The American pianist, Michael Ponti, was born in Germany of American parents, and was taken to the USA as a child. He studied piano in Washington DC with Gilmour McDonald from 1954-1955, who was a pupil of Leopold Godowsky. In 1955 he returned to Germany to continue his studies at the Frankfurt am Main Hochschule für Musik with Eric Flinsch, and later as an assistant to Emil von Sauer in Frankfurt am Main from 1955 to 1961. In the early 1960's he won prizes in most of the important international piano competitions, including in 1964 the coveted first prize at the Busoni Competition in Bolzano, Italy, which launched him on a successful career.
Soon after that Michael Ponti made a memorable Vienna debut playing five performances of Bartok's 2nd concerto (Wolfgang Sawallisch conducting) to a raving press and public. After Michael Ponti's sensational sold-out New York debut in 1972 Life Magazine, Time Magazine and the New York Times all agreed that a major pianist, one of the most striking and original of his era, had burst upon the international scene. Hundreds of concerts and return engagements have made his art and name familiar to audiences in the great cities of the world: New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, Moscow, Rome, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, etc. In his programs, he has specialised in bringing out neglected or forgotten masterpieces of the soonorous Romantic past. His playing had a verve and technical virtuosity that well suited this romantic repertoire, though live recordings made in the 1980's reveal him to be a sensitive interpreter of the Classical repertoire too.
Michael Ponti's extensive recording activity and world-wide concert appearances as soloist, chamber music player (The Trio Ponti-Zimansky-Polasek, with violinist Robert Zimansky and cellist Jan Polasek, was founded in 1977) and Lieder accompanist, including a Deutsche Grammophon recording of songs by Charles Ives with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, have established him as one of the most important pianists of his time.
Ponti is remembered fondly by a generation of music lovers for his wide-ranging recordings of the unknown romantic repertoire on the Vox label. He recorded a series of concertos, many of which had never been recorded before and some, indeed, unrecorded since, by such composers as Ignaz Moscheles, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Sigismund Thalberg, Moritz Moszkowski and Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf. He also recorded the complete piano music of Scriabin, much of which was otherwise unavailable. Also he recorded the complete piano music of Sergei Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. His output since 1968 amounts to over 80 discs. His recordings have received world-wide critical acclaim. High Fidelity Magazine was prompted to refer to him as "Ten pianists in one" and Germany's Fono Forum, Tokyo's Musica Viva and New York's FM Guide among others, featured him on their covers.