Author Topic: The Italian Invasion  (Read 21303 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #40 on: January 23, 2016, 07:19:56 AM »





Release nineteen, disc twenty-one.  Olaf John Laneri, the man without a label.  This disc of Brahms works is neither a Decca nor a DG release; it is a Universal Classics & Jazz release, which is the first in my collection, I believe.  The set opens with the Op 10 Ballades, and they are of the big sonority, big scale variety, almost like a transcription of piano music for organ.  Laneri also plays on the slow side, especially in the two Andantes, in particular.  Dark hued and rich, yet austere, and deadly serious, this is heavyweight, almost lumbering Brahms.  This is at least partly due to the recording, which is bass heavy and close. 

Next up is the third new set of the Paganini Variations I've heard this year, though not by design.  Laneri seems to have no problems playing the piece, which has a bit more verve than the opening pieces, but it lacks the panache of other accounts, or the captivating and delicate playing in some of the variations like Ilona Timchenko's more personalized version.  Still, it's good. 

The disc ends with Op 76, and Laneri's style yields nicely autumnal Brahms, though one not as lyrical, at times, as the best versions.  (Kempff, say.)  One thing that did end up detracting from time to time was the pedal thumping, but that's a minor concern.

So a nice enough big label (?) debut, and one that makes me think Laneri might be able to belt out some nice Brahms concertos, and, if this recording accurately portrays his style and sound, a big-boned Op 106. 

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Offline Pat B

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #41 on: January 23, 2016, 09:06:20 AM »
This disc of Brahms works is neither a Decca nor a DG release; it is a Universal Classics & Jazz release

Didn't UMG lay off all the recording personnel and divest the actual studios around 2000? Maybe it's time they stopped pretending that "Decca" and "Deutsche Grammophon" still mean something. These days it seems like the operational distinction is entirely regional: UMG Italy is selling all these Italian pianists, UMG Australia is putting out a bunch of otherwise-suppressed back catalog.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #42 on: January 23, 2016, 02:14:04 PM »
Maybe it's time they stopped pretending that "Decca" and "Deutsche Grammophon" still mean something.


I suspect there is still significant value in the brand names, particularly when it comes to reissues.
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Offline Pat B

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #43 on: January 23, 2016, 05:04:05 PM »

I suspect there is still significant value in the brand names, particularly when it comes to reissues.

I was referring to new releases (I realize that wasn't clear). For reissues it absolutely makes sense to keep the old names when possible. For new recordings, they will keep the facade as long as they think it adds value, but I'm fine with them dropping it.

Anyway, sorry for the digression.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #44 on: February 01, 2016, 05:59:37 PM »







Releases twenty and twenty-one, discs twenty-two through twenty five.  The 48 by Pietro de Maria, he of the individual and at times arresting complete Chopin set – never more so than in the best First Sonata I've heard.  Bach ain't Chopin, though.  So, what's it like?

Beauty.  That's the first word that popped into my mind as I listened to possibly the most beautiful rendition of the C Major Prelude I've heard.  At no point from that piece forward is the playing anything other than beautiful.  That's not to say beauty is all there is.  De Maria offers much in the way of subtle dynamic gradations, coloristic effects, and excellent clarity in the fugues, expertly delivered harmonies, and tasteful ornamentation, almost all of which is sourced from period scores.  (De Maria offers details on some of his choices and sources.)  Perhaps one can detect a slight tendency to let the right hand playing be the focus of the proceedings – at least until it isn't.  One can listen to any musical line with ease.  I will say that it is not uncommon for me to find the Preludes more engaging than the Fugues in some recordings, but that pretty much never happens here.  The fugues, all delivered beautifully, are uncommonly attractive.

As to highlights, well, besides the gorgeous opener, the C sharp minor fugue emerges as a potent, tense piece unfurled with great care.  The E flat minor Prelude is played with not a little solemnity and boasts ravishing arpeggios, and is promptly followed by a solemn and largely serene Fugue.  The G minor Prelude boasts with delicate and exact trills at the open, and meticulous trills throughout.  The B flat major Prelude sounds playful as De Maria scampers around the keyboard.  One needn't wait long for another highlight as both the B flat minor Prelude and Fugue sound exquisitely beautiful.  From Book II, the C sharp major Fugue has a buoyant, energetic feel to it, as does the E minor Fugue, which adds beefy but not bloated bass to the mix.  One need only wait until the beautiful, poetic C sharp minor Prelude for another highlight.  The D sharp minor Fugue displays rhythmic verve and superb clarity of voices.  The G sharp minor Fugue (the Fugues are almost disproportionately good in the second book) is lovely and serene.  There are no lowlights.

This is an extremely fine set of the 48.  It provided me immense joy and offers a compelling take on all the pieces.  As is inevitable, I cannot help but compare it to other recordings, and if it doesn't match Andras Schiff's ECM recording, which is my personal reference and the one I can't live without, it is one that I will return to again and again and one that qualitatively matches some other Big Names.

Superb, warm sound throughout.

I do hope De Maria records some Debussy and Schubert.  Oh boy, those could be good.
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Offline SonicMan46

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #45 on: February 01, 2016, 07:44:41 PM »
 

Releases twenty and twenty-one, discs twenty-two through twenty five.  The 48 by Pietro de Maria, he of the individual and at times arresting complete Chopin set – never more so than in the best First Sonata I've heard.  Bach ain't Chopin, though.  So, what's it like?

Beauty.  That's the first word that popped into my mind as I listened to possibly the most beautiful rendition of the C Major Prelude I've heard.  At no point from that piece forward is the playing anything other than beautiful. 
Superb, warm sound throughout.

I do hope De Maria records some Debussy and Schubert.  Oh boy, those could be good.

Todd or Others - I've never heard of this Italian pianist but your superlative review intrigues me - so, in searching Amazon (and as you mention), I saw a 'Complete Chopin Works' - presently I have the Garrick Ohlsson Chopin box which I find quite good, but now am curious what others may think about this Pietro De Maria offering?  Comments please from those who might have compared both sets?  Thanks - Dave :)

 

Offline Brian

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #46 on: February 03, 2016, 11:30:59 AM »
Okay, I've just put on Pietro de Maria's Clementi recital:



and am absolutely converted. This is late-classical stuff for Haydn fans (ie, all of us), often playfully quirky. Sonata Op. 40 No. 1 inserts into the traditional three movements a new movement that's entirely canonic. Pietro de Maria gives the kind of performance that makes pretty good music sound like genius.

In a way, an interesting (if slightly tamer) complement to the Pletnev/CPE Bach recital.

Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #47 on: February 06, 2016, 11:06:37 PM »



I don't think he finds a distinctive colour and touch, a distinctive sound world, for each prelude. Emotionally, there's an element of sentimental melodrama IMO, verging on the lugubrious at times.

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Offline Mandryka

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #48 on: February 06, 2016, 11:16:19 PM »


the captivating and delicate playing in some of the variations like Ilona Timchenko's more personalized version. 



Yes it's strange that one, I'm glad I played it, always good to hear different ideas about how to do it, thanks for mentioning it. I'm not sure what to make of it yet. Bk 1 Var 13 is like being showered with shooting stars.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2016, 11:25:46 PM by Mandryka »
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Offline André

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #49 on: February 12, 2016, 01:36:27 PM »
For a Steinway version of Bach's WTC or for that matter, Chopin's oeuvre, Pietro de Maria sweeps the field by sheer virtue of beauty and cleanliness allied to sentiment and taste. Or vice versa. As Todd mentioned, the first prelude of the WTC (an overplayed, overinterpreted piece if ever there was one) makes one render arms: disarmingly simple, achingly beautiful and open to every passing nuance. Furthermore, De Maria makes one feel it could be done differently, even better. IOW it's the music that rules.

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #50 on: February 27, 2016, 05:58:52 PM »




Release twenty-three, disc twenty-six.  More Liszt from Maurizio Baglini.  Some lesser Liszt.  This assortment includes the first Mephisto Waltz, the Valse oubliee, all six Grande Etudes d'apres Paganini, the Grande Fantasie de bravoure sur La Clochette, the second Hungarian Rhapsody, and finally Liebestraum – the famous one. 

The first Mephisto Waltz starts things off, and it offers a significantly different take from young Kit Armstrong's interpretation I listened to recently.  Baglini is the more romantic of the two, throwing in rubato liberally and establishing a sense of free virtuosity in contrast to Armstrong's studied display of keyboard wizardry.  I like both equally well.  Baglini dashes off the Valse oubliee, and the Grand Etudes are all superbly played.  La Campanella is its old reliable, crowd-pleasing self, and La Chasse here sounds like a forgotten Scarlatti sonata embellished by Liszt.  What's not to like about that?  The Grande Fantasie is vast and sprawling and filled with gobs of notes begging to be played in as flashy a manner as possible.  Baglini does his level best to meet the demand.  The Second Hungarian Rhapsody receives as close to a quasi-symphonic reading as I have heard, with Baglini's right hand playing combining with the bright Fazioli sound to emulate a string section more effectively than I would have imagined.  Liebestraum offers a fine closer. 

This set lacks the heft of Liszt's better works – the Annees, the Harmonies, the Consolations, the Transcendental Studies, the Sonata – but the disc is superb as a recording of virtuosic Liszt.

Top shelf sound.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #51 on: March 06, 2016, 07:52:01 AM »




Release twenty-four, disc twenty-seven.  Russian born, now Italian domiciled Alexander Romanovsky playing the Diabellis.  The first of four recordings from the pianist.  The first thing one notices about the playing is that Romanovsky is not a speed demon.  His playing is not particularly slow, but he's not out to dazzle with unlimited speed, at least in this recording.  Second is the big sound, heavy yet a bit bright and metallic at times.  It's not unattractive.  It lends itself to establishing a monumental performance of the piece.  Third, the theme and variations are all extremely well executed, but they tend to assume a certain sameness.  Each variation sounds fine, is loud when it should be, witty when it should be, and so on, but something seems to be missing.  This is a good enough recording of the work, but it just doesn't catch fire.  I'm betting Romanovsky sounds swell in Rachmaninoff, and I will soon find out.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #52 on: March 13, 2016, 02:03:29 PM »




Release twenty-five, disc twenty-eight.  Alexander Romanovsky playing Rachmaninoff.  As expected, Romanovsky sounds swell.  His big, rich, dark-hued sound lends itself well to the Op 39 Etudes Tableuax and Corelli Variations.  He has no problem playing the music, and the Etudes sound vast is scale, and his quieter playing is better here than in the LvB.  His approach, not surprisingly, is very similar in the Corelli Variations, and while supremely well played, and sounding rich, he simply cannot match up to the greater flexibility, verve, dash, and panache of Daniil Trifonov.  This recording is very good and enjoyable, but his fellow countryman's is brilliant in every regard.  That written, this is an excellent disc and I look forward to the next Rach disc
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #53 on: March 19, 2016, 10:16:40 AM »




Release twenty-six, disc twenty-nine.  More Alexander Romanovsky playing Rachmaninoff, this time the piano sonatas.  I rarely listen to these works.  For the first, the only other version I recall having heard is Robert Silverman's.  Romanovsky's strikes me as more assured, and maybe even romantic in approach, and even if the work is just a bit too long, Romanovsky plays with enough beauty and tenderness, especially in the second movement, and he creates a vast, weighty sound and drama elsewhere.  It is late romanticism in all its glory.  Ditto the second sonata, which Romanosky plays likewise very well.  Here the Non allegro movement contains the best playing of the disc, where Romanovsky coaxes great beauty from his instrument.  The outer movements sound suitably virtuosic and romantic.  I still prefer Kocsis to all comers here, and Cliburn is not without his merits, or Ashkenazy, for that matter, but this is the best of the three Romanovsky discs so far.  Superb sound.

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #54 on: March 28, 2016, 06:29:19 AM »

 
 
 
Release twenty-seven, disc thirty.  Maurizio Baglini playing more Schumann, this time the Opp 11 and 22 sonatas, with the original finale for Op 22 and the Toccata thrown in. 
 
The disc opens with Op 22, and there's no reason to beat around the bush: this is one of the best versions of Op 22 I've heard.  The most immediately notable thing about the playing is how tender and gentle much if it is.  Baglini has figured out, with the help of the recording engineers, how to completely tame the Fazioli's upper registers, because this recording sounds warm and soft-edged – at times almost ''dreamy'' – almost for the duration.  It is really quite extraordinary.  That's not to write that this is soft-edged and mushy and inappropriate music-making, because it is simply gorgeous and echt-romantic and soft and stormy and tumultuous ad everything I want it to be.  Hearing the original finale both reinforces the wisdom of Schumann in updating the work and the originality of the original conception. 
 
Op 11 follows.  Baglini effectively applies the Florestan & Eusebius approach here, with the Adagio and slower themes of the Allegro vivace sounding uncommonly dreamy and fantasia-esque and the faster sections unabashedly virtuosic. The Aria sounds gorgeous, though the pedaling may be excessive for some, and then the Scherzo sounds as though it could belong in Carnaval, both stylistically and qualitatively.  Baglini wraps up the sonata with another very much Florestan & Eusebius Finale, with the slower music extended just a bit, and with the faster passages displaying decent dollops of rubato and virtuosic flair and healthy doses of romanticism.  The Fazioli sounds bright at times and mellow at times, big and small, hefty and light, and everything else. 
 
The disc closes out with the Toccata.  Baglini throws in personal rubato and dynamic touches, and almost succeeds in making the piece sound more interesting than it is. 
 
SOTA sound.
 
Destined to be one of my purchases of the year, even with the Toccata.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #55 on: April 02, 2016, 12:42:51 PM »



Release twenty-eight, disc thirty-one.  The fourth of four discs from Alexander Romanosky.  Some Schumann and Brahms.  The disc opens with the Symphonic Etudes, with posthumous variations included.  Right from the start, this is slow, romantic reading.  With warmer sonics, it would have been outright lush.  While Romanovsky can clearly play the most virtuosic passages with ease, and he does, he spends more time lavishing loving attention on quieter, gentler music, deploying subtle rubato to good effect, and creating a ''poetic'' atmosphere, for lack of a better word.  (One can almost envision reading Keats to a loved one to the fifth posthumous variation.)  The only real or potential drawback here is the ordering of the posthumous variations.  The first one comes after the first standard variation, disrupting the music flow.  On the other hand, the final posthumous variation is placed right before the finale, making for an even more dramatic than normal contrast in music.  Superb.

The Brahms Paganini Variations follows, and it is similar in conception.  There are more moments of outright virtuosity here, but rather like Ilona Timchenko, Romanovsky plays the 11th and 12th Variations very delicately, to superb effect, but Romanovsky has a more vigorous and enveloping way of manhandling the keyboard when needed.  Overall, it seems somewhat studio-bound, a bit too restrained, but nonetheless make for a very enjoyable twenty-two or so minutes of music-making.

Superb sound.  So, for me, Romanovsky is sort of two out of four.  Depending on what he records next, I may or may not take the plunge.  If it's Scriabin, say, I'll take the plunge.
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #56 on: April 09, 2016, 07:38:06 AM »




Release twenty-nine, disc thirty-two.  Maria Perrotta playing Chopin.  The disc opens with the Op 9 Nocturnes.  Perotta starts off playing lovely, if perhaps a bit formally, and largely maintains that style for the first two pieces, and then plays with more grit and intensity in the third.  The Berceuse, with some halting playing at the outset, sounds largely lovely and flowing.  The Op 43 Tarantelle, a piece I don't often listen to, is, despite its short duration, played in a large of scale and rather bull in a china shop style, though it’s not unattractive.  The Andante Spianato et Grande Polonaise Brillante kicks off with a beautiful and largely gentle Andante Spianato, but then the Grande Polonaise Brillante lurches into being, with playing bordering on the garish and ugly, before settling into something more formally virtuosic most of the time, though some of the playing veers back toward unpleasantness from time to time.  The playing lacks the flexibility and lightness that better versions bring.  The Fourth Ballade alternates between some lovely playing and some slightly unpleasant louder playing.  The disc closes with the biggie, the Third Sonata.  Perrotta opens the Allegro maestoso with a heavy hand, and some of the playing sounds a bit clunky.  The Scherzo fares a bit better, but isn't the last word in control.  (It doesn't help matters that memories of Joseph Moog playing the same work in recital only weeks ago with absolute technical command highlights what's missing here)  The Largo is very slow indeed, and generally beautiful and subdued, but it kind of meanders and lacks focus.  The Finale is more succesful, big in scale and serious in demeanor and well played and full of verve.  But the sonata is not a success on the whole, nor is the disc.  Alas, this disc is not up to Perotta's prior two recordings of Beethoven and Bach.

Sound is superb for a modern live recording. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #57 on: April 16, 2016, 06:47:06 AM »



Release thirty, discs thirty-three and thirty-four.  Roberto Plano plays Liszt's Harmonies.  The last of the complete sets of my recent exploration of complete sets.  Plano takes a broad view tempo-wise, requiring just shy of ninety minutes for the work.  His playing tends to sound a bit more fluid than Pascal Amoyel's or Boris Bloch's similarly timed renditions, though it lacks the serenity and devotion of Amoyel.  (Pretty much everyone shy of Richter, and then only in a few pieces, does too.)  It has a few spots of mild personal, willful touches – subtle use and purposive non-use of the pedals, subtle dynamic gradations – and the tonal and dynamic resources of the Fazioli are nicely used.  Plano plays with immense scale and weight in the Invocation, for instance, and the right hand runs near the end of the Benediction are simply fantastic, though they do not have Michel Block's heavenly sense of purpose.  Pensee des morts sounds a bit episodic and lacks the unleashed power of Yury Favorin, say, though clearly Plano's conception is different.  Plano takes full advantage of the Fazioli's bass in Funerailles, opening with thundering yet not hard-edged playing adequate to rattle the walls at high volumes.  The piece is somewhat restrained in even the most boisterous passages, and in the middle it takes on a solemn, delicately sorrowful mien before Plano unleashes the bottom octaves to grand effect, and shows how long and well the Fazioli can sustain in the coda.    The Miserere d'apres Palestrina is as grand in scale and quasi-orchestral as any Liszt playing I've heard.  (Faziolis seem to accomplish this handily.)  In contrast, the Andante lagrimoso is slow and largely subdued, and Plano plays each note with the utmost fastidiousness.  Plano ends the main work with a wonderfully scaled Cantique d'amour.  He also sees fit to throw in an encore in the form of the Third Consolation, and he plays it well enough that I hope he gets to record them all, and that he gets to record some Chopin.  The Nocturnes, say.

On the whole, an extremely satisfying recording of the complete Harmonies.  Plano doesn't offer the absolute command and sweep of Michael Korstick, the unabashed and intense virtuosity of Favorin, or the hypnotic devotion of Amoyel, but his recording has its own mix of strengths, and no weaknesses of note, and is one I will return to again for sheer enjoyment.

The sound of the 2015 recording, made in Fazioli Hall, using the ''Merlin the Magician'' Fazioli F278 – a nickname apparently bestowed by Aldo Ciccolini – is SOTA in every regard, as every recording from that venue seems to be.  English notes are first in the booklet, hinting at international release, though it was in Italy only when I bought.
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #58 on: April 16, 2016, 05:43:03 PM »
Release thirty, discs thirty-three and thirty-four. 

Interesting to read of the Fazioli. I don't have that many recordings with a Fazioli but I'm a big fan of its sound. And since my only other complete Harmonies is Amoyel this is looking like an attractive alternative.

Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #59 on: April 23, 2016, 07:36:52 AM »



Release thirty-one, discs thirty-five and thirty-six.  Enrico Dindo and Pietro De Maria play Beethoven's works for cello and piano.  I'm gonna come clean, I bought this set only because Pietro De Maria is the pianist and it popped up on the UMG Italy site recently.  The set, though, is actually older, having been recorded in 2004 and initially released in 2005. 

The recorded balance favors Dindo, whose tone is full and solid.  His playing is solid throughout, though here and there it is a bit stiff.  I could have used with more fiery playing in a few spots, and more fun and lively and flexible playing in the variation works from time to time.  Pietro De Maria's playing is both solid and unfailingly elegant throughout.  His playing in the WoO 45 variations (the Handel Judas Maccabaeus job) offers more than a few moments where he comes to the fore, and it makes me think he could really deliver some fine early LvB sonatas.  Hopefully, he'll record at least some for the upcoming celebration years.

I decided to compare this all Italian duo to another all Italian duo in the first sonata.  That other duo is Andrea Lucchesini and Mario Brunello, in their 1996 recording of the complete works.  Lucchesini and Brunello play much slower – about two minutes a work across the set – and produce a more unabashedly romantic sound, and one that fairly sings.  The artists are more equal, as well, with Lucchesini's piano more balanced in the mix.  Too, the piano sounds weightier.  How to decide which is better?  It could very well be a mood thing.  OK, I prefer Lucchesini/Brunello, but it's best to have both sets, and a bunch of others, including my reference Schiff/Perenyi.

Excellent sound.
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