Paris (AFP) - Italian-born French piano virtuoso Aldo Ciccolini died overnight at his home in the Paris area after a long illness, his manager said Sunday. He was 89.
He had just returned home last week after spending several weeks in hospital, Paul Blacher told AFP.
Born on August 15, 1925, into a musical family in Naples, Aldo Ciccolini was a child prodigy, beginning composition classes in the city's conservatory at age nine.
The launchpad for his international career was his winning performance of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto at the prestigious Marguerite Long-Jacques Thibaud competition in Paris when he was 25.
The triumph prompted his move to the French capital.
Concert tours followed, to Latin America and then New York, where he performed with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of Dmitri Mitropoulos.
Ciccolini was known for promoting leading French composers such as Debussy and Ravel as well as the lesser-known Valentin Alkan, Deodat de Severac, Emmanuel Chabrier and Alexis de Castillon.
He applied his virtuosity, both in the concert hall and the recording studio, to composers as diverse as Bach and Rachmaninov, Grieg and Borodin.
In 1972, he won the prestigious Prix de l'Academie du Disque Francais, and three years later his mastery of Ravel earned him the Prix de l'Academie Charles Cros en 1976.
Ciccolini saw himself not so much as a master but as someone who could pass the baton.
"There is nothing more moving than to see the talent of a young girl or a young boy blossom like a flower," he once said.
He recorded for His Master's Voice from 1950 to 1991, then for EMI France, which recently compiled a box set of his recordings comprising 56 CDs.