Guest pianists Plano, Del Negro team up for four-hands recital

From Cape Town, South Africa, to Taipei, Taiwan, to Bali to Singapore to Fayetteville, Arkansas — name it, and Italian pianist Roberto Plano has performed there.

“You meet so many cool people. You go to so many cool places on the road,” Plano said. “Where I have not been? The only place is South America. Oh, and not Antarctica.”

Plano and his wife, Paola Del Negro, will play a four-hands recital at 4 p.m. Saturday in Sherwood-Marsh Studios. The recital will have the two musicians seated at the same piano, and their program consists of Schumann’s Pictures from the East, Op. 66; Polonaise, Op. 130 No. 1; and Polonaises Wo. O20 No. 1, 2, 5, 7; Brahms’ Hungarian Dances No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5; and Smetana’s “The Moldau.” The recital benefits the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.

Plano, who appeared as a soloist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Thursday, has three daughters who are 10 months old, 6 years old and 8 years old. He won the 2001 Cleveland International Piano Competition — which launched his career, he said — and later was a finalist in the 12th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 2005.

His success in both his career and in his family life would not have been possible without his wife.

“We’re starting to play four-hands much more now in the last few years,” Plano said. “The first years, we concentrated more on my solo career — [Del Negro] helped a lot with that. And also, we were creating a family. It’s crazy, but we try to manage the best we can. But we always enjoyed playing four-hands since we met, studying under the same teacher in Paris.”

John Milbauer, interim co-chair of the Piano Program, said he and the students are always thrilled when a CSO soloist wants to work with them.

“He’s a very active concerto soloist, so it’s always useful to have the viewpoints of those who are traveling a lot,” Milbauer said.

The Plano-Del Negro duo’s four-hands recital is a performance students and Chautauquans will be excited for, he said.

“We haven’t had a four-hands recital in Sherwood — it’s an intimate genre, and it’s extremely subtle and extremely colorful in a small room,” Milbauer said. “It will be fun.”

While Plano and Del Negro can celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary while in the United States next month, he said his job as a traveling musician is not easy.

“The travel — it’s very lonely and sometimes very difficult,” Plano said. “You must be always practicing. So being on the road — the only thing that saves you from loneliness is practice time. There has to be practice. But in any case, I feel fortunate to be a concert pianist.”