Author Topic: The Italian Invasion  (Read 26897 times)

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Offline Brian

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #120 on: May 08, 2018, 05:35:58 AM »
I streamed Vincenzo Maltempo's brand new Brahms Concerto 2 recording yesterday. The playing is up to his usual standards, but the Mitteleuropa Orchestra (from the bit of Italy east of Venice; they also play in southern Austria sometimes) is simply depressing. I mean, they could be worse, but most American conservatory groups are better.

One case where a recording setup that heavily favors the piano is a blessing.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #121 on: May 13, 2018, 03:50:11 AM »



Davide Cabassi caught my eye when I discovered he is recording a complete Beethoven sonata cycle for Decca Italy.  I'm already collecting Decca Italy's competing cycle from Saleem Ashkar, so I didn't want to start buying Cabassi's cycle, at least not without hearing something else from him.  So when I was able to get this disc of Schumann's Carnaval and Piano Concerto for a few bucks, I decided to give it a try.  Forty-something Cabassi studied at the Giuseppi Verdi Conservatory and has concertized and recorded for various labels, so he's been around and knows his stuff.

The pianist's take on the solo work is of the fast and well executed variety.  Cabassi seems most comfortable with the faster, louder music, while the slower music lacks poetry and nuance when compared to better versions.  Also, while well executed, the faster music is kind of faceless a lot of the time.  A few potent sforzandi here or there and a potent Pause aside, nothing really stands out as noteworthy or likely to invite many listens.  It's not bad, it just gets lost in the crowd of many other versions.  The live recording of the Concerto fares a bit better.  Cabassi's overall style is much the same, but his playing is a bit freer, as he seems to play off the orchestra.  The lack of romantic nuance and the less than BPO quality orchestra prevents the recording from being a top twenty choice, but it's good for an occasional listen.

Sonics are OK, but sub-par for modern recordings.  This disc does not make me want to rush out and buy his Beethoven.

The Amazon image does not do full justice to the hot pink hue of the cover.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Online Mandryka

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #122 on: May 13, 2018, 11:31:19 PM »



As with some prior Cascioli recordings, this is pretty much all his show.  He's producer, co-engineer, and did some post-production work. 

I once was part of a conversation when someone who seemed to know what they were talking about suggested that this was part of his deal with DG -- it saves DG some money and it gets the recordings out. I believe that his first recordings at least -- Chopin Waltzes amongst other things -- were self financed.

I enjoyed this Beethoven more than the Mozart sonatas, but that just shows I'm more open minded about how to play Beethoven than about how to play Mozart.
« Last Edit: May 13, 2018, 11:33:57 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #123 on: May 20, 2018, 04:03:29 AM »



It sounds too easy.  Alessandro Deljavan has such highly developed technique that Chopin's Etudes sound so easy that the pianist must embellish them to make them interesting for him.  Whether his embellishments make the playing interesting to listeners will depend to a large extent on how much said listeners like a pianist inserting copious amounts of personality.  I'm rather fond of such an approach, especially when backed by playing displaying awesome control and precision.  Tzimon Barto, himself an uber-interventionist, boasted in the liner notes of one of his discs about having three dozen dynamic levels between ppp and fff.  That seems coarse compared to Deljavan.  The best analogy seems to be that Barto's finely tuned playing is the pianistic equivalent of a precise, stepped pre-amp attenuator while Deljavan's is a high-grade, infinitely adjustable potentiometer.  The Italian seems to extract more than three dozen levels between pp and mf alone, and on this disc he rarely ventures into thundering playing, though clearly he can do whatever the hell he wants to do.  Every piece on the disc finds Deljavan doing something of note.  His legato can be a smooth as smooth can be.  His dynamic levels may vary a little or a lot between voices, and alternate throughout a piece.  Accenting and rubato are personal and deployed frequently.  Some passages almost seem as though Deljavan wants you to admire just how beautiful he can play just because he can.  In that way he comes off as a gentler Ivo Pogorelich at times.  I've listened to the disc multiple times, through speakers and headphones, and each time I've heard something new.  As a display of pianistic ability, this disc is most impressive.  I can't say that Deljavan matches the likes of pianists as different as Pollini, or Francois, or even Lisiecki, whose recording has just gotten better with each listen, but there is some compelling playing here - enough to make me think that his recent release of Chopin's Mazurkas and Grieg's Lyric Pieces are worth hearing. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #124 on: May 27, 2018, 04:04:39 AM »



This third Schumann disc from Maurizio Baglini finds the pianist playing in a tiny church for a small audience in a live recording shorn of editing and other niceties.  The booklet interview indicates that Baglini has come to hold a negative view of studio recordings, which he thinks rob performances of spontaneity and result in artificial perfection.  He's not wrong.  It was also revealed with the release of this disc that the pianist will record a complete Schumann cycle.  That's nifty.

The disc opens with Kinderzenen.  Baglini starts off playing fast 'n' fluid, with fine detail sacrificed to a bigger picture take, or as big as it gets in this work.  The piano sound is lovely and smooth, but the music is sometimes a bit rushed when compared to other versions, fitting right in with what Baglini wanted, and sometimes the music has a dark cloud over it.  In Wichtige Begebenheit, one is reminded that Baglini is playing a mighty Fazioli in a small space, as the lower registers swallow everything.  Pleasingly, the sound is warm and rounded rather than clangy or heavy.  Traumerei is perhaps a bit plain, though quite lovely.  Baglini is at his best in the more animated pieces in this work, there's no doubt; he plays with greater abandon, greater freedom, unafraid to dash off some playing.  He's also unafraid to ride the sustain, creating a hazy, dreamy soundworld dominated by legato, something he mentions in the liner notes. 

Davidsbündlertänze follows.  Ample pedaling is evident here, but so, too, is Baglini's well-established ability to and penchant for, wailing out forte passages.  The piano, pedaling, and recording venue all conspire to soften the edge of the Fazioli, though at times Baglini switches things up enough to let the higher registers cut through.  Sometimes the playing sounds almost reckless.  Mostly though, the playing renders the piece like one small dance-fantasia following the other, with brief moments of inspiration - some rushed arpeggios, say, or a piercing upper register note - popping up here and there.  This is decidedly not a take carefully planned out for the ages; it's a recital performance.  There's often no arc; there's just playing - very fine playing.  Come Mit Humor (the second one), Baglini sees fit to dash off some right hand playing in a most pleasing nonchalant manner, and he follows that with an at times thundering Wild und lustig, which veers right into banging territory in the loudest passages.  In the final piece, Baglini freewheels it a bit.  Whether it's a bit too much or not depends on taste.

The disc ends with the main attraction, Kreisleriana.  Baglini opens in a personal, lurching fashion. It's certainly extremely animated, but not since the first spin of Dina Ugorskaja's take have I heard something as disorienting in the opening movement.  (I must say, I do fancy the way Baglini holds the last note and lets it decay.)  In the second movement, Baglini's Eusebian bona fides come to the fore in a more relaxed and attractive and dreamy fashion, though Florestan is not to be suppressed in the movement.  The playing does seem a bit episodic, with the transitions between different sections sort of arbitrary or rushed, but the goal here is spontaneous playing.  This occurs time and again, though time and again Baglini plays this or that passage with some personal approach or insight or intimacy that, if not revelatory, at least provokes thought.  As the work progresses, whether it's Florestan erupting with passion, or Eusebius dreaming, or a some more earthly and less literary playing, Baglini plays in an attractive or personal manner, ending with a closing movement as personal, if less lurching than the opener.  This is not one of the great Op 16s, but it's a good one, and it would have likely been something to hear in person.

I'm admittedly a Baglini fan, so I'm predisposed to like his stuff, and I like this stuff.

Sound for this one-take live recording is close to as good as it gets.  If one listens at a loud volume - highly recommended - the bass frequencies drive into the ground and energize the room in a palpably satisfying manner.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #125 on: June 02, 2018, 05:04:19 AM »



Vanessa Benelli Mosell's first full-fledged international release, some Debussy released late last year for this Debussy year.  Based on her prior releases, Debussy did not seem the most natural stylistic fit for the pianist, and the results more or less align with expectations.  Mosell's tone tends to be on the lean and bright side, her playing more about clarity than tonal luster.  She also tends to not dawdle.  These traits are on full display here.  Her playing is short on atmosphere, longer on drive and vigor.  This translates into some hard-edged, very hammerful Debussy, as though informed by Prokofiev.  Le vent dans la plaine offers a perfect example.  A bit tetchy, with some nice attention to detail - the right hand playing, especially - Mosell plays with a sort of nervous energy that one doesn't always encounter.  This is Debussy the forward-looking modernist.  That's not to say that Mosell can't cool things off and play with more restraint when called for, as Des pas sur la neige demonstrates, though even there, her tone becomes harder-edged in the louder passages.  Come La Cathédrale engloutie, Mosell plays with a nicely taut tempo, but her playing sounds hard in the loudest music, though that's not necessarily unappealing here.  Mosell launches Suite Bergamesque with a Prelude that opens at least as forcefully as any in my collection, though the pianist dials back for the middle section.  The Menuet is bold and fast, if unnuanced and heavy handed.  Mosell then plays Claire de Lune at a slow pace, though without much flow or nuance.  Passepied ends the set in an unusual fashion.  It's sort of like Debussy informed by Conlon Nancarrow.  Overall, this is well enough played Debussy, but not especially good Debussy, or at least not what I typically listen for.  It does have some benefit in presenting the composer in a harder hitting than normal fashion.

Sound is quite good, if not quite SOTA.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #126 on: June 09, 2018, 04:55:52 AM »



When I worked my way through a big slug of Mendelssohn's Lieder Ohne Worte a few years ago, Roberto Prosseda's set ended up being one of the better ones.  I was aware that he was recording all the works for solo piano, as well as the piano concertos and some chamber music, including a superb recording of the First and Third Piano Quartets, but I wasn't especially keen on the notion of hearing that much Mendelssohn.  However, when the complete set of solo piano music became available for super-bargain price, I figured it couldn't hurt to give the set a shot.  I'll just cover the new discs.

The third disc opens with the F Minor Fantasia, Op 28, which sounds mostly fleet but occasionally organ-like and fairly serious, and then mostly fleet with gobs of notes in the fast slow movement and really fast closing movement.  Three sonatas follow.  The Op 6 is light and informed by Beethoven to start, but the Tempo di Menuetto movement, if perhaps repetitive, sounds very much like Mendelssohn and is quite appealing, and the Adagio, again informed by Beethoven, is very nice, while the closing movement is quick, laden with many notes, and playful.  The Op 106 Sonata is a bit more dramatic and more formal, and while unambiguously romantic, it remains slight, though that is not meant negatively.  Op 105 follows, and is less dramatic but more energetic, and quite accomplished for a composer not yet into his teens when he wrote it.  The other sonatas all date from Mendelssohn's teen years, including the brief, one movement MWV U 42 sonata that ends the disc, which is a nice, condensed piece.

The fourth disc opens with the well known Rondo Capriccioso.  Prosseda keeps it light and lyrical, generally gliding across the keyboard, adding some more drama, and congestion, near the end.  There's lots of fast and light playing throughout the other works.  In the Fantaisies on Caprices Op 16, the already high overall energy level becomes more pronounced, and Prosseda speeds things up even more.  The music and playing is superficially exciting.  The Capriccio Op 5 is similar, but it develops into two decidedly different parts in places, with the left hand playing dramatic and the right speedy melody, and Prosseda never breaks a sweat. 

Disc five opens with the Op 54 Variations sérieuses.  After the Lieder Ohne Worte, this is the piece I've managed to collect the most versions of - Thibaudet, Perahia, Korstick, Renard, Cortot - and Prosseda holds his own.  He lacks the impact of Korstick, and the effortlessness and scintillating sound of Thibaudet, but this is none too shabby.  The remaining pieces - more variations and Preludes and Fugues - all sound just nifty, though Benjamin Grosvenor shows that even more musical satisfaction can be extracted from selected Preludes and Fugues. 

Disc six contains various pieces - character, children, and piano - and preludes and etudes.  The seven Op 7 Character Pieces that open the disc are quite nice, displaying sleek Bachian sound, with the last a proto-lieder ohne worte, though less so that the quite excellent Andante e Presto agitato that follows, which sounds like two or three of the pieces stitched together.  The various other pieces all sound fun and light.  The Op 104 Etudes have some Chopinesque traits, but also seem like they may have inspired others, like perhaps Saint-Saens.  The disc also contains two little gems, musical sketches from 1833, MWV U 93 and MWV U 94, both of which were published in 1834.  Though short in duration, they both hint at something more.  The Andante cantabile opener starts off with an Ave Maria on the organ type sound, and is lovely as all get out.  The much more robust Presto agitato is a weighty but small scaled etude.  Here's five minutes of unexpected accomplishment and depth.  The Perpetuum mobile MWV U 58 that closes the disc is a pure delight and would make a great encore.

The next three discs contain juvenilia and occasional pieces.  The discs contain dozens of pieces of various lengths and levels of sophistication.  Some are mere wisps of pieces, light and forgettable.  Some, though, offer more.  Multiple times when listening, one hears what almost sound like sketches or germs of ideas of later, greater Mendelssohn works, like his symphonies or overtures.  Some are noteworthy for other reasons.  The Bärentanz, MWV U 174 (1842) is a great good time, with a joyfully growling left hand.  It would make a splendid encore.  The massively scaled, for Mendelssohn (at ~24'), Fantasia MWV U 41 (1823) sounds like souped-up Mozart meets Clementi meets, well, Mendelssohn.  The Capriccio MWV U 43 that follows sounds very influenced by Beethoven.  (That seems reasonable for a young composer in the 1820s.)  Four youthful sonatas are included, and all sound rather more accomplished than eleven year olds might typically write, and if they aren't masterpieces of the genre, they indicate a precociously talented musician with early hints of his future self.  Also included in the three discs is a piano transcription of thee pieces from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  It's something of a mystery why these pieces are not recorded and performed more, and Prosseda does them proud. 

The set closes with a disc devoted to the works for two piano and piano four hands, with Prosseda's wife, the extremely fine pianist Alessandra Ammara, joining in.  The disc opens with one complete sonata and one sonata movement for two pianos from a tweenage Mendelssohn.  As expected, the wee lad was adept at imitative art, infusing something personal and fun into the proceedings.  A substantial four hands Fantasie from the composer's teenage years follows, and here one can hear more hints of the Mendelssohn to come.  There's more imitation, to be sure, but Mendelssohn's style shines through, and the drama, sort of faux sounding, nonetheless sounds appealing and offers a nice contrast for the more fluid fast music.  "Late" Mendelssohn follows, with a very Mendelssohnian two-movement Duetto and substantial yet slight Andante and Variations priming the listener for the closer, the full six piece transcription of movements from A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Here's some of Mendelssohn's best-known, best music, expertly transcribed.  From the overture through the Wedding March, the music sounds, if anything, fresher when played on piano than by orchestra.  The textures are thicker than for two hands, and the extra digits allow for some dazzling effect (eg, the playful, light, yet dense upper registers in the Overture), and some rich harmonies in the Notturno, among other aural delights.  Husband and wife play together splendidly.

The set as a whole is quite good.  While some gems pop out, it's clear why relatively few of Mendelssohn's solo piano efforts get a lot of love on disc.  His solo piano output as a whole isn't up there with the greatest composers in the space.  But there's a lot of enjoyment to be had exploring the compositions, and I'm glad I went for the complete set at a nice price.  I'll dip into it again from time to time, there's no doubt. 

Production values are superb, as expected, though the sound doesn't match the as good as it gets sound one hears in Prosseda's more recent Mozart recordings.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Brian

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #127 on: June 10, 2018, 08:48:29 AM »
Preludes and Fugues - all sound just nifty, though Benjamin Grosvenor shows that even more musical satisfaction can be extracted from selected Preludes and Fugues. 

That's my problem with the Preludes and Fugues Op 35. The first time I ever heard any of them was a live Ben Grosvenor performance of the selections which he later recorded, and I thought, wow, this is Great Music and everyone should be playing it. And then it turned out, as I went reaching for Howard Shelley and Benjamin Frith and Roberto Prosseda, that they're actually the kind of music that can be decent in decent hands, compelling in compelling hands, but Great only when the pianist is invested in the greatness... Anyway the only other place, besides Grosvenor, where I've heard Op. 35 treated as Great Music is a single prelude and fugue (No. 1, the best in the set anyway) recorded by Murray Perahia.