The Pianist of Darkness

Fabrizio Sandretto and his music: the only blind concert pianist in Italy tells his story.
Silvia Colombini

Fabrizo Sandretto

Where does music begin? And what does it take to make music?

Wagner, who knew about music, said that it begins where ceases the power of words. Mozart, on the other hand, stated that a good pianist needs a good head, heart, and fingers. Skills that pianist Fabrizio Sandretto, blind from birth, has shown to possess. He began to play his music from a deep and genuine passion, which has become study, dedication, and art. Without neglecting the words, however, because Fabrizio, in addition to being today an accomplished concert pianist, the only blind concert pianist in Italy, is also a translator from Japanese, German and English. As if to express himself needed the notes of Bach, Chopin and Beethoven, but also the fables of ancient Japan published in his precious translation. His concerts in the dark, where the concertgoers are welcomed into a room without lights, are an experience that always draws enthusiastic audiences. In that context, music finds its natural dimension and expands to unite the inner world of the concert performer and that of the audience, which resonate in an intense, unique, and tangible magical harmony.


How did you come up with the idea of concerts in the dark?

The idea for concerts in the dark did not come from me. Being blind from birth, I cannot have clearly developed the concept and difference between “darkness” and “light.” I live in my own world of sensations (tactile, olfactory, auditory, etc.), I know from those who see that I “live in the dark.” For me being in the dark or in the light is the same thing, it really doesn’t change anything for me. The concerts in the dark have been programmed by various organizations (mostly in churches and parks). The public is particularly drawn to this kind of event, so for those who organize the concerts, it is an extra form of entertainment. Taking into account that for the organization everything is aimed at attracting the largest number of people, such an event achieves that goal.



Front cover of the book "Ancient Tales of Northeast Japan"

Do you think concerts in the dark can raise awareness of people’s perception of the world of the blind?

I really don’t think so. The distance between the two realities is so great that it would take more than concerts in the dark to make people fully grasp the difference between the two worlds. They can certainly move people and make them understand how it is for someone living in darkness but to shape perceptions is a bit far-fetched. Let’s begin with a basic concept: the world in which we live is designed for the sighted, this in an absolute form, so it is the blind who MUST learn how to approach and adapt to this world, trying to succeed in the best possible way. In a more general form, we can say that a concert in the dark gives an idea of what blindness can be, when compared to a regular event. In other words, I can never know fully and completely what the world of the sighted is, so sighted people cannot really know mine, nor how I have constructed it in my own mind. I have been blind since birth, so I have NEVER seen; consequently I don’t really know what I am missing. It is obvious that in a world of sighted people I realize how “distant” everything is from me. I’ll give you an example: if you went to a planet where there were beings who had one more sense than you have, you could hardly understand what you were missing.


You are passionate about languages, from music to Japanese. What are you passionate about finding different ways to express yourself?

The question perfectly captures my great interest in phonetics. I would begin with music, which I consider a language system all on its own, where it is harmony that decides and describes the form of speech. Nothing can expressively reach the heights achieved by music. As a language it is an abyss above all other forms of communication. For all the others I’ve approached (English, French, German, Japanese, and Russian), it was always their phonetic form that fascinated me.



Fabrizo Sandretto in concert

What would you recommend today to a youth who wants to pursue studies in music?

They need to know how much music matters and can matter in their lives. They need to know how much time and effort they intend to dedicate to music. They need to know where they want to go and where they “just need” to go.


Do you think not having eyesight has sharpened your musical sensibilities?

Certainly, being blind has excluded me from all the forms of distraction that a sighted youth has. Of course, my world has always been much more restricted. I have always had few pillars on which to rest my life interests. Music has always been my main pillar. It must be said that the greatest musicians were all sighted, and it cannot be said that they lacked sensitivity. I cannot give a definite answer to this question.


What are your upcoming concerts?

There are different programs: Milan, Genoa, La Spezia, Turin, Piedmont (Christmas concert with Famija Turineisa) and in the spring of ’22, I have a concert at the Fenice in Venice. Hoping that the present situation concerning concerts will continue to improve.


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