Bruce Leto '14 Turns Ideas into Song
An artistic kinship with Professor Emeritus of Music Curt Cacioppo colors the classical pianist's albums and performances, including a recent recital at Carnegie Hall, where he played the live premiere of the composer's “Hal’s Reprise.”
There are many influences in the solo piano work of Bruce Leto Jr. ’14, but few have been as important and long-lasting as his relationship with Curt Cacioppo, professor emeritus of music. “He interviewed me for Haverford,” says Leto, “and Curt was the reason I studied at Haverford.”
What began as a teacher-student dynamic has evolved over the course of nearly a decade into an artistic kinship that elevates the work of both musicians: Cacioppo helped Leto develop his skill and musical point of view, and Leto’s recording and performing career frequently showcases compositions by Cacioppo and his son Charles. Leto has won multiple competitions playing their works, including a special judges’ recognition for The American Prize in 2021, and in the 2021 Virtuoso Artists Competition at the Seattle International Piano Festival.
“Curt and I dove deep into the intellectual side of music, from an academic and spiritual standpoint that included freedom of expression,” says Leto, whose most recent recording, Singing Style, includes three of Curt’s compositions and one by Charles; Leto’s performance in February at Carnegie Hall as part of the Progressive Musicians Competition Winners Recital featured the live premiere of Curt’s “Hal’s Reprise.”
Singing Style also includes collaborations with Leto’s partner, Lauren Angelini, a vocalist who sings on two pieces by Debussy, and with teacher and pianist Scott Cohen, who joins Leto for a four-handed rendition of Ravel’s “Ma mère l’Oye.”
Leto, who runs Dynamic Wave Consulting, a provider of web design, marketing, and other digital services for Philadelphia-area companies, found himself both challenged and inspired when COVID-19 sent so many into isolation. “The pandemic has been an introspective time,” says Leto, but he saw it as “an opportunity to work on music I wouldn’t have otherwise.” He focused on European composers, linking the impacts of COVID on France and Italy with the music from those regions.
Leto’s 2020 album GOMITOLO! is his “tribute to a COVID-stricken Europe.” Its title, he says, is an Italian expression that loosely translates as “the incomprehensibility of human life.” The album’s often quiet and reflective playing both mirrors the pandemic moment and offers a balm to it.
As live music began coming back to concert halls, Leto focused on his Carnegie Hall performance and thinking about his ongoing evolution as a musician. “I want to put my own spin on new contemporary musical idioms,” he says, “the melodies, harmonies, and themes of new and impressionistic pieces that will captivate the audience, make them feel something, and create poetry from the music.”
More information about Leto and his recordings is available at brucespianoworks.com.