Italian pianist Sandro Russo has specialized in music embodying the classic era of pianism, especially that of Franz Liszt.
Since moving to the U.S., a decision that brought him expanded opportunities, Russo has also championed the work of contemporary composers. Russo was born in San Giovanni Gemini in Italy's Sicily region. He showed talent from an early age and enrolled at the Vincenzo Bellini Conservatory in nearby Palermo, graduating summa cum laude and moving on to the Royal College of Music in London. Russo won several international competitions and began to perform with the Sinfonica Siciliana and other regional European groups. In 2000 he made the unusual decision to move to the U.S., and the even more unusual decision to forgo representation by an agent. He was aided in 2002 by a victory in a concerto competition mounted by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in New Jersey, and he began to find bookings with American orchestras. Another turning point came in 2008, when Russo performed on Franz Liszt's 1863 Bechstein piano on the occasion of its addition to the collection of the Bechstein Piano Center in New York. He performed on the piano, which apparently had never been used in concert since Liszt's death, on a nationwide U.S. tour that was recorded and issued on DVD. Russo has since developed a specialty in virtuoso music, performing not only Liszt but also the music of contemporary composer/pianists including Lowell Liebermann and Marc-André Hamelin. After releasing a pair of albums on the small Musical Concepts label, including one, Scarlatti Recreated, devoted to the novel topic of homages to Domenico Scarlatti, Russo was signed to the Steinway & Sons label. He issued an album of Rachmaninov piano works for his debut on that label in 2017, following it up with Images et Mirages: Hommage à Debussy, in 2018.