Release fifteen, disc seventeen. Maurizio Baglini playing four Schumann works: Abegg Variations, Papillons, Carnaval, and Faschingsschwank aus Wien. The disc starts off with Op 1, and I must confess that the Abegg Variations has never been a favorite of mine. Baglini almost changes that. Unremittingly upbeat, almost giddy, Baglini zips through the piece. He takes full advantage of the (potentially) bright upper registers of his Fazioli, making entire passages ping out in shrill sweetness. He seems to delight in playing some passages as fast as he can. In contrast, Papillons finds him leveraging the big bass of his piano, and toning down the brightness much of the time. He also deploys some personal rubato and sometimes veers into pensive playing, sometimes into giddy playing. He offers some nice contrasts in style, without ever veering into the excessively indulgent playing of Jean-Marc Luisada, whose recording of this piece was the last new one I heard.
After the two small warm-ups, it was time for the main course, Schumann's greatest piano work, Carnaval. Here, Baglini marries the hefty bass and bright highs, and creates an occasionally vastly scaled take on the work. But he tempers this with sometimes exceedingly gentle playing. Some may find some of the playing too mannered – Arlequin starts off slow and syrupy, and displays perhaps exaggerated dynamics – but then again, maybe not. And I have never heard left hand playing in Valse Noble like is on offer here. Eusebius is soft and gentle and dreamy, just as should be, but it is unlike other takes. Florestan is not as fiery as I expected, but it still contrasts nicely with its opposite. Sphinxes pops out as a study in exaggerations, with ridiculously loud left hand chords alternating with almost impossibly soft right hand chords. (What a nice contrast between this and Herbert Schuch's “modern“ Ligeti-ish and strummed take!) It may be too much of a good thing, but excess can be great, too. As if to remind the listener that he can let loose, Baglini lets loose in Papillons, just because. More deft touches appear without fail until the massive, thundering Valse Allemande, with the full resources of the Fazioli on display. The Pause growls up to the Great Gate of Kiev-esque March, which also has crashing right hand chords, tempo tinkering, and dynamic tweaking unlike any other performance, and it all works just right. Fantastico!
The disc ends with Faschingsschwank aus Wien. Baglini adopts a similar overall approach in that he deploys rubato and dynamic alterations of a personal manner. At times unabashedly rambunctious, at others, like in the Romanze, slow and something approaching introspective, Baglini mixes things up.
Recently, I revisited Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli's 50s recording of the last two works here, and it says something of Baglini's talent that Michelangeli does not emerge as the overwhelming, obvious favorite. Yes, I'd give the nod to the titan (though I am one of perhaps four people on earth who prefer his later, 70s Carnaval even more), but I count myself lucky that I get to have both Michelangeli and Baglini in my collection – not to mention all the other fine versions of the main work.
The liner notes state that this disc is from a single live recital. If so, the audience is about the quietest I have ever heard, and Baglini makes no unforced errors. Sound is a bit distant but top flight.
A second great disc in a row in my survey, and perhaps better than Baglini's Mussorgsky disc.