Piano Lessons” is a feature-length documentary which tells the story of the “unsung hero” German Diez Nieto, pianist and pedagogue whose devotion to teaching has touched and formed generations of accomplished classical musicians.

The documentary not only will tell the untold and compelling story of pianist German Diez, but in doing so it will bear witness to the importance of Diez’s legacy, a tradition of music making passing down from Beethoven, through Czerny, Liszt and Arrau.

Like Beethoven and Liszt, undiscussed culture heros of Western society, German Diez Nieto has dedicated his life to serve Art and elevate in it the human spirit, creating a community of artists around himself. The story told in this documentary will be a journey in the exploration of the relationship that exists between an artist and his mentor and the value that this personal relationship can have in the process of an artistic development.

German Diez's life and art will be told through interviews to German’s pupils, archive footage, and drawings of artist Elena Ricci.

Piano Lesson is a movie directed by Antongiulio Panizzi and produced by Antongiulio Panizzi and pianist Francesca Khalifa. The film has received an official endorsement by the American Liszt Society and Steinway & Sons New York City.

Why your help matters

We need your help to cover the costs of the shooting for the last interviews of this documentary, as well as for the costs of the editing, the finishing processes, licensing, and distribution. The initial phase of this documentary was covered by Ojala Produciones in Havana and we received support for the shooting in New York City from MediaKite. We are thankful for their interest and encouragement which allowed us to dive into this project and we want to be able to shape a final phase which will reflect our artistic vision of "beauty through beauty". 

Why do We care…

We want to tell the story of an artist who worked tirelessly and humbly behind the scenes, while shaping generations of future artists who have then populated the international musical scenes. Furthermore, this sort of "underground" hero made sure, through his work, that one of the most important and sophisticated artistic and cultural traditions could pass on to future generations: in fact, without German Diez, the Lisztian school of piano playing would probably not have continued in one of the most important cultural scenes in the world, New York City.

We care also because this story shows how much kindness there was in the relationship between the Teacher and his Students and how this kindness has shaped their development and process of realization. We want to bring sotestimony of how human relationships are at the core of any process of actualization, even more so evidently when art is involved.

And as German's knowledge has been passed from Teacher to Student in a humble and graceful way, this story that deserves to be told as well in a discreet, sensitive and delicate way, without clamor nor sensationalism. 

The Film

The film is the story of German Diez, his work and the community of pupils around him. We’ll discover all this   through home movies of the Diez’s family, the archive of the Cuban Television, stories told by some of the most long-time and famed students, and some rare footage of actual piano lessons. We will dig into the world of piano technique, getting into the details of what defines the Lisztian Piano School  and we’ll unveil some unpublished recordings of German.  

Directed by Antongiulio Panizzi, (www.moving-garden.com), the team includes Francesca Khalifa, producer and author, classical pianist (www.francescakhalifa.com) who was Geran’s pupil; visual artist, Elena Ricci (elenaricci.com) who will capture gestures taught by German to his students in the form of animations. The film has the support of the international artistic community (American Liszt Society endorsement; Steinway and Sons endorsement; Cuban production companies Colibri and Ojala) and is fiscally sponsored by the International Documentary Association (www.documentary.org). Donations are tax deductible.

The Cast

Featured interviewees in the movie, among others, will be Erika Nickrenz, pianist and founder of the Eroica Trio - a multi Grammy-award nominated ensemble and winner of the prestigious Naumburg Award; Bennett Lerner, American pianist and Steinway artist with an international career; Joan Tower, pianist, composer, conductor and multi Grammy-award winner; Victoria von Arx, pianist and musicologist, author of the Oxford Press published book Piano lessons with Claudio Arrau: a guide to his philosophy and techniques, dedicated to German Diez Nieto; and Alfredo Diez Nieto, today 100 years old  pianist, composer and educator in Cuba, brother of German and his first and only piano teacher before Claudio Arrau.

About the Director

Antongiulio Panizzi architect, has been working as Producer/Director for the main Italian networks, mostly in prime time programs. He has signed three documentaries for Sky Classica about Teatro Alla Scala, and the documentary My Way – The Rise And Fall Of Silvio Berlusconi, distributed on Netflix.His work includes mainly nature and travel shows, and docu-realities. In order to film nature shows and entertainment programs he traveled through Italy and many parts of the world.Several of the short films he directed were received with great acclaim by Italian critics and won awards at Italian film festivals.Gaia, the primetime nature show on Rai 3, has been awarded best science program in Italian TV under Panizzi’s direction. Panizzi moved to NYC where he collaborated with several production companies and created is his first theatrical work: Horatio, at the Here Theater in Manhattan.

Francesca Khalifa (producer- author, musician)

The Italian-Egyptian pianist Francesca Khalifa was recently the winner of the Ferrara International Piano Festival in 2014, awarded by Paul Badura-Skoda. An active soloist and chamber musician, her performances include solo recitals and chamber music concerts both in Europe and in the United States. She has been a guest artist for master classes and lectures at universities and schools in the United States and Israel.As a soloist, Khalifa has collaborated with the Guido d’ Arezzo Symphony Orchestra (Italy), the Oosterkerk Festival Chamber Orchestra (The Netherlands) and with a string quartet of the MET Opera Orchestra in the realization of Mozart piano concertos. A great supporter of musical education, Khalifa is currently on faculty at the Greenwich House School of Music in New York City and had previously served as Adjunct Professor at NYU Steinhardt and Piano and Ensemble Assistant Professor at the USF School of Music in Tampa. Her mentors are the Cuban pianist and pedagogue German Diez (1924-2014) and pianist Ena Bronstein-Barton, both former pupils of Claudio Arrau.


Your donation is tax deductible. PIANO LESSONS is a fiscally sponsored project of the International Documentary Association (IDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Contributions on behalf of PIANO LESSONS are payable to IDA and are tax deductible less the value of any goods or services received, as allowed by law. The value of goods and services being offered is noted under each donation level. If you would like to deduct the entire donation you have the option to simply decline the reward at check out. 





$30,000 GOAL

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