I'm sitting in a small rehearsal studio with the former child prodigy as he talks me through his "comeback" programme, illustrating his thoughts with examples at the keyboard, all played in a distinctive, luminous, flexible style that recalls the golden era of Horowitz and Rubinstein.
He has an extraordinary story to tell. As a product of the hothouse world of competition and performance, Villani was playing Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto and Rachmaninov's second in his native Melbourne at the age of 17. Further recitals and broadcasts presaged a glittering future, leading the international pianist and fellow Australian Leslie Howard to recommend, in 1990, that he compete in that ultimate test, the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition.
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