra is rare.
Why do you advocate performing on the piccolo as a solo instrument?
Why, is it not a solo voice? (He adds a smile emoticon.) Nowadays I think piccolo, with a great level of specialization, can play with large dynamics and different colours. Now, we can have a real “expression” with the piccolo!|
You have performed and taught in several different countries. How do American students compare to musicians from other countries?
This is a difficult question because I do not have a large knowledge of American universities and conservatories. You Americans, generally, take the piccolo more seriously, often practicing it on daily basis. In Europe we think the piccolo mainly as an orchestral voice.
Your current tour includes New York, Philadelphia and Fresno. Have you been to Fresno before? How do you set up your tours?
I only landed in Fresno because I had a class in Visalia. I love to have U.S. tours because I love your country, and my son, Andrea, is living and working in Philadelphia. So a tour is a great chance to visit him! I have great friends and colleagues here. They are so kind organizing classes and concerts for me.
What can you tell us about “Four Gypsy Pieces,” by Christopher Caliendo, which you will perform in Fresno?
The “Four Gypsy Pieces” for piccolo and piano was dedicated to me. The incredible thing is I never met the author in person! Years ago, I received an email from Christopher telling me he wrote this work for me, from a suggestion of one of his friends. This guy listened to my piccolo recital at the National Flute Association Annual Convention in San Diego in 2005 and he thought I was the good performer of Caliendo’s music.
I love this piece! The music is telling four different moments of gypsy life, including a terrible story of a little gypsy kid in the Auschwitz concentration camp. I think the work is a great challenge for the piccoloist (and for the pianist, too) because it has all the most difficult things for the piccolo. It is a gem for our repertoire and I’m honored to spread it with my concerts.