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Antimo Magnota at the V&A in London

By Massimo Usai

(L’Intervista in italian cliccando qui)

When two Italian meets in London, the discussions always go in the same way: some words about Italy and many comments about how we are doing in life.
I met Antimo by accident a few years ago.
One day, Tony, a good friend of mine, with the sense for the "good things",  insisted on having a Coffee and a Scone at the Tea Room of the V&A in London.
A guy was playing the piano in the middle of the room, and as soon he had a break, Tony introduce me Antimo, the guy on the piano.
As every "verace" person from south of Italy, he starts to talk like we knew each other for ages.
It was a great chat, and he straight away showed his great personality and was easy the week after to go there again for another Coffee and a slice of cake.
Antimo Magnotta is an Italian musician, composer and writer. After earning his diploma in piano, he followed masterclasses and performed in chamber music and symphony orchestras. 
He has performed at Teatro San Carlo in Naples,  at the RAI Orchestra and at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome.
Antimo Magnotta was employed as a musician on the cruise ship "Costa Concordia" and was on board the vessel at the time of the terrible accident near the Isola del Giglio in Italy about nine years ago.
He miraculously managed to escape at the time of the sinking. 
Now he is a "resident pianist" at the V&A, a place I suggest you visit in London if you are looking to have a moment of relaxation and chat with a fascinating person. in the magnificent Gamble room. 
In this interview that he has conceded to me, we talk about music, the Costa Concordia. 
Still, together we talk about the town we love the most: London.
He has written a book,"Sette Squilli e uno lungo" , on that terrible experience that cost the lives of dozens of people.
He also has published few beautiful albums the reflect the other side of Antimo, very chatting and friendly face to face, but so intimate and quiet when he has a piano in front of him.
The Italian Antimo Magnotta, The Pianist at the V&A in London
Antimo Magnotta, The Pianist at the V&A in London

This my interview at Antimo Magnotta in his house in London

(you could read the interview in Italian at this link)

What is still in your mind from the night of the Costa Concordia disaster?

I still remember the horrifying sounds and voices of that night. Passengers and crew members  screaming and also the metallic parts of the agonising ship collapsing while it was sinking.

Your favorite concert memory on the boat?

One night an old German passenger asked me if we could play together on my stage. He was in his 80s and he said he brought his clarinet on the ship and wanted to improvise something with me, although he said he was just an amateur musician. It was against the onboard rules but I took my risks and gave consent to play together. We did a wonderful performance and the audience that night didn’t stop clapping.

When we finished I was very happy. His wife joined us on the stage and both were crying for joy.

We kept in touch for quite a long time after that experience.

A long lasting, beautiful memory. I also learned that fortunately he survived the shipwreck.

Your best concert ever?

It’s very hard to say what my best concert has ever been…but I think it was during a stormy night on the ship.

Passengers were not attending any onboard shows because the ship was rolling up and down dancing on very high waves and most of them were feeling unwell in their cabins.

It was quite late at night when I decided to get back to my piano and start playing.

I thought I was alone in this huge hall but I spotted someone listening to me. It was a blind guy. Later on he said he was from Poland and he really appreciated my music.

It was a concert for an audience of one. Quite emotional and memorable.

Antimo Magnotta play live in London
Antimo on his piano in London

Favorite city?

Barcelona. An explosion of bizarre architectures, vibrant life and a very unique light.

London restaurant for a special occasion?

I love hidden places with some character. One of my favourites is Yadas, a Kurdish restaurant in the heart of Peckham.

London cafe for coffee or a drink with a friend?

There’s a greek cafe’/patisserie in Camberwell called Sophocles. It’s an old place full of nostalgic greeks and it looks quite decadent. There’s nothing fancy about it but I love the atmosphere. It’s populated by unique characters. I like writing and this place is tremendously inspiring. Sometimes I used to stop there, order a coffee and a cake, alone or with friends, and just observe the incredible display of humanity.

Favorite London Museum?

I’d say two. Undoubtedly Tate Modern and…the V&A

You’re working at the V&A and you have seen so many exhibition there, the best 3?

The V&A is always surprising you with amazing exhibitions. But the ones I’ve most enjoyed are “David Bowie is” in 2015, “Savage Beauty” (about Alexandre McQueen) in 2015 and “Wonderful things” (about Tim Walker’s photography) in 2019/2020.

David Bowie is” was an incredible success. I remember I had to wait until the very end before I could access it. It was visited by more than a million people. Nothing much to say, only a profound reverence and admiration for a great musician and artist.

“Savage Beauty” surprised me very much. I’m not much into fashion but the exhibition was celebrating the unique talent of Alexandre McQueen, a tormented genius. His creations are not only fashion products, they are really works of art, quite disturbing and provocative sometimes but absolutely mind-blowing. 

Tim Walker’s “Wonderful things” was my last seen exhibition before the pandemic. Very surrealistic, utopian, exuberant, magical. I felt like stepping into a fairytale, an adult wonderland populated by strange and dreamlike humans.

Difference between English and Italian Life?

Well, it’s very hard to give a short answer here. The main difference I can outline is about a different focus between the two cultures. If I could use a metaphor I’d say that here in the UK people are more focused about the Mind, in Italy is more about the Heart.

But of course this is intrinsically very limited as an answer. It’s just a very generic perception I have about it.

What are your carry-on bag essentials when you travel?

I always bring at least a book, a couple of Moleskine notebooks with me and my iPad. I like very much to read, write and use my iPad to record music ideas on the go.

As for the rest, since I’ve been travelling a lot on cruise ships, where cabins are quite small, I learned to have a minimalistic way to fill up my luggage. Just the essential.

How have you lived during the Lockdown?

Well, it has not been easy of course but I’ve kept myself quite busy. I’ve home-recorded two albums (“At Home” in 2020 and “Antimosphere/ nine piano stories” in 2021) and wrote a book of poetry in English and Italian (entitled “Crescendo”). Also, I’ve been teaching piano online and I’m still attending an over-qualifying professional course for music educators. 

As for the rest, a lot of walking in the park, cooking my favourite pasta dishes, watching films I’ve been always wanting to watch but never had time and lately I’ve just started my first podcast on anchor.fm.

Now, time was just overflowing so I exploited and made good use of it.

Antimo Live at the BBC in London
Antimo play live at the BBC in London

Plan for the future?

I just want to fulfil my dreams: playing my piano live again, writing, composing new music, travelling and generally enjoy life more than ever.

In the end, present your last record to everyone.

Antimosphere/ nine pianostories” is my latest album. It’s a collection of nine improvisations.

It has been home-recorded from 15 to 23 of February 2021 at my house in London.

I sat at the piano for nine days, right before dinner, and I started improvising. 

I listened to it and it listened to me. We wanted to tell a story every day, for nine days. 

It was just me and my piano. We love stories. 

“Antimosphere/ nine pianostories” is on most digital streaming platforms like Spotify, Applemusic/iTunes, Googleplay, Amazon, Bandcamp etc.

You’ll also find it on my website www.antimomagnotta.com

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