Donna Amato is an internationally acclaimed concert pianist, recording artist, and music instructor. As a concert pianist she has performed at concert halls in Europe, North America, and Russia along with live radio broadcast appearances on the BBC, Netherlands Public Radio, and the inaugural live broadcast on Classic FM. Amato has released 20 recordings on the Altarus, Naxos, Olympia, Alto and other labels. She teaches piano at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University and is an Assisting Artist at Carnegie Mellon. She has been honored with awards from the National Federation of Music Clubs, the Chautauqua Institute, and the Pianists' Foundation of America. Donna is a scholar and champion of the music of composers Kaikhosru Sorabji, Carson Cooman, Giacinto Scelsi , and Ethelbert Nevin.
Donna Amato was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Crawling up on a piano stool at age 3 she began playing piano by herself. Her formal music study began at age 7 when her school music teacher urged her parents to give her formal piano lessons. She received her early musical training from Lorraine Landefeld and played constantly. On Saturdays she took pre-college classes and music lessons at Carnegie Mellon University. Amato performed in public for the first time age at 13 in a Quaker Valley School District concert. She made her debut as a symphony solosist at age 14 performing with the North Pittsburgh Civic Symphony. During high school she played oboe, flute, and piccolo in the band, conducted the band, and performed piano concerts. While studying piano at the summer arts program at the Chautauqua Institute at age 14 she met virtuoso pianist Ozan Marsh and began several years of studies with him. Renowned concert pianist Ozan Marsh studied privately with Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, and Emil Sauer (a student of Liszt). In 1978 Amato was a Young Artist winner of the Pittsburgh Concert Society. After graduating early from Quaker Valley Amato enrolled in 1979 at the University of Arizona where Ozan Marsh taught. After graduating from the University of Arizona with an honors degree in music in 1982 she studied with Louis Kentner in London, Gaby Casadesus in Paris, Guido Agosti in Italy; and with Angelica Morales von Sauer in Mexico. While studying in London Amato signed a recording contract with the London Philharmonic. She studied and performed in Europe for 10 years. She returned to the United States in the 1990s and currently resides in Edgeworth, Pa.
Amato’s first major concert appearance at Wigmore Hall in London in 1988 was universally praised. She debuted in New York at the Merkin Concert Hall in 1989 performing Tchaikovsky’s Six Morceaux (Op. 19) and Scriabin's final four piano works. Of her debut Merkin Hall performance New York Times critic Alan Kozinn wrote: “At her best, Miss Amato tapped into the dark mystery of these ethereal pieces and shaped them logically and powerfully.” Amato has performed as a soloist with the leading British Orchestras including the Philharmonia Orchestra and the London Philharmonic in concert at the Royal Festival Hall. She has made concert appearances in France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Mexico, Canada and the United States. In 1994 she was invited to perform in Russia and the Independent States, where she appeared in concert and on radio and television. In 2004 she appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall in collaboration with flutist Julie Seftick. She toured with Pittsburgh's River City Brass Band in a series of performances of the Jazz Concerto by Dana Suesse. Amota performed the works of Giacinto Scelsi in Rome at the invitation of the Scelsi Foundation. Other performances have included her appearance as a guest artist at Sir Charles Groves' 75th Birthday Gala with the English Sinfonia in London. She also gave a memorable account of the rarely heard Franz Xavier Mozart Second Concerto with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in British Columbia.
Amato’s first two album releases were on the Olympia label in 1985 with recordings of two concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra entitled “MacDowell: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2” and a recording of the sonatas of Dutilleux and Balakirev. Her recital disc entitled Donna Amato-A Piano Portrait” was released in 1990 on Olympia. She released an album of music by Skryabin in 1991 and three collections of works by Sorabji in 93, 94, and 95. She recorded the music of Pittsburgher’s Ethelbert and Arthur Nevin in 1995. She released “Edward MacDowell: The Complete Piano Sonatas” in 2003. She recorded the piano music of Carson Cooman on Naxos in 2006 and a second volume of Cooman’s piano works on Altarus 2007. She produced and performed on the “Giacinto Scelsi Collection, Vol. 4” that was released in 2008 on Stradivarius. “Etz Chaim: Piano Music of Arnold Rosner” was released on the New Albany label in 2009. Two CDs recorded in New York featuring the compositions of Arnold Rosner and Larry Reed were released in 2009. Her recording of “Kaikhosru Sorabji: Symphonia Brevis” was released on Altarus in 2011.
In a review of Amato’s 1993 Altarus album “Donna Amato Plays Alistair Hinton, Kaikhosru Sorabji, Ronald Stevenson” Uncle Dave Lewis of Allmusic.com wrote
“Donna Amato Plays Ronald Stevenson/Kaikhosru Sorabji/Alistair Hinton is an impressive effort, particularly in the contribution from its star performer, who more than maintains the high level of virtuosity necessary, while keeping track of the emotional content of the music -- quite a high-wire act indeed. Nevertheless, it is clearly intended for listeners who have developed a taste for music of this kind. Those who dare will find that the music is like the photograph of pianist Donna Amato on the inside -- beautiful, bewitching, and a little eccentric.”Several leading composers have written works for Amato, which she premiered, broadcast, and recorded. Donna Amato is among the very few pianists who have performed and recorded the highly demanding virtuosic music of Kaikhosru Sorabji. Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji was an eccentric English pianist and composer, who wrote long technically demanding works. In the 1930's he discouraged performances of his works believing that other pianists were able to play them and they were too challenging for audiences. But he continued to compose prolifically until his death in 1988. Several young pianist convinced him in the late 1970's that they could do justice to his music. Donna Amato is one of the pianists brave enough to take on Sorabji difficult music. Amato gave world premieres of two of Sorabji’s compositions in the Vienna Festival in 1993. In 2003 she performed the world première broadcast of Sorabji’s Fifth Piano Concerto in the Netherlands. She gave the world première of Sorabji’s Fifth Piano Symphony for Solo Piano at New York’s Merkin Hal in 2004. She has made performing editions of his Passeggiata Arlecchinesca and Toccatinetta sopra C.G.F., and produced corrected editions of Fantaisie espagnole and Valse-fantaisie, all of which she has also performed in concert. She has also acted as consulting editor on other works. In 1992 she presented a lecture-recital in Montréal, Canada, on Sorabji's life and music.