It is common thought that the pianist is first of all a soloist who can play in duo training, as foreseen by the extensive repertoire for two pianos, and even share a keyboard with another interpreter, as in the vastest repertoire for four-hand piano. Six-handed songs on a piano or eight hands on two pianos, if included in the program of a concert, recall in the mind certain circus numbers that in the late nineteenth century called the curious crowd, and only the knowledgeable expert knows that the most great composers left us pages written for these musical ensembles, not as bizarre as they might appear. The composition for two pianos and twelve, sixteen or even twenty-four hands deserves a separate talk.
The piano has always been the only instrument that contains the sound range of all orchestral instruments and is a proof of the transpositions for two pianos of concerts composed originally for piano and orchestra. The use of twelve instrumentalists (out of which the twenty-four hands) allows the simultaneous use of the entire piano timbral range, which is also used as a percussion instrument on occasion. The strings are so affected, pinched and rubbed like those of the earliest timpanon and cymbalon, while the case and cover are percussed with palms and knuckles to emphasize the rhythmic scanning of songs.
In addition, the performance is also enriched by stage action, often a kind of pantomime, which turns the pianist into a humorous improvised actor, a fantasist in short, a new type of interpreter that can entertain a well-versed and prepared audience alike, but also a wider audience with a thinner dissemination.
Master Gabriele Ottaiano, ordinary teacher of the main piano chair at the Conservatory of Music in Naples “San Pietro a Majella” and already author of the book “Six hands on ivory”, during his ongoing research on alternative repertoires, wanted to realize this project in which he saw the opportunity given to composers and interpreters to express themselves with the use of only two instruments on a stage.
In 2012, thanks to the collaboration with Bulgarian composer Alexander Yossifov, he began experimenting with the students of the Conservatory. He later includes several Italian, established and non-Italian composers who start working on the project: Andrea Talmelli, Pasquale Corrado, Livio De Luca and Claudio Panariello, participate in original compositions and arranging of famous themes of Italian opera and Neapolitan tradition.
The components of the ensemble are born as soloists – virtuosity is useful but not essential – but over time they develop the ability to play together, to improvise and read at first glance, composing, transcribing and directing.
Defining the staff and assembling the pieces, the training immediately cures and interests the Theaters, Conservatives, Public Institutions, Associations and Private Circles. So intense concert activity begins, gaining the interest of an increasing audience and above all the attention of the more, curious about this new way of making music.
To date, the “dodecimino” has a remarkable concert activity, which is putting its roots outside the Italian and European borders. Many on-site projects: engravings, compositions and future concerts, including the involvement of solo voices and choir.
When only two hands are few to express art and everything that revolves around it, there is the ambitious project and the reward of twelve pianists.