‘Love at first sight’

Italian Lorenzo D’Alessio (21) studies History and Culture in Ravenna. He’s in Rotterdam as an exchange student until the end of January. Lorenzo has played the harp for thirteen years.

text Gert van der Ende photography Michel de Groot

Born in San Marino and raised near the tourist seaside resort of Rimini, Lorenzo D’Alessio is now a History and Culture student in Bologna. From September to January, he’s an exchange student in Rotterdam. As his pedal harp was too big to bring with him, he currently practises at the Stichting Kunstzinnige Vorming Rotterdam (SKVR). Unfortunately they don’t have the regular pedal harp, so D’Alessio has to make do with a slightly smaller variety (44 strings instead of the regular 47) while he’s in Holland. But he’s happy enough. In fact, he even performed on stage on campus during the latest edition of the Piano Bar. He played a piece by the French harpists and composers Carlos Salzedo (‘Inquietude’) and Marcel Tournier (‘Au Matin’). “I’m a big fan of Salzedo, Stravinsky and Debussy, but I’m also influenced by alternative rock music, like Imogen Heap. I really love experimental, mystic music.”

He started playing piano and having keyboard and music theory lessons at the age of 6 before moving on to the harp six years later. “I wasn’t very keen on the piano and my teacher’s behaviour didn’t help. Soon after quitting the piano, I fell in love with the harp. It really was love at first sight. Many people think of the harp as a woman’s instrument. They obviously don’t know that most pieces for harp were written by men.” His mother put him in contact with a distant aunt, who had studied the instrument for many years. She started teaching the 13 year old D’Alessio on a weekly basis throughout the summer. He then went to the music school in Rimini. “Every week, eighty minutes by bus there and back for a one hour lesson. But despite that I really enjoyed playing.” His parents didn’t mind him stopping his piano playing and were very supportive, even buying him a real harp. After a few months, the aunt suggested that he should attend the Conservatory Bruno Maderna in Cesena, which he did. Now he’s in his eighth year and will be graduating soon. One of his teachers was Stefania Betti, who is quite well-known in Italy. She has continued to support him, despite D’Alessio’s periods of insecurity and laziness. “She was like a second mum to me and helped me overcome these.”

“What I love about the instrument is that it’s a soloist in the orchestra; it can’t be categorised. It’s different from the others and isolated, like myself. Furthermore, the sound – although sometimes difficult to hear – is unique and ancient. Somehow the harp and I are on the same frequency.” These days, D’Alessio is practicing hard, composing his own music and writing his own lyrics, and has also taken up playing the piano again, along with the guitar. He also likes to paint. “I like to do things which enable me to present my inner inside to a public”, he explains. D’Alessio definitely wants to form a band, but knows this will be difficult in his hometown. “Quite a lot of people there are narrow-minded, think I’m strange, but I don’t care. I work on my own and anyone who wants can follow me.”