From His Heart to the Piano Keys: Paolo Bartolani’s Voyage Through The North Fork

Paolo Bartolani
Paolo Bartolani

If you’ve been seeing pianist Paolo Bartolani’s name on musical programs throughout the North Fork over the past few months, you’re not alone. It seems this whole part of the island is waking up to the magic of his touch on the pianos of the North Fork.

Mr. Bartolani, who serves as the artistic projects manager for the National Orchestra of Santa Cecilia in Rome, is no stranger to the North Fork. His wife, Marina de Conciliis, an architect in Sag Harbor, was raised in Rome but summered in Southold, and she introduced her husband to the North Fork many years ago.

Since October, they’re hoping to be here with their family to stay.

Mr. Bartolani will give a new concert this Friday, June 12 at the Jamesport Meeting House titled “A Musical Conversation: Franz Schubert and Philip Glass.”

Schubert, a 19th Century Austrian composer, may at first not seem to have much in common with the living minimalist composer Philip Glass. But it’s both their similarities and their differences that fascinate Mr. Bartolani.

“I’ve found in Schubert a lot of elements that you can find in Glass too,” he said. “There’s an endless melody. You don’t have tension as in Beethoven. It’s the aesthetic of the wanderer, people who are walking and looking at the landscape.”

“It doesn’t have a goal. It’s just a promenade,” he said. “That’s also the case in minimalist music with the idea of repetition. It’s just a voyage.”

The two composers were also born on the same date — January 31 — but 140 years apart. Glass studied Schubert extensively, and his affection for Schubert’s work is most noticeable in his piano work, says Mr. Bartolani.

“I like Schubert because he’s so profound. His melodies are so beautiful and simple, It’s like there’s another world, an enharmonic world where you are in tonalities,” he said. “It’s like when you see the negative of a photo. What you see behind is what Schubert would like. There’s a world of joy, and it’s always in pianissimo. It’s the secret part of his soul. It’s a secret, transcendent place.”

With Philip Glass, he said, the intent is different.

“It’s the influence of other cultures. It’s a different way of listening,” he said. “The perception is different, but repetition could be a good tool to go in depth.”

This is not Mr. Bartolani’s first visit to the Meeting House. Last October, he played a near-sold out concert with works by Beethoven, Bach and Debussy on the program. This year, he’s experimenting with the new theme of musical conversations between modern and classical composers.

Earlier this spring, he played a concert at the Southold Library titled “A Musical Conversation between J.S. Bach and Philip Glass,” and he’s been playing to larger and larger crowds each time he makes appearances at Peconic Landing.

“A master pianist, a magnificent instrument and the vaunted acoustics of the Meeting House will coalesce for an unforgettable evening of music,” says Richard Wines, president of the Jamesport Meeting House, of this Friday’s concert.

He will be performing on the 1902 Kimball grand piano that was donated to the Meeting House last year.

Mr. Bartolani devoted much time while in Italy to organizing concerts and music festivals, and he’s hoping to develop partnerships with arts organizations on the East End to bring a festival of classical and contemporary music to the North Fork next spring.

“Classical music, environment and history could have a good alchemy,” he says. “People say this is exclusive music, but I want to make it inclusive music, for children and for people who live here. I’d like to do a project with music, hearts and water, the sea.”

“People think to connect with an audience you need to play simple music, but that’s not true,” he said. “The first thing is you have to feel the music. You have to be emotional with music when you play.”

“With pianists today, the technique is incredible, but I try to concentrate on the feeling of the music,” he said. “I try to feel before the concert, for myself, what I am trying to explain to an audience. This conversation, it’s not just for marketing.”

The June 12 concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, available online at, and $20 at the door. Student tickets are $8 online and $10 at the door. The Meeting House is located in Jamesport at the corner of Main Road and Manor Lane.


Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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