Author Topic: The Italian Invasion  (Read 18151 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13339
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #100 on: June 01, 2017, 06:58:58 AM »



OK, the only thing Italian about this disc is that was released by Universal Music Italia, but that's good enough for me.  This is the third recording Michail Lifits has made for the label, and this time around the recording is of lesser known, or at least lesser recorded works, from a Great Composer: Shostakovich's Op 34 Preludes and the Op 57 Piano Quintet.  For the quintet, Lifits is joined by the Szymanowski Quartet in one of its recent guises.  The ensemble appears to have undergone two personnel changes in the last couple years, so the ensemble that appears on the disc is one member different than the current ensemble.  Since this is my first exposure to them, I don't know if they sound any different than before or after this recording.

I can report that Michail Lifits sounds the same.  Masterful control of every aspect of his playing allows him to play gently or ear-splittingly loud, and with a rich tone or a flinty one, as the music demands.  This comes in handy in the Preludes.  Some are thundering and dark (eg, 14th), some are acidic, some are light and fun, and Lifits manages to make each miniature its own little world.  The only other version I've heard is from the likewise extremely talented, but very different Olli Mustonen.  Some comparing and contrasting may be in order.  But Lifits makes the work seem more substantial and meaningful.  The even bigger work here is the Piano Quintet.  Lifits opens with wall rattling left hand playing and establishes a somber tone.  When the quartet enters, they answer with intensity to match the pianist's, but they back off as the movement unfolds.  The dialog between different combos is most effective.  The slow movement sounds powerfully sorrowful, a fugue of not a little emotional impact.  The Scherzo sounds punchy, the Intermezzo searching, with some fine violin work, in particular, and the Finale sounds more energetic, and if not necessarily uplifting, then at least vibrant enough to shed the weight of the preceding movement.  Here's another case where A/Bs are possible, and this time it would be against some heavyweights in the repertoire: Richter/Borodin and Ashkenazy/Fitzwilliam.  Such a comparison could be a bit draining, so I'm in no hurry, but surely one must be done.

SOTA sonics, with some breathing and mechanism noise audible.  The disc sounds fabulous through headphones or speakers, but for full dynamic impact throughout and for maximum scale in the Piano Quintet, speakers are a must.

Now I've heard Lifits in a decent array of both solo and chamber repertoire, so it's about time he records a concerto.  I don't care which one (or more).

A world class release.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13339
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #101 on: June 22, 2017, 05:13:29 AM »



A retro entry in the parade of Italian musicians.  Dino Ciani, for those who don't know, was a young star of the piano, complete with DG contract, who died in a car accident at the age of 32 in 1974.  His LvB sonata cycle has the distinction of having the worst recorded sound of any yet released, worse than even Artur Schnabel's, owing to the fact that it was made with a cheap tape recorder stuck in the audience during a series of recitals.  There are moments of brilliance, and some sonatas are quite good, but it's a set ultimately suited to collectors like me.  His recording of Debussy's Preludes has long been available on a DG twofer paired with other recordings of Debussy works made by Tamas Vasary.  There are some independent label recordings and pirate recordings, as befits a cult artist.  This handy DG box offers a more formal and solid selection of works to sample from this long lost artist.

Disc one contains Bach's sixth Partita and two Preludes and Fugues from Book I of the 48.  The Partita is a bit leisurely, dark hued, and serious.  To be sure, Ciani plays some music with a nice rhythmic snap and the whole thing works very well, though there are better versions out there.  The two WTC pieces both sound somewhat somber, very clear, and almost devout.  It would have been nice had Ciani been able to record the whole set, and it would have been even better had DG not had to rely on amateur tape recordings.

Disc two is given over to Carl Maria von Weber's Second and Third Piano Sonatas, and two movements from Bartok's Out of Doors, so not exactly core rep.  Ciano plays the Second sonata with enough lyricism and flair to satisfy, and he infuses the Andante with more than mere surface sound, but he doesn't try to make the music more than it is.  The Third probably comes off slightly better, with a slightly lighter touch in the galloping, great fun finale.  The two Bartok pieces are very well done, with the heavily pedaled Night Music very effective.  If only he had recorded more Bartok for DG.

Discs three and four are devoted to Chopin and were taken from recitals, with Ciani providing a spoken introduction.  The Nocturnes, or most of them anyway, start the twofer off.  The amateur recording taken from a recital in the early 70s can't hide its faults, though it sounds much better than his Beethoven cycle.  It's something of a pity that the recordings weren't properly made, because Ciani's playing is excellent.  It's very atmospheric, brooding and dark, yet beautiful, and the flubs are of the sort one expects in live settings.  The recital is filled out with the Barcarolle, Op 61 Polonaise-Fantasie, and an assortment of Mazurkas and Waltzes.  They all sound excellent, the Barcarolle and Polonaise-Fantasie, in particular benefitting from Ciani's approach.

The last two discs contain his well-known Debussy Preludes, and one of the main attractions of the set, Schumann's Noveletten.  The Debussy has always been very enjoyable, if not a first choice for me.  Ciani's tone is generally dark and bass-rich, his tempo a bit leisurely, but his dynamic range superb (capped by a grand La cathédrale engloutie) and the second book ends with dazzling playing in both Les tierces alternées and Feux d'artifice.  The Schumann offers more.  Ciani's temperament seems a perfect fit for the work, with his big sonority and ability to play both a bit broad yet with momentum in the Eusebius passages and an almost nonchalant brilliance that never sounds overwrought in the Florestan passages making the work cohere more than one might think.  The playing really does have it all, and while I don't exactly have an extensive collection of the complete Noveletten, both Michel Block and Yves Nat deliver superb renditions, and Ciani is basically on par with them, and different enough to enjoy for different reasons.  Sound is a bit sub-par for the era, but is more that sufficient to allow near-maximum appreciation of the artistry on display.

There's enough fine pianism here to justify the purchase of the set and to put up with the sub-par sound, but, the Schumann aside (the Debussy has already gotten its due), I doubt any of the pieces get a lot of spins, and I will not go out of my way to buy all of the various other live recordings out there, though if a cheap box with everything became available, I'd bite.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline marvinbrown

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 3033
  • Richard Wagner- The God of Opera!
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #102 on: July 06, 2017, 08:20:31 AM »


 A thread entitled "The Italian Invasion" and no opera??

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13339
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #103 on: August 03, 2017, 08:26:32 AM »



[This will be cross-posted in Liszt - Annees de Pelerinage]

Enrico Pace's sole solo commercial studio recording to date.  (There's an early solo recording of the Liszt Sonata, Dante Sonata, and Réminiscences de Don Juan, but that was for publication promotion purposes.)  That the 1989 Liszt International Piano Competition winner might have some affinity for Liszt isn't so surprising, and given that Pace has provided world-class piano accompaniment in world-class recordings of core chamber music rep, it is not surprising that this recording ends up sounding swell. 

Pace's way is not one of hypervirtuosic bombast; rather, his way is more lyrical and poetic.  That's not to say Pace cannot play the music with the necessary executive brilliance, because he can and does.  He just focuses on other things.  He'll lovingly attend to each note in some arpeggios, weighting them all equally on occasion, making them sound more important and longer than other takes, though they are not.  He'll lavish attention on upper register playing, with some sounding crystalline and pure.  He'll deliver some of the most beautiful and tender pianissimo playing, as in Les cloches de Geneve, where one can envision Liszt wanting to transcribe the experience of hearing gently tolling distant bells one particularly lovely morning with Marie d’Agoult by his side.  He'll produce rich and weighty lower register playing without drowning out higher registers.  In Eclogue, he creates a dazzling effect with light but insistent and steady left hand playing providing a foundation for the beautiful right hand melodies in a way I've not heard before. 

The pianistic and interpretive goodness carries over to year two.  Each piece is fully characterized, and Pace plays with unique but not overbearing personal touches.  Could some phrases be less clipped in Il Penseroso?  Undoubtedly.  I might like the result more than this, or I might not.  The Petrarch Sonnets are wonderfully poetic and flowing.  Pace doesn't quite play with the same type of delicate and wide-ranging pianism as Julian Gorus, but the aesthetic impact of his playing is similar, and the beauty undeniable.  The Dante is swift and dramatic and large-scale enough to more than satisfy, and if even more powerful versions are out there, there may not be better ones.

It's a pity that Pace did not record the whole set - indeed, he didn't even record Venezia e Napoli.   This is absolutely wonderful Liszt playing, and had Pace included the final year, this might be the Années to own.  At the very least, this stands alongside Rubackytė, Chamayou, Gorus, and Schirmer. 

Sound is fully modern, but dynamic range is not SOTA.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2017, 05:04:10 AM by Todd »
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Online Spineur

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1778
  • Magdalena Kozena, Felicity Lott with love
  • Location: Grenoble
  • Currently Listening to:
    Mozart & friends
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #104 on: August 12, 2017, 11:47:19 AM »
Giovanni Bellucci is starting a new Beethoven piano sonatas cycle



I have been very favorably impressed by his Schubert sonatas interpretations.  I believe, this may well be worth checking.
A woman voice glides like the wind
Of black, of damp, of night
And all it touches in this flight
Suddenly is over.

Anna Akhomatova

Offline Oldnslow

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 135
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #105 on: August 12, 2017, 08:44:30 PM »
Bellucci's first installment is characterized by many hesitations and  slow tempos--a very idiosyncratic start to the 32....

Offline André

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2832
  • Location: Laval, QC
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #106 on: August 13, 2017, 05:55:46 AM »
Giovanni Bellucci is starting a new Beethoven piano sonatas cycle



I have been very favorably impressed by his Schubert sonatas interpretations.  I believe, this may well be worth checking.

Any relationship to Monica ?  ;D

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 13339
Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #107 on: August 15, 2017, 05:03:57 AM »








Earlier this year, I was wowed by Trio Owon's Beethoven Piano Trios, making me think it might not be a bad idea to hear more recordings of the works.  I was also wowed by Sonig Tchakerian's Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas, making me think it might not be a bad idea to hear more recordings from her.  As it happens, in 1994, she recorded the Beethoven Piano Trios as part of the Trio Italiano.  So that seemed like something I wanted to try, and when I found the three discs for old-time Naxos prices, I bought the recordings.  This set is not of the super-complete variety, excluding some early pieces and the Op 11 Gassenhaur Trio, but the Opp 1, 44, 70, 97, and 121a works are all included.

As with almost all good chamber music recordings, there is no true star here, with each musician getting his or her time to shine, and lots of quality work together.  In the early works there's a nice mix of energy, refinement (a Goldilocks amount), youthful vigor, and some actual fun (like in the finale of Op 1/1).  In the Op 70 trios, the players never play with the same level of energy as the Trio Owon, though they still have plenty of energy, but they do play with a sort of rough-hewn elegance.  This is middle period, bawdy joke, rough and tumble Beethoven, but it is classed up enough for salons and parlors.  Good stuff.  The trio sees fit to impart a more romantic tinge to the Archduke, which is quite alright, especially when delivered so well.  The two sets of variations mix the various traits to excellent effect, as well. 

All three artists play very well.  Tchakerian, the reason I bought the set, plays in a more or less conventional way, without the more robust individuality found in her Bach.  That's not at all meant as criticism, and indeed, this is not meant to imply that she plays timidly, because that's not the case for her or her partners.  As performed and recorded, pianist Giovanni Battista Rigon can overpower the other players here and there, but in Beethoven's chamber music, that's not unheard of.

Overall, the Trio Owon are better across the board, but this newcomer to my collection offers another supremely enjoyable recording with enough corporate individuality to warrant multiple listens. 

Sound is very much in line with the audiophile approach common to the Arts label, and sounds very similar to Telarc recordings of the time.  The recordings are a bit more distant than normal, with plenty of natural reverb, and a completely natural level of detail, and phenomenal dynamic range (maybe even too much) and the recordings sound clean, clean, clean.  The very best recordings of today are perhaps slightly better in terms of detail, but the sound more than holds up and can be considered either SOTA or just shy of that ever improving standard.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Buying Music From Amazon?
Please consider using these links. A small percentage of every sale using these links is passed on to GMG and helps keep this forum online.
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK