GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: Todd on May 30, 2015, 09:20:10 AM

Title: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 30, 2015, 09:20:10 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CNO0Dk34L._SY425_.jpg)


Disc one of seven from various artists who record for UMG Italy, in this case under the Decca banner.  Ramin Bahrami is a Bach specialist, and this disc is but one of many he has recorded.  All six suites fit on one disc and take just over seventy minutes.  While Bahrami can and does play swiftly at times, the brevity is the result mostly of stripping out repeats.  The playing is excellent throughout and always very clear.  It is easy to follow melodic lines, and the playing is chock full of little details, aided by the recording.  Bahrami's dynamic range is limited as recorded, but displays very fine gradation within the limited range.  Tone is generally attracive and warm, and Bahrami never tries to treat the piano like a harpsichord. 

About the recording, it is very close and a bit soft, rather like an updated version of some Thomas Frost productions of old. 

Bahrami's playing is good enough that I will probably try at least his take on the English Suites.  I can't write that I prefer his playing to Andras Schiff's in these pieces, but that's a pretty tough standard to match, at least for me.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 31, 2015, 01:43:58 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71n83-LvfaL._SX425_.jpg)



Disc 2.  Giuseppe Albanese's concept album, Fantasia, on DG.  The disc contains three warhorses – LvB's Moonlight Sonata (a quasi fantasia, of course), Schubert's Wanderer Fantaise, and Schumann's Fantaisie.  Albanese's take on the works is fairly conventional in terms of tempi and phrasing and style.  As recorded and presented, Albanese is a big picture, big sonority pianist.  And I mean big.  Fine details often get blurred.  Melody often dominates accompaniment.  The loudest passages, while never hard or ugly, do sound congested at times.  Albanese never really seems to play quietly, and instead takes flight as he moves from mezzo forte to forte and fortissimo.  Part of this may be due to the fact that the Pedrotti Auditorium appears to be a little small, or at least too small for Albanese's playing to fully expand.  Albanese sounds like he needs a bigger auditorium and more distant microphone placement to catch him at his best.  He's certainly able to play the music on offer handily, and all are well done, if not world beaters.

Glancing at his repertoire, his tastes are wide ranging and not especially specialized.  I think he could deliver a very fine Brahms First PC, and Brahms and Scriabin solo works might be worth a listen, too.  I'm probably not going to explore his pre-DG recordings, and I'll keep an eye out for what, if anything, he records for the yellow label going forward before sampling more.

Packaging seems to be targeted at the international market, but for now it is, as far as I can tell, an Italian market release.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: XB-70 Valkyrie on May 31, 2015, 09:13:11 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CNO0Dk34L._SY425_.jpg)

Everybody loves Raymond!

(http://tvland.mtvnimages.com/images/shows/everybody_loves_raymond/videos/season8/full_episodes_everybody_loves_raymond_191.jpg)
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 01, 2015, 05:13:41 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81aanjSh5oL._SY425_.jpg)



Disc 3.  Vanessa Benelli Mosell's Decca debut.  The extremely photogenic young pianist gets the full glamour treatment, with a closely cropped head shot on the cover, a more relaxed portrait on the back, and multiple sexy outfit shots in the booklet, including what looks almost like a gray nightgown in one shot.  No doubt about it, Ms Benelli Mosell is beautiful.  She's a marketing person's dream.  But there's more to the pianist than that.

Her two prior discs have more standard fare, with a healthy dollop of Liszt, but this disc is about modern music, and then some.  The 'then some' is a selection of eight of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstucke.  Up until now, the only Stockhausen piano music I've heard was played by Maurizio Pollini.  It is something of a credit to Ms Benelli Mosell that she isn't crushed by the older great.  To be honest, I'm not sure how I could tell.  There's not much to enjoy here.  I'm not averse to late 20th century piano music – Messiaen and Ligeti both wrote fine music – a but this doesn't do much for me.  The sound is close and dry for the works, so each and every note is super clear.  As it turns out, the pianist worked with the composer in his later years, so perhaps she absorbed his idiom.  I'll have to leave that assessment to Stockhausen fans.

The next work is by a living composer.  What audacity!  Karol Beffa's Suite for Piano or Harpsichord from 2008 is built around gobs of arpeggios.  The first movement sounds like a blend of Debussy and Scriabin; the second like later Scriabin; and the third is a modern music boogie.  If this reads like the work is purely derivative, it is not.  There is some good stuff in there to catch the ear.  Sound is more standard in perspective.

But really, the reason I bought this disc was for the last work: Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrouchka.  For a long while I've divided recordings into two categories: Maurizio Pollini and Not Maurizio Pollini.  His command of the piece is such that no one I've heard comes close, not even Ivo Pogorelich.  Ms Benelli Mosell is not Maurizio Pollini, but she comes close.  The sound is slightly more distant, quite bright, and comparatively bass light, but that ends up allowing one to marvel in her at times dazzling dexterity even more easily.  She matches Pollini for speed in almost every passage, even the dizzying run in the second movement.  She does him one better in her rubato, which is personal, maybe willful, and it is fresh and ear catching.  Perhaps over time it will grow irksome, but right now it is most effective.  Too, Benelli Mosell seems to find some passages so easy that she seems to make them harder, pushing them to push them, and to good effect.  There is athleticism, intensity, brightness bordering on brittleness, some passages that are pounded out with more than a bit of force (banging?  brutal?  just right?), and fireworks for the sake of fireworks.  I dig it.

So, Vanessa Benelli Mosell is more than a pretty face.  She's got chops aplenty, and she has ideas.  Based on this disc, I'd love to hear her play Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and I have a sneaking suspicion she could deliver Carl Maria von Weber of more than a little interest.  I'll be interested to see what she does next.

Looks like she's getting the international release treatment, as her disc hits US shores next month.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on June 01, 2015, 08:58:35 PM
The way she played the 9th klavierstuck made me think of Scriabin. Scriabin 10 maybe.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 03, 2015, 05:29:40 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71pV4dprmTL._SX425_.jpg)



Disc 4.  Beethoven's Bagatelles.  This is an all-Italian affair.  Italian pianist.  Italian division of a giant TNC.  Italian piano – a Fazioli.  Filippo Gamba manages to take a bit of the sharp edge off the higher registers of the instrument, while retaining the clarity and the hefty bass.  It's a neat display, and one that makes me think he might be able to deliver some fine Schubert.  Unfortunately, his playing also does something else: it turns Beethoven's Bagatelles into dull pieces.  The culprit is Gamba's penchant for slow and then slower tempi.  Every piece sounds slow.  Sure, there are some passages that are fast and well articulated, but overall everything drags on.  And on.  Some of the playing is very beautiful and lyrical, but it often seems out of place.  The last work on the disc, Fur Elise, sounds like a Pavane and clocks in at a bloated four minutes thirty.  The disc cannot hold a candle to Brendel or Sanchez.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 06, 2015, 08:00:54 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71E6MGamTEL._SY425_.jpg)



Disc 5.  Michail Lifits playing Mozart.  Okay, Lifits is not Italian – he's Uzbek – he just happens to record for Decca Italy.  After listening to an excerpt from this Mozart disc on YouTube, I had very high expectations for Mr Lifits, and getting to hear the entire disc I must say that my expectations were more than met.  The first thing one notices when listening is Mr Lifits' lovely tone.  No ugly notes are to be heard, and through perfectly judged pedaling and smooth legato he summons beauty after beauty.  Throughout the disc he mostly eschews dazzling virtuosic displays and instead opts for a dazzling tonal display.  Yes, he can play with remarkable clarity and precision when he needs to, but that's not what this disc is about.  Okay, he does play some passages a bit slower than normal, which when combined with his overall style, may sound too precious to some, but not me.  The disc includes sonatas K282 and K311, along with the K397 Fantasy, the K573 Variations, two Rondos (K485 and K511) and the Adagio K540.  Every piece sounds just splendid.  This is easily the best disc of the Italian bunch so far.  (I hasten to add that this does not diminish my enthusiasm for Ms Benelli Mosell.)  I have his Schubert twofer ready to go. 

Sound is superb.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: ritter on June 06, 2015, 10:36:26 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71pV4dprmTL._SX425_.jpg)


I commiserate with Mr. Gamba...being stung on the shoulder by a piano must be very painful!  :D

Now, on a serious note: thanks so much, Todd, for this traversal of the CDs of these young(ish) Italian pianists. Very much lookimng forward to your comments on CDs 6 and 7.  :).

The Bahrami, Benelli Mosell and Lifits issues have awakened my curioity, I  must admit!

Cheers,
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 08, 2015, 08:16:21 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71uD04jhj6L._SX425_.jpg)


Okay, I should have written about seven releases, not seven discs, because Maurizio Baglini's recording of all of Modest Mussorgsky's piano music is a twofer. So discs six and seven are devoted to Modest Mussorgsky. Maurizio Baglini is an Italian pianist who has pretty wide ranging repertoire, and he seems to be something of a Liszt specialist. That hints at a big, virtuosic technique. He plays a Fazioli. That hints at a big, bold sound.

Mr Baglini seems to have lived with Pictures for a long time. Each piece is played as its own distinctive work, while still managing to blend into the whole. The unique traits appear from the get-go. The opening Promenade displays a clear, bell-like sound and is most attractive, for instance. Each piece that follows sounds more colorful and more distinctive (like a nicely gnarly Gnomus) until Bydlo, which is played in stomping, grinding, crushing fashion, with blunted notes throughout. There is purposive ugliness in the music, but not the playing. The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks becomes almost a tripartite mini-suite, and is delightfully played. Limoges, le marche is as good a pianistic depiction of a bustling marketplace as seems imaginable, with both hands' parts played with perfectly controlled, cheerful chaos. The Catacombae and Cum mortius in lingua mortua blend together seamlessly into one haunting sonic painting. Baba Yaga opens with flailing, crashing playing and later on scampers along, like a Russian Scarbo. Then Baglini does something completely unexpected and opens the Great Gate of Kiev in small scale, almost soft fashion, only slowly building up the volume and weight of the playing, finally playing the closing pages in nearly bombastic fashion, taking full advantage of the Fazioli's lower registers. This is one of the most varied, individual takes of Pictures at an Exhibition I've heard. He makes even Fazil Say and Ivo Pogorelich seem like straight-shooters, yet at the same time, though the playing is obviously self-indulgent from a pianistic display standpoint, his interpretation does not seem overly indulgent. It seems inevitable. Before listening to this recording, I sampled both Nino Gvetadze's recording and Fazil Say. Hers is refined and grand, his rougher and more personalized. Both are very fine. This is much better. It can be compared to the best versions I have heard.

Following the massive suite is the Reverie, and here and in the Impromptu passionne, Baglini plays softly and gently and beautifully throughout. The playing is touching. That makes the contrast with the pointed, vigorous Intermezzo in modo classico all the more jarring, in all its rumbling, heavy-duty style. The Polka that ends the disc is brisk, lively and fun.

The second disc opens with the C Major Piano Sonata for four hands, where Baglini is joined by Roberto Prosseda, he of the super-complete and super-good Mendelssohn Lieder Ohne Worte. The piece is sonically weighty but musically slight, and enjoyable. The remaining items basically move between somewhat boisterous and light concoctions, and slow, tonally lush pieces, at least as played here. Nino Gvetadze covers a fair number of the same pieces, but in every case, she plays them quicker, in a more straight-forward manner, and though her playing is refined, Baglini's playing displays a whole lot more in way of tonal lushness and variety. Baglini is more the virtuoso here, constantly offering up displays of what he can do. It turns out he can do quite a lot. I do enjoy Ms Gvetadze's playing, but Baglini's playing is more varied and more to my taste. Those wanting more direct playing may very well prefer Gvetadze.

Baglini's playing on this twofer is good enough to make me think I should try more of his work, probably starting with his Liszt. His overt but not garish virtuosity seems like a natural fit for the Hungarian's works. Baglini is a real find.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 12, 2015, 04:49:59 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81MTnF1USVL._SY425_.jpg)


(This will be cross-posted in Schubertiade! thread.)

Release seven, and discs eight and nine.  Michail Lifits playing Schubert.  The twofer opens with a  slow D894, which opens with a slow Molto moderato e cantabile that tops 20'.  Lifits again plays with unfailing beauty, and his measured tempo does nothing to prevent the music from singing.  His loud playing is definitely loud, but not at all hard, and the sound is full.  The whole thing is almost beautiful to a fault, and I ended up being surprised (sort of) when the coda arrived, so quickly did the movement seem to go by.  The Andante carries on in exactly the same way.  I suppose it would be possible for there to be a bit sharper edges on some of the playing, and that some may find it too soft, but at the same time, the unending beauty is its own reward.  The Menuetto has more lyrical but striking playing in the outer sections, and the middle section is one of the purest, most delicate beauty.  The Allegretto lightens things up a bit to end the work, like a sort of slightly beefier D664.  Listeners who want a heavy, or hard, or intense D894 will probably not find this version to be among their favorites, but while I can and do enjoy those types of interpretations, this is just wonderful.

The second disc contains D845.  Lifits again takes the piece on the slow side, which does not generally work as well here.  Lifits manages to make it work by ratcheting up the intensity and adding some real bite to his right hand sforzandi.  His hefty left hand playing also adds some scale.  The Andante likewise sounds lovely, but here Lifits plays the climaxes with some real intensity, and he plays some of the right hand passages in a sort of dreamy, stream of consciousness style that I really enjoy.  Only during the Scherzo's outer sections does Lifits' slow style show any signs of becoming too mannered.  That's certainly not a problem in the vibrant Rondo, which finds Lifits playing the most animated fashion of either of his two Decca releases.  No, this is not a fire-breathing version like Friedrich Gulda's, or a powerhouse reading like Radu Lupu's, or a marmoreal reading like Maurizio Pollini's, but I really, really dig it.  Really.

So, for those who like rich, beautiful, warm Schubert with basically no true rough edges, this is a set to snap up.  If that reads like faint praise, it is not meant to: This is top-flight stuff.

Sound is beautiful, full, rich, and close.  It is possible to hear Lifits breathing from time-to-time, yet there is no mechanism noise nor any other distractions to take away from the beautiful playing. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 09, 2015, 06:42:02 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41mIwoKnLOL._SX425_.jpg)



I figured I might as well try some more Italian Decca goodies.  Release eight, disc ten.  Maurizio Baglini plays Liszt's Transcendental Etudes.  Baglini is something of a Liszt specialist, and his liner notes are filled with a mini-history of the works on offer, and hints as to why some pieces ought to be played slower than is often the case.  Baglini does indeed play some of the pieces a bit slower than normal, but not excessively so.  To get ready for this disc, I listened to Yukio Yokoyama's slick, virtuoso – though not blazing fast – treatment of the pieces (complete with Wolf Erichson production, touted by Sony), and Baglini is quite different.  First of all, Baglini is all about details, almost to the point of distraction at times.  Everything is on crystal clear display, and at times it's mildly disconcerting to hear so much emphasis placed on every note and nuance of the left hand playing, for instance.  Second, some of the playing is too underscored, too, well, too italicized, as if Baglini wants to draw attention to a passage just a bit too much.  Third, his rubato is personal at times, his phrasing occasionally blocky and clunky.

Those observations and mild criticisms aside, this is a splendid disc overall.  The first four etudes require some adjustment, a thick and heavy Mazeppa especially, but when Baglini plays Feux Follets at a comfortable speed, he coaxes lovely, scintillating, delicate, and colorful playing from his Fazioli, especially in the upper registers.  He revels in quieter playing, not just here, but elsewhere, with Ricordanza also benefiting.  To be sure, he can and does play with virtuosic flair and power, and Eroica, Chasse Sauvage, and the F minor etudes demonstrate this, but Baglini is more interested in things other than outright virtuosity all the time.  This is Liszt playing filled with ideas, though some may like them less than I do.

The disc also includes the 1837 versions of Mazeppa and Feux Follets to offer the listener a chance to hear how the works transformed over the years.  The later versions are definitely better, and Baglini seems pushed to his limits in the early Mazeppa, though it's not hard to understand why.

The sound of Baglini's Fazioli, recorded in Fazioli Hall, is essentially SOTA.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on July 09, 2015, 08:06:39 PM
I haven't heard his Liszt, but Baglini has made a couple of passionately played recordings of the Chopin etudes which I rate very highly, especially the second.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 11, 2015, 06:48:21 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71-CS7lrFyL._SX425_.jpg)



Release nine, disc eleven.  Francescas Dego and Leonardi paired in the first disc of a soon to be complete LvB Violin Sonata cycle.  The second disc is next in my Italian disc queue, and the third disc is slated to be recorded next month, so it should be out sometime next year.  The hot property here is Ms Dego.  Taylor Swift's contemporary is young, tall, pretty, thin, and the international market looking booklet (English language notes come first) contains mostly photos of her.  The two artists appear to be regular performance partners as they have two other discs out, a Franck/Ravel ditty, and a disc of music by contemporary composer Nicola Campogrande.  This implies that they should work well together.  To instruments, Ms Dego uses a 1697 Ruggeri, and Ms Leonardi uses a modern Steinway D.

To the playing.  One word came to mind repeatedly as I listened: Light.  This applies to all of the sonatas on the disc.  This approach works very well indeed in Op 12/3, and also in Op 23.  The works basically zip by, breezy and fun.  In the Kreutzer, one may long for more drama than is on offer here, though the players do infuse more heft than in the prior two works.  Of course, one may not want a lot more drama.  There's more than one way to play this chamber music.  The one mannerism that does pop up is the use of the pregnant pause.  It is used most in Op 47, not surprisingly. 

Both artists play very well.  And they are equals.  Though Ms Dego gets more face time in the booklet, Ms Leonardi is not relegated to the background in the music.  Both artists take turns being the center of attention, and at other times they play together as a team.  The recording seems to be pretty natural in perspective, as the violin isn't excessively spotlighted, and on more than one occasion, the piano simply overpowers the violin – just like I've heard in real life.  Dego's tone is warm and her playing controlled and accurate, but as recorded, she doesn't project a gigantic sound.  Ms Leonardi has very nimble fingers indeed, and if she doesn't really storm the heavens – and should she? – she mixes well with Ms Dego. 

This cycle will not match the greats (take your pick), but it is off to an excellent start.  Once it is done and packaged as a box set and marketed properly, if it is, it could serve as an excellent entry to these works for newcomers.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on July 11, 2015, 07:30:44 AM
I guess this fits in the Italian Invasion thread: MusicWeb just informed me of a record label I'd never heard of before, Limen Classical and Jazz. Their website is a total disaster of broken links, autoplaying videos, and confusing information, but I did find, among other things, an album of viola chamber music by Schumann, Brahms, etc. (http://www.amazon.it/Brahms-Chopin-Dressed-play-DVD/dp/B00H9F9UEG/) with accompanist Andrea Lucchesini.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 11, 2015, 07:36:15 AM
Letizia Michielon is recording an LvB sonata cycle for Limen.  Her site is even worse than Limen's.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 12, 2015, 03:56:43 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71ZOnkxQItL._SX425_.jpg)



Release ten, disc twelve.  The second disc of the Dego & Leonardi cycle.  Not surprisingly, it is much like the first disc.  The only notable differences are that 12/1 is a bit slower than expected, the slow movement of Op 24 is more nuanced than expected, and there seems to be a slightly greater emphasis, via recorded balance, on Dego, but that could be my ears playing tricks on me. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Gordo on July 12, 2015, 04:52:49 PM
There are many interesting names to explore there.

Your post recalled me when some years ago I listened to the complete edition of Clementi's "Gradus ad Parnassum", released by Arts Music (4 CDs).

It was recorded by ten Italian pianists: Andrea Bacchetti, Luca Rasca, Maurizio Baglini, Paolo Zannini, Gianluca Luisi, Marco Sollini, Roberto Prosseda & Francesco Cipolletta.

(https://media2.jpc.de/image/w600/front/0/0600554768724.jpg)

As far as I recall, the general level was very good and the sound quality outstanding. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on July 12, 2015, 06:39:11 PM
There are many interesting names to explore there.

Your post recalled me when some years ago I listened to the complete edition of Clementi's "Gradus ad Parnassum", released by Arts Music (4 CDs).

It was recorded by ten Italian pianists: Andrea Bacchetti, Luca Rasca, Maurizio Baglini, Paolo Zannini, Gianluca Luisi, Marco Sollini, Roberto Prosseda & Francesco Cipolletta.

(https://media2.jpc.de/image/w600/front/0/0600554768724.jpg)

As far as I recall, the general level was very good and the sound quality outstanding.
Congrats, post #3000. :)
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Gordo on July 12, 2015, 07:17:11 PM
Congrats, post #3000. :)

Thanks! I hadn't noticed it.  :)

Under my old nom de plume :D, I wrote around 4,500 posts... So, probably, Gordo's days are numbered.  ;D
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 23, 2015, 04:49:18 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71aVVb-wXgL._SX425_.jpg)


Release eleven, disc thirteen.  Maurizio Baglini playing some Scarlatti.  People who prefer HIP Scarlatti should steer clear, because this is as un-HIP as one can get.  Whenever Baglini hits a big Fazioli bass note, it is closer to an organ than a harpsichord.  Depending on what one wants the title of the disc to mean, one may be disappointed.  Rhythmic flair ain't what this is all about.  Sure, there is some, and some quick playing, and some slow playing displays surprisingly fine rhythmic flair, but much of the playing is about tone, figures, phrasing, tone, and just generally piano playing.  The tempi themselves may be dance tempi, but it sounds different than expected, and in many ways better.  Baglini brings something new, fresh to some well known sonatas – Kk 380 or 443, say – and, indeed, to all of them.  Perhaps he doesn't quite match up to Pletnev or Zacharias or Babayan among piano versions (though, maybe he does on occasion), but this is a very fine disc and one I will return to again. 

Superb sound.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on July 28, 2015, 02:04:48 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71aVVb-wXgL._SX425_.jpg)


Release eleven, disc thirteen.  Maurizio Baglini playing some Scarlatti.  People who prefer HIP Scarlatti should steer clear, because this is as un-HIP as one can get.  Whenever Baglini hits a big Fazioli bass note, it is closer to an organ than a harpsichord.  Depending on what one wants the title of the disc to mean, one may be disappointed.  Rhythmic flair ain't what this is all about.  Sure, there is some, and some quick playing, and some slow playing displays surprisingly fine rhythmic flair, but much of the playing is about tone, figures, phrasing, tone, and just generally piano playing.  The tempi themselves may be dance tempi, but it sounds different than expected, and in many ways better.  Baglini brings something new, fresh to some well known sonatas – Kk 380 or 443, say – and, indeed, to all of them.  Perhaps he doesn't quite match up to Pletnev or Zacharias or Babayan among piano versions (though, maybe he does on occasion), but this is a very fine disc and one I will return to again. 

Superb sound.

Yes I thought it was fun to hear. It's not the bass which makes it unhip (there are harpsichords which have big basses.) It's also the use of the sustain pedal. Just listen to the way he makes the notes in the lower voice blend into each other in 439.

By the way, when I was focusing on that sonata I stumbled across a very unusual recording of it by another Iti, Leonardo Carrieri, unusual because it's very articulated in a way which made me think of Chorzempa.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 09, 2015, 11:59:20 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41KTyOrkiCL._SY425_.jpg)



Release twelve, disc fourteen.  More of Ramin Bahrami's Bach, this time the Goldberg Variations.  Bahrami starts off with a slow, not especially flowing Aria, but much of the rest of the playing is on the swift side.  I cannot recall having heard a nimbler, more superficially exciting Variation Fourteen, for instance.  He can and does play a bit slower when and where needed, but he seems most comfortable and compelling when playing at full steam.  Bahrami plays with superb clarity and precision throughout.  There's much to enjoy here, but there is some seriously heavy-duty competition in this repertoire.  When compared to Andras Schiff's ECM recording (or his Decca one), for instance, Bahrami sounds superficial.  Pick your favorite, and I suspect Bahrami may not measure up.  That written, this is an excellent recording in superb sound.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 15, 2015, 07:44:46 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61CUEltqL2L._SX425_.jpg)


Release thirteen, disc fifteen.  Roberto Prosseda's Schumann.  Prosseda is a Mendelssohn specialist, and last year I found him to be world-class in Mendelssohn's Lieder Ohne Worte.  It seemed a good time to try something else from his thin discography.  I settled on his Schumann.  Settled ended up being the right word.  The disc is not terrible, nor is it especially good.  It's just sort of there.  Prosseda plays everything on the light side, and most things are a bit quick.  It sounds largely superficial.  There are some splendid moments, to be sure, as at the end of the opening movement of the Fantasie, which Prosseda stretches out and plays with real beauty.  The work as a whole lacks much depth, and cannot compare to the best or second-best recordings out there.  Waldszenen sounds too neat and clean and balanced.  It sounds sort of like Mendelssohn.  Neither the Arabeske or Kinderszenen left much of an impression.

Not helping things is sound that is too close, soft-edged, and compressed.  The soft-edged part is more pronounced through speakers, and the too compressed part is unpleasantly obvious through headphones. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 19, 2015, 05:39:48 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71S9uA8qoJL._SY425_.jpg)



Release fourteen, disc sixteen.  Maria Perrotta plays Beethoven's last three sonatas, with some Scriabin as an encore.  In recital.  Op 109 is a thing of beauty.  Largely calm and flowing and lyrical, at times serene, and most definitely of a transcendent style in the last movement, Perrotta's playing instantly caught my attention and held it for each and every note.  Sure, the Prestissimo is not exactly fiery and intense, but in the context of her interpretation, it fits perfectly.  Op 110 offers more of the same.  The first two movements offer a tad more bite than found in 109, but the final movement is back to the transcendent style.  Perrotta does ratchet up the intensity and speed a bit in the fugue.  The repeated chords before the inverted fugue start gently and build up to a relatively loud climax before gently segueing to the inverted fugue, which Perrotta plays with real fire and intensity right up until the coda.  Op 111 opens with a reasonably dark and mysterious Maestoso, and then moves to an Allegro that starts a bit soft and slow only to build up to a satisfyingly intense overall sound and feel, with some quieter interludes allowed.  The Arietta sounds lovely, particularly in the serene second half.  Perrotta wastes no time transitioning right into the first variation, which, along with the second, sheds a bit of the serenity of the Arietta, but still manages to sound profound.  The boogie woogie variation is quite intense and swift and moves forward with gentle relentlessness to the fourth variation, which introduces some prominent, italicized left hand playing.  The “little stars“ sound just lovely, the playing before the emergence of the final chains of trills surprisingly urgent, the trills somehow both crisp and blurred, and the coda, maybe just a bit rushed, nonetheless sounds magnificent and sublime.  The Scriabin Op 8/2 Etude packs something of a wallop as an encore, and has strong hints of Albeniz, of all composers. 

Ms Perrotta's playing is generally rock solid, though maybe a few passages betray just a few hints of less than absolute control.  Such observations are piffle here.  Ms Perrotta's artistry is sublime.  I must hear more from her.

Sound is very good for a live recording, though not SOTA, and the Fabbrini collection Steinway manages to still sound wonderful.

Wow.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on August 19, 2015, 06:51:40 PM
Glad you liked that one as much as I did. Think I may have called it a "modern-instrument Crawford," because of the feeling of profundity/sublimity which hovers over the final movements of all three sonatas. It is excellent. I haven't played it this year; maybe one night soon.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on August 20, 2015, 08:26:12 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71S9uA8qoJL._SY425_.jpg)



Release fourteen, disc sixteen.  Maria Perrotta plays Beethoven's last three sonatas, with some Scriabin as an encore.  In recital.  Op 109 is a thing of beauty.  Largely calm and flowing and lyrical, at times serene, and most definitely of a transcendent style in the last movement, Perrotta's playing instantly caught my attention and held it for each and every note.  Sure, the Prestissimo is not exactly fiery and intense, but in the context of her interpretation, it fits perfectly.  Op 110 offers more of the same.  The first two movements offer a tad more bite than found in 109, but the final movement is back to the transcendent style.  Perrotta does ratchet up the intensity and speed a bit in the fugue.  The repeated chords before the inverted fugue start gently and build up to a relatively loud climax before gently segueing to the inverted fugue, which Perrotta plays with real fire and intensity right up until the coda.  Op 111 opens with a reasonably dark and mysterious Maestoso, and then moves to an Allegro that starts a bit soft and slow only to build up to a satisfyingly intense overall sound and feel, with some quieter interludes allowed.  The Arietta sounds lovely, particularly in the serene second half.  Perrotta wastes no time transitioning right into the first variation, which, along with the second, sheds a bit of the serenity of the Arietta, but still manages to sound profound.  The boogie woogie variation is quite intense and swift and moves forward with gentle relentlessness to the fourth variation, which introduces some prominent, italicized left hand playing.  The “little stars“ sound just lovely, the playing before the emergence of the final chains of trills surprisingly urgent, the trills somehow both crisp and blurred, and the coda, maybe just a bit rushed, nonetheless sounds magnificent and sublime.  The Scriabin Op 8/2 Etude packs something of a wallop as an encore, and has strong hints of Albeniz, of all composers. 

Ms Perrotta's playing is generally rock solid, though maybe a few passages betray just a few hints of less than absolute control.  Such observations are piffle here.  Ms Perrotta's artistry is sublime.  I must hear more from her.

Sound is very good for a live recording, though not SOTA, and the Fabbrini collection Steinway manages to still sound wonderful.

Wow.

I thought her Chopin sonata (op 58) was utterly without interest or personality at best (allegro) and cloyingly twee at worst (largo).
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on September 09, 2015, 06:06:08 PM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51HtR5gWNCL._SS425.jpg)




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. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André on September 10, 2015, 06:45:34 AM
There is also a Decca box of complete Chopin works that Todd alerted me to. I am not at home right now and don't recall the (little-known) young pianist's name. But overall it is an excellent buy.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on September 13, 2015, 07:43:34 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61xgcvQtgVL._SX425_.jpg)



Release sixteen, disc eighteen.  Maria Perrotta playing the Goldberg Variations.  The beautiful bookends of the Aria and its recapitulation surround a little over an hour of extremely fine music making.  Perrotta plays beautifully throughout.  She plays slower movements just right, and many faster movements display hints of intensity that I was not expecting.  That's not to say any of the playing is overwrought, because it certainly is not.  Rather, I look at it as the music being alive, or infused with energy.  To be sure, her playing lacks the dazzling precision of Bahrami's in the fast passages, but it displays more depth.  Perrotta plays very well throughout, but her playing seems blended – no hyperarticulated inner voices here – and big picture in nature; that is, while each variation is thought out and unique, everything is part of the bigger whole.  While not of Andras Schiff quality, this is a superb recording of the work, certainly preferable to Bahrami's take, and a fair number of others, though I doubt it would displace anyone's other established favorites.

Sound for the live recording is excellent, though not quite as good as for Perrotta's late LvB. 


Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: terje on September 14, 2015, 10:13:41 AM
Schumann's greatest piano work

I've enjoyed your reviews as I've never heard any of these pianists.

Unluckily for Italian UMG, Beatrice Rana, probably Italy's finest young pianist, has just signed to Warner.

In any case I was wondering how you determined it's Schumann's greatest work, rather than just your favorite.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on September 14, 2015, 12:06:54 PM
In any case I was wondering how you determined it's Schumann's greatest work, rather than just your favorite.



The same way you determined that Ms Rana is probably Italy's finest young pianists.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: terje on September 14, 2015, 10:37:02 PM
The same way you determined that Ms Rana is probably Italy's finest young pianists.

not really, as I said probably, and you do know all of Schumann's piano works, whereas I haven't heard any of these young Italian pianists. There's also a reason to use probably with Rana as she really stands out among all nationalities I've heard.

In any case it seems Italy is awash with fine pianists who at least abroad get an airing. It must help that the country attracts so many outstanding teachers at their conservatories. Do you know other countries that have these hidden away national releases from UMG?

Another Italian pianist to watch out for is Alessandro Taverna who won third prize at the 2009 Leeds Competition. There's a fantastic YT video of him playing Medtner and Mendelssohn at the competition.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: terje on September 15, 2015, 12:53:18 AM
As I haven't heard any of these young pianists, and as Todd has made peculiar use of the word 'specialist' a few times in these posts, I'm going to lookup the pedigree of each pianist to see with whom they studied and if that perhaps led them to their apparent specialisation.

Ramin Bahrami studied in Italy with Piero Rattalino and Wolfgang Bloser, and later with Weissenberg, Schiff, Levin and, 'especially', Tureck. 3 prominent Bach pianists there; Weissenberg very much a tonic to the other two. The last so-called Bach specialist I recall, Evgeni Koroliov, has proven very disappointing in other repertoire. I hope Bahrami can adapt better.

Giuseppe Albanese is one of those artists who in his bio annoyingly omits the names of his teachers, as if he just fell from the sky directly into piano competitions. Apparently at the age of five, 'at his personal request', he began to play the piano. He studied in Imola with Franco Scala and, like Bahrami, with Piero Rattalino. Franco Scala studied with the fantastic Carlo Zecchi. No conclusions to draw except his need for a lot more generosity to those who taught him than printing a mere tiny paragraph at the bottom of a longwinded and uninteresting bio.

Like the two above, Vanessa Benelli Mosell also studied in Imola, with the Zecchi pupil Franco Scala. Later in Moscow with Voskresensky, and then Alexeev, so she should have a strong technical grounding and a wide dynamic range. Just knowing who her teachers were makes one want to hear her play. Couple that with mostly interesting repertoire and the disc sounds very appealing. She tours a lot too.

Filippo Gamba studied with Renzo Bonizzato, who had studied with Michelangeli (see the latter's masterclass video). Gamba also studied with the incredible Maria Tipo, and with Homero Francesch. Outstanding. Todd's description of Gamba's slow tempo could be very appealing if ulterior voices and lines are highlighted (not stated in the brief review). Certainly one to look into.

Another in Imola - Michail Lifits. He studied with Bernd Goetzke (a Michelangeli pupil) and the Neuhaus pupil Boris Petrushansky. Some of the names of these piano competitions are ridiculous -- the Hilton Head International PC in South Carolina. Really? Todd mentions Lifits' lovely tone and that could have been inferred from his teachers. Sounds like a good disc and a pianist to follow.

Maurizio Baglini - another pianist so full of himself he doesn't even mention his teachers. Does anyone really want to hear that he's run a marathon when he can't even bother to name the pianists who have helped him make a living as a supposed artist? Another who studied with Piero Rattalino, and with Lazar Berman (hello Liszt) in Imola. Pathetic that's not mentioned on his own website.

Roberto Prosseda also leaves his website bare but it's more professional than Baglini. However there's a lot of info on his wikipedia page. Another who studied in Imola with Franco Scala, Lonquich and Petrushansky, and later with Bashkirov, Fleisher, Rosen, Karl Schnabel, Ts'ong and some others I haven't heard. This is a case of a long lineage that is probably more important towards its start (the Zecchi pupil Scala, and Neuhaus pupil Petrushansky). It seems there's nothing in particular that makes him a 'Mendelssohn specialist' except having discovered some scores and having recorded a lot of the composer.

Another pianist born straight onto the stage, Maria Perrotta has done her best to erase that she studied with Antonella Barbarossa and Edda Ponti, and later in Imola with Scala and Petrushansky, and then Walter Blankenheim (Long pupil). Why hide such outstanding teachers? Little wonder she's received Todd's praise. Thanks Mandryka for mentioning her op. 58.

In conclusion: of the three supposed specialists, two have strong links through their teachers, and the third doesn't really have a specialty at all. Some important ties here to Michelangeli, Zecchi and Neuhaus, as well as many other fine pianists. Sounds like all will be worth hearing, which is something I couldn't have said until now. Also revealing is that some of these young pianists are very much in need of some humility in writing their bloated bios. They'd win in two ways then -- respect to those who have taught them (and who are probably finer pianists than them), and a fostering of interest among pianophiles who admire such lineages and love many different pianists. Also it seems that Imola is quite the place to study, and might have some rather tight ties with UMG.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on September 15, 2015, 04:28:08 AM
As I haven't heard any of these young pianists, and as Todd has made peculiar use of the word 'specialist' a few times in these posts, I'm going to lookup the pedigree of each pianist to see with whom they studied and if that perhaps led them to their apparent specialisation.



You're obviously one of those pianophiles who places a great deal of emphasis on pedagogical lines, as well as competitions.  That's fine.  I'm not especially interested in those things.  I prefer to listen to recordings without concerning myself about these things, which may or may not have much to do with the quality of the music-making.  Your writing indicates that you can predict how some of them might sound without having heard them.  I can't do that, even if I know who the pianists studied with.

Incidentally, when I use the word specialization or one of its derivatives in this context, I mean it in terms of what the pianists seem to or do focus on.  That may or may not mean that the pianist is good in that repertoire.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: terje on September 15, 2015, 07:18:06 AM
Your writing indicates that you can predict how some of them might sound without having heard them.

Not how they might sound on record per se, but in having studied with particular pianists renowned for their tonal qualities they would, probably, have learned a great deal about the same and how to recreate it. Lifits may also bang as awfully as Serebryakov, it's just that one would expect the opposite of that after learning about his teachers.

After your interesting survey I'll watch out for live recordings of all these pianists. If you know anymore about national UMG releases, let us know.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 11, 2016, 08:12:07 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81pQ7bI%2BtOL._SY425_.jpg)


Release seventeen, disc nineteen, the completion of the Dego/Leonardi LvB Violin Sonata cycle.  Not too surprisingly, the disc maintains the light overall feel of the two prior discs.  It also sounds lethargic much of the time.  This ends up impacting Op 96 the most.  Op 30/2 fares best, relatively speaking.  One really nifty feature if Leonardi's playing in 30/1, where a couple times her independence of hands is so good that it almost sounds like two pianists playing, one delivering a nicely scaled, steady accompaniment, the other more potent melodies to rival the violin.  Truth to tell, I was hoping for a bit more in this final disc, but it is still nice enough. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André on January 12, 2016, 12:52:36 PM
Todd, did you have a chance to listen to the WTC by italian pianist Pietro de Maria. I listened to P&F 1-6 ysterday and was very, very pleased.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 12, 2016, 01:04:18 PM
Todd, did you have a chance to listen to the WTC by italian pianist Pietro de Maria. I listened to P&F 1-6 ysterday and was very, very pleased.


It is in the queue.  I'll probably listen to it after the other new Italian titles on my to-hear pile (Albanese, Laneri) are done.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André on January 12, 2016, 01:11:26 PM
Great. I'll wait until you chime in.

Listen to the famous opening Prelude. Have there ever been more dynamic nuances in that simple, unchallenging piece ? My favourites so far have been Horszowski and Richter in Book I.

18 more P&F to listen to. I find that the 6pack formula works well for me.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 15, 2016, 04:42:47 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71w7E4r3MKL._SY425_.jpg)


Release eighteen, disc twenty.  Giuseppe Albanese playing an assortment of Liszt pieces.  Though Albanese's DG debut wasn't the highlight of my first batch of Italian discs, I decided I should try his Liszt.  I am glad I did.  Albanese sounds more at home here, and he offers more variety in his playing. 

Au bord d'une source and Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este (misspelled on the back cover) open the disc and find Mr Albanese playing with more subtlety, color, and dynamic shading on the quiet end of the spectrum.  There are hints of more dazzling playing, and then in the Second Legend, one gets to hear some larger scale playing.  The Dante sonata follows, and it combines everything in one extremely well done rendition of the piece.  It doesn't swell and undulate with the very best of them (Julian Gorus, say, or various Piano Titans of old), and as recorded, it doesn't achieve the same sense of scale as displayed on his first disc, but it is superb. 

Then comes the Rhapsodie Espagnole.  Albanese crushes it.  Here is potentially garish Liszt, played in unabashedly virtuosic style, that nonetheless sounds fantastic and engaging.  This is generally the type of Liszt piece I don't listen to, but Albanese makes the most of it.  This is followed up by a beautiful, gentle, contemplative Danse des Sylphes transcription.  Liszt's transcription of Isolde's Liebestod follows, and Albanese delivers a very fine reading, mostly tender and lovely, and possessed of some convulsing, repeated chords as the piece progresses, and a delicate ending.  This more or less matches up to Zoltan Kocsis' reading to my ears.  The disc ends with the Reminiscences de Norma.  Here's I piece I've only heard a few times, and then the only recording I recall having heard is Jorge Bolet's late career recording.  This one is rather more vibrant and varied in tone, dynamics, and is quite digitally dazzling.  I can't say it matches the best works on this disc, but it is excellent in every way.

This disc is much more to my liking than Albanese's first disc.  It's one heckuva Liszt recital.  It makes me want to here him in more Liszt.  An interview he did for an Italian language outlet (go figure) indicates that he has always had an affinity for the Hungarian.  It shows.

Sound is generally superb, but it sounds a bit processed, with manipulated sounding reverb and hints of compression. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 23, 2016, 07:19:56 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51LzXvHzusL._SS425.jpg)




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. 

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Pat B 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Pat B 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 01, 2016, 05:59:37 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Qpa%2BhrgjL._SX425_.jpg)

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/815equfKLSL._SX425_.jpg)




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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: SonicMan46 on February 01, 2016, 07:44:41 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Qpa%2BhrgjL._SX425_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/815equfKLSL._SX425_.jpg)

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 :)

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/81SMCrX9ZzL._SL1225_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519WmEzv8JL.jpg)
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on February 03, 2016, 11:30:59 AM
Okay, I've just put on Pietro de Maria's Clementi recital:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.553500.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on February 06, 2016, 11:06:37 PM

(http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/NDAwWDQwNg==/$(KGrHqVHJDMFCe4jkMqzBQzG,N327Q~~60_35.JPG)

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.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 27, 2016, 05:58:52 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510vWUDpGBL._SX425__.jpg)



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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 06, 2016, 07:52:01 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513Wihm7CrL._SX425_.jpg)



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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 13, 2016, 02:03:29 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51G06vjiM8L._SY425_.jpg)



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
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 19, 2016, 10:16:40 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/71va-tDODcL._SY425_.jpg)



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.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 28, 2016, 06:29:19 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/717LHBwj71L._SX425_.jpg)
 
 
 
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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 02, 2016, 12:42:51 PM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51jqGG6j37L._SS425.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 09, 2016, 06:38:06 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51s1ogYFleL._SS425.jpg)



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. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 16, 2016, 05:47:06 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/91N4W6PVA4L._SY425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on April 16, 2016, 04:43:03 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.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 23, 2016, 06:36:52 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5106-p8viIL._SY425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 30, 2016, 05:20:06 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ce4zjy7-L._SS425.jpg)


Release thirty-two, disc thirty-seven.  Filippo Gamba plays Schumann's Humoreske and Davidsbündlertänze.  Though issued by Decca in 2015, these recordings were not made by Decca.  The live recordings date from 1999 (Humoreske) and 2001 (Davidsbündlertänze) in what sound like private/archive/amateur recordings.  That ends up being a problem. 

Humoreske sounds just awful.  The playing seems good enough, with Gamba displaying what seems like a nice dynamic range and quickness and nimbleness, but the sound is sometimes harsh, sometimes unsteady and wobbly, sometimes very early MP3 codec sounding in the highs, though with analog hiss thrown in the mix.  Sometimes there's a little distortion.  Sometimes there's a lot.  Quiet music sounds the worst, and is a chore to endure.  It's not as bad sonically as Dino Ciani's LvB cycle, but it's shockingly close for something recorded at the very end of last century.

Davidsbündlertänze sounds comparatively better, though by no means is it close to SOTA for recital recordings circa 2001.  Gamba does display some fine control and nuance in the quieter, gentler music – indeed, it's the best thing about the disc – and despite some passages that betray the live nature of the recording, the louder and faster playing is hefty and powerful, though perhaps bordering on not quite under control, though that could be the congested, harsher nature of the recording in louder music.  Even making allowances for sound, this is not an Op 6 for the ages.

I wish I would have known about the recording dates and sources before buying.  I get why well-established (cult-y?) artists have every conceivable recording released, irrespective of provenance or quality, by big companies and pirate operations alike (think Richter), but Gamba isn't one of those artists.  The disc is dud.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 07, 2016, 05:37:17 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pq1NRKNCL._SY425_.jpg)


Release thirty-three, disc thirty-eight.  Vanessa Benelli Mosell plays Scriabin and Stockhausen in a disc called Light.  If the last Decca release took advantage of Ms Benelli Mosell's attractiveness, this one goes over the top in trying to exploit it.  The cover shot, with her donning a garish, glittery red dress and handsome red high heels, is augmented by multiple professional, properly photoshopped glamour shots in the booklet, on the back cover, and in the disc holder.  There's a nice, discreet cleavage shot, and in one spread that takes up about one and a quarter pages in the back of the booklet (and the disc holder), she wears a white lace job, though the red shoes do clash with the dress.  This is one of the rare discs I own where a shout out is given to a fashion designer.  Since the artist is the sole credited producer of the disc, I have to assume this is all her own doing.  It seems a bit much for a classical release, but hey, flaunt it if you got it.

To the music, Ms Benelli Mosell offers up Scriabin's Op 11 Preludes, 3 Pieces Op 2, and a solitary selection from the Op 8 Etudes to start the disc, and the second half is given over to Stockhausen's Klavierstücke XII, derived from three Examen from the opera Donnerstag aud Licht.  Benelli Mosell's Scriabin is not of the tonally lustrous, gently nuanced school of interpretation.  Much of her playing is either quick and light or quick and a bit heavy, with very slight tinges of metal.  Some of the slower pieces offer a bit more nuanced playing, but Benelli Mosell doesn't overdue the pedalling or legato or rubato.  It's sort of cold-water Scriabin.  It doesn't match, say, Lettberg or Ashkenazy in the miniatures they have recorded, but if ever the pianist opts to record the sonatas, I do think I'd give them a shot.

Next is the over twenty minute helping of Stockhausen.  This music is new to me.  Pretty much throughout, the piano music is accompanied by some non-musical elements: talking, some counting auf Deutsch, finger snapping, kissing sounds, hissing sounds, whistling, and so forth.  There's some string strumming, too.  The vocalizing and gimmicks unfortunately detract from the piano music, which I find more compelling than the earlier Klavierstücke Ms Benelli Mosell recorded.  And the pianist does seem to be on top of it, maintaining a keen rhytmic sense when one can be heard, as well as fine dynamic gradations, and firm control throughout.  I get the sense that she has more Stockhausen to record in some other concept discs.

Sound is fully modern, strikingly clear, and a bit cold and hard, for lack of a better description. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: ritter on May 07, 2016, 06:18:37 AM
Thanks for the review of Mrs. Benelli Mosell's Scriabin / Stockhausen CD, Todd. I find the programming intriguing, and have considered purchasing it. And yes, the vocal "gimmicks" in te late Klavierstïucke can be rather anoying IMHO...I wish good old Karlheinz had marked them ad libitum in the score   >:(.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on May 07, 2016, 07:56:17 AM
The way she played the 9th klavierstuck made me think of Scriabin. Scriabin 10 maybe.

How ironic that I should have thought this last year, I have no idea if I would think it now if I listened again. I don't think I've ever heard the Klavierstuke from Licht, but I have heard some of his piano music with added noises.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on May 08, 2016, 06:58:42 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pq1NRKNCL._SY425_.jpg)


Release thirty-three, disc thirty-eight.  Vanessa Benelli Mosell plays Scriabin and Stockhausen in a disc called Light.  If the last Decca release took advantage of Ms Benelli Mosell's attractiveness, this one goes over the top in trying to exploit it.  The cover shot, with her donning a garish, glittery red dress and handsome red high heels, is augmented by multiple professional, properly photoshopped glamour shots in the booklet, on the back cover, and in the disc holder.  There's a nice, discreet cleavage shot, and in one spread that takes up about one and a quarter pages in the back of the booklet (and the disc holder), she wears a white lace job, though the red shoes do clash with the dress.  This is one of the rare discs I own where a shout out is given to a fashion designer.  Since the artist is the sole credited producer of the disc, I have to assume this is all her own doing.  It seems a bit much for a classical release, but hey, flaunt it if you got it.

To the music, Ms Benelli Mosell offers up Scriabin's Op 11 Preludes, 3 Pieces Op 2, and a solitary selection from the Op 8 Etudes to start the disc, and the second half is given over to Stockhausen's Klavierstücke XII, derived from three Examen from the opera Donnerstag aud Licht.  Benelli Mosell's Scriabin is not of the tonally lustrous, gently nuanced school of interpretation.  Much of her playing is either quick and light or quick and a bit heavy, with very slight tinges of metal.  Some of the slower pieces offer a bit more nuanced playing, but Benelli Mosell doesn't overdue the pedalling or legato or rubato.  It's sort of cold-water Scriabin.  It doesn't match, say, Lettberg or Ashkenazy in the miniatures they have recorded, but if ever the pianist opts to record the sonatas, I do think I'd give them a shot.

Next is the over twenty minute helping of Stockhausen.  This music is new to me.  Pretty much throughout, the piano music is accompanied by some non-musical elements: talking, some counting auf Deutsch, finger snapping, kissing sounds, hissing sounds, whistling, and so forth.  There's some string strumming, too.  The vocalizing and gimmicks unfortunately detract from the piano music, which I find more compelling than the earlier Klavierstücke Ms Benelli Mosell recorded.  And the pianist does seem to be on top of it, maintaining a keen rhytmic sense when one can be heard, as well as fine dynamic gradations, and firm control throughout.  I get the sense that she has more Stockhausen to record in some other concept discs.

Sound is fully modern, strikingly clear, and a bit cold and hard, for lack of a better description.

I listened to the Stockhausen. It's a very substantial piece.  She's clearly in her element in Stockhausen - if someone can suggest some other recordings of the Licht Klavierstucke I'd follow it up, because she makes the music sound fabulous.

I thought the non piano part is wonderful and that it contributes a huge amount to the whole.

The Scriabin is awful. The music, I mean.



Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 10, 2016, 02:31:27 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91Ona%2Bb5WTL._SY355_.jpg)


The latest batch of UMG Italy discs starts off with the first twofer of a Mozart sonata cycle played by Roberto Prosseda.  Brand spankin' new, having been recorded in November 2015 and January of this year, this set offers two novelties to set it apart from other cycles in the crowded marketplace: it is played on a Fazioli, and said Fazioli is tuned using Vallotti unequal temperament.  The set includes the first six sonatas, along with a first draft fragment of the first movement of K284.

To the playing first, Prosseda is an interventionist.  He throws in ornamentation liberally and, for the most part, effectively.  It blends stylistically and works comparatively better than Paavali Jumppanen's ornamentation in early Beethoven.  Sometimes it may be a bit too much, like in the Andante of K283, but then again maybe not.  Prosseda also deploys rubato liberally, and his dynamic gradations are very fine, with a great deal of piano to pianissimo variation.  The sonatas all stay reasonably light, all sound lovely and engaging, and though the numerous personal touches often sound more studied than spontaneous, the set works well because of the personal touches.  Earlier this year I picked up Siegfried Mauser's equally interventionist set, and if Prosseda's set doesn't have the same impact and depth as Mauser's, it is good to hear another new and unique set. 

Now to the piano sound.  Sonics, as with every recording I've heard made in Fazioli Hall, are SOTA.  The piano sounds warmer than normal for a Fazioli, while retaining the clarity, and sometimes sounds velvety and sometimes downright gorgeous.  The piano tone at times ranks among the most beautiful I've heard.  How much is the tuning, how much the playing, how much the recording, I don't know.  I do know that I look forward to the remaining discs in the cycle. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 25, 2016, 06:26:44 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41uAmUTGJwL._SY425_.jpg)


Next up, more Bach from Ramin Bahrami, this time the complete Partitas from 2005.  The playing is generally swift, well-articulated, rythmically solid, and gently relentless in its forward drive.  Melody is probably a bit dominant overall, but not by much, and Bahrami uniquely highlights some figurations.  But there's a certain sameness to the polished playing.  His playing is quite fine, but it lacks that certain something that someone like Schiff (ECM) or Anderszewski can bring.  It almost ends up as background Bach.

Sound is fully modern, though set a bit high in level, and dynamic range is not the widest I've heard.

Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 02, 2016, 07:29:44 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81zgJtpW0JL._SY425_.jpg)


Next up, Roberto Prosseda's Liszt year contribution, the second Annee, Italie, sans Venezia e Napoli, along with the Deux Legendes and Ave Maria.  Prosseda's Liszt is comparatively swift and light, with a heavier emphasis on lyricism than unabashed virtuosic flights of fancy.  To be sure, the Dante Sonata is dashed off nicely and has many lovely moments, but, depending on what one is looking or listening for, it lacks the drama or passion or intensity of some other versions.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the three Petrarch Sonnets all fare quite well from Prosseda's approach.  The Legendes come off quite nicely, though the first's light swiftness removes any mystery.  That may or may not be a good thing.  The Ave Maria makes for a fine enough closer.  All told, I would have preferred to have Venezia e Napoli, but whatcha gonna do?

Compared to UMG Italy stablemates Prosseda lacks the effortless, purposeful virtuosity of Albanese, or the more impassioned playing of Baglini, but he nonetheless delivers a satisfying Liszt recital.

Superb sound.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on July 16, 2016, 06:18:25 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71SPewzhVuL._SY425_.jpg)


Last set from this batch, Bahrami's take on the English Suites.  Like in his previous outings, Bahrami tends to play swiftly, with nice articulation, and solid rhythm.  His dynamic range, as recorded, is a bit limited, but not enough to detract from the music.  I could have done with a bit more rubato and flexibility, but the seriousness of purpose has its appeal, too.  The third suite stands out as the best of the lot here, with Bahrami playing with a high level of energy that really benefits the Prelude and Gavottes.  Not the best set available, perhaps, but very good.

Very good sound, though, as with other releases in the series, a bit higher in level than normal.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 06, 2017, 03:44:49 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81ewLoowCaL._SY425_.jpg)


The first of four discs from Italian pianist Alessandra Ammara.  Mrs Prosseda leaves to her husband production and liner notes, and focuses on the playing.  Like her husband in some of his recordings, she uses a Fazioli F278 recorded in Fazioli Hall for this Debussy disc, all but guaranteeing SOTA sound, which proves to be the case.

Right from the outset, Ammara proves to be a pianist enamored of fine details.  Her first book of the Images is on the leisurely side.  She lets some notes and chords linger longer than normal.  She deploys a personal rubato to good effect.  Her dynamic gradations are super-fine, and the Fazioli bass adds heft, while, as seems to be the case with this venue, the Fazioli's upper registers are more lustrous than biting.  Her lanquid Images are sonically sumptuous almost to the point of fin de siècle decadence, and never more so than in Mouvement, which is played slow to the point of beautiful exaggeration.  A fine start.

The first book of Preludes picks up the pace a bit, but Ammara again deploys rubato to good effect, and will hold some notes for good effect.  Dynamic gradations become more important yet.  There's plenty of lower register heft present - enough to rattle the CD racks in some spots - but her piano and pianissimo playing is gorgeous and delicate and colorful.  On the flip side, in Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest and a comparatively swift, taut, and muscular La cathedrale engloutie, Ammara shows she can play with deft speed and force just as well.

The disc ends with a super finely played Nocturne, with some delicately zesty diminuendo right hand playing of special note.

A most successful first disc from this pianist for me, and one that makes me want to try the other three discs I have rather quickly, and it also makes me hope that she completes a Debussy cycle.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 12, 2017, 03:22:57 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41iYREG4tTL.jpg)


A twofer of Gianluca Cascioli playing Debussy.  First, the gimmicks.  Gimmick One: This Japanese market release from Universal Music Italia, recorded in Italy, is issued on two SHM-CDs.  I didn't pay the typical premium for this feature, so it's a nice enough irrelevant bonus, lest one believe these red book discs can somehow sound better than regular CDs.  Gimmick Two: Each track was recorded in a single take.  No splicing and dicing here.  Gimmick Three: The 2005 recordings are both analog and digital.  All of the playing was recorded using both technologies, and the artist and producer selected the best for each track.  Hiss on 2005 vintage recordings is an unusual thing.

Now to the playing.  Cascioli plays much quicker than Ammara did in her take on Book I.  Cascioli's playing sounds more modernist and lithe, though he manages to coax beautiful sounds from his Fabbrini Steinway.  Rhythm is bouncier and more pronounced, and there is definitely a sense of liveliness that is no doubt partly the result of the second gimmick.  Some of the interpretive choices can be viewed as bold, or perhaps misguided, or perhaps something else.  In Le vent dans le plaine, for instance, Cascioli front-loads some arpeggios to slightly disconcerting but not displeasing effect.  Some of the playing in Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir sounds nervously rushed and the left hand dominates the slightly muddy recording.  (That at least two recordings of the piece were available means that the parties involved were happy with this one.)  La cathedrale engloutie starts off slow, with sharp, flinty right hand chords that sound Ravelian, but then transitions to faster, somewhat blunter playing, and builds to a not entirely satisfying climax, devoid of scale and heft, though the recorded perspective is recital hall realistic.  Again, those involved with the project were presumably satisfied with what was committed to disc sonically.  Minstrels is extra-bouyant and plucky and makes for an excellent end to the first book.  The second book of Images follows.  Cloches a travers les fueilles sounds lovely but cold and flat, and it seems as if Cascioli is at sea musically a couple of times, or at least playing without affect or any interpretive insight.  The somewhat cool, flat demeanor carries forward to Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut, but some of that appealing bright, flinty right hand playing reappears.  Poissons d'or, to the extent it evokes fish imagery, evokes rather Picassoesque notions of fish, with some blocky left hand chords tossed into the mix, though Cascioli can make the piano shimmer when he wants to.  D'un cahier d'esquisses continues on with the somewhat flat style, and finally the first disc closes with the Duex Arabesques.  Cascioli seems to not want to let the music just flow, interrupting with rubato that almost sounds Russell Shermanesque at times.  I don't mean that as a negative statement really, but there are more purely beautiful renditions out there, though Cascioli's playing is not at all ugly. 

The second disc opens with the second book of Preludes.  Cascioli's approach better suits the music, and he moves from relative strength to relative strength.  Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses jumps to life, for instance, and Feux d'artifice, rather than exploding, glides along effortlessly until it peaks in the climax and then fades away.  Children's Corner follows, and it ends up being the relatively best thing on the disc.  Generally swift and light, Cascioli infuses the playing with a sense of playfulness to match the still modernist approach in some pieces.  Golliwog's Cakewalk is delightful, as is usually the case, but the real showstopper here is The Snow is Dancing, which escapes the bounds of mere impressionism to become modern expressionism, if you will.  It's really rather special.  The three small pieces that close out the set - Le petit negre, Morceau de concours, and La plus que lente - all follow the same approach as the rest of the works, and work well. 

Overall, the playing is definitely individual, modernist in approach, and appealing in its way, but this doesn't displace favorites, though Children's Corner may join established favorites.  The sonic gimmicks ultimately don't payoff.  Dynamics and clarity are simply not close to SOTA for 2005. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: JCBuckley on January 16, 2017, 07:57:44 AM
Beatrice Rana playing the Goldbergs at Wigmore Hall, earlier today - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b088jc2s
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 18, 2017, 07:26:21 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71qvKF2VjQL._SY425_.jpg)


Some Schumann from Alessandra Ammara.  The disc starts off with Carnaval.  Ammara's style is more focused on rhythm and dynamics than tonal lushness and dreamy romanticism - Florestan dominates and Eusebius takes a back seat, as do the una corda and sustain pedals.  That's not to say that Ammara doesn't play slower, gentler music slow or at least occasionally gentle (Estrella could definitely be softer, for example), it's just that the faster music is better.  As she did in her Debussy, Ammara deploys rubato to excellent effect, and her dynamic control can steal the show, as in the Valse Allemande.  Perhaps a few times in the concluding March, one could say that Ammara becomes too mired down in the details - the exact opposite of Cortot, if you will - but that doesn't prevent a fine closer from unfolding.  Not one of the great Carnavals, perhaps, but an excellent one all the same.

Davidsbündlertänze follows, and Ammara's traits remain the same, and they generally work well, but at times they become nearly overpowering - no wimpy, lilting playing this.  That makes the lovely and gentle playing in movements like Einfach or Nicht Schnell all the more inviting.  The dynamic contrasts are more notable in this piece, though Ammara never wallows or allows her playing to become mushy.  Not one of the great Davidsbündlertänzes, perhaps, but an excellent one all the same.

CD layer sound is very close and extremely clear and to an extremely high standard, if not SOTA.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: amw on January 22, 2017, 02:50:23 AM
Coincidentally I'm also revisiting this one around now.

It's def worth it for her pianism, which is superlative—she plays with enormous control, shaping every decision consciously, and with enough technique to have the mental presence to make interpretive decisions whilst playing eg Papillons, Reconaissance, Paganini. That's also, to some extent, the problem; not that her interpretation is in any way orthodox, but it's studied. No risks are taken. She doesn't throw herself into the music.

The Carnaval comes off better than the DBT for me, but I think I just have very high standards for DBTs, and Carnaval lends itself better to reimagining in this particular way.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 23, 2017, 07:57:32 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61wLULzW58L._SS425.jpg)


This disc of two piano works by Guido Alberto Fano boasts two firsts for me.  This is my first exposure to the music of Fano, and this is the first recording I have of a Fazioli Grand Coda, or F308.  The massive piano is designed for large auditoriums, apparently.  One Vitale Fano acts as producer and liner note author, indicating a labor of love and/or duty.

Fano lived from 1875 to 1961, and was a composer, pianist and teacher who worked throughout Italy.  The two late romantic works presented here date from the late 1890s, the Sonata in E from 1895 to 1899, and the Quattro Fantasie from 1896, so they are the works of a young man.  The disc starts with the four movement, over thirty-five minute long sonata.  It is very definitely late romantic in nature, sounding big-boned (aided partly by the piano, no doubt), and the first two movements have some extended periods of introspection and occasional light flights of fancy, especially in the right hand.  Pietro De Maria ends up being just the man for the job.  Even on this nearly orchestral piano, De Maria coaxes lovely sound after lovely sound from the instrument, and his right hand playing is light and bubbly and almost playful.  To be sure, there are some more turbulent, trying passages here and there, especially in the outer sections of the Presto and Finale, and there is a certain density to much of the writing, not that De Maria seems to have any troubles with any of it, but this is rich, full, at times relaxed romanticism.  It's rather Brahmsian.  So too are the Quattro Fantasie, only more so.  They are unfailingly beautiful, unfolding at a relaxed pace while never sounding dull or slow, except for the last piece, which adds a bit of drive and heft to the mix.  They are more satisfying than the sonata.

Overall, this is a lovely disc, one I'm glad to have heard, and once again Pietro De Maria displays his formidable pianistic talents.  I doubt this ever becomes an oft spun classic for me, but it's always good to try new things.  Hearing this disc, and this piano in particular, makes me hope De Maria records an Op 106 using this instrument in time for the LvB 2020 anniversary year.  That could be nifty.

The sound of the live recordings is exemplary.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on January 29, 2017, 10:00:26 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51R8-nrOTHL._SX425_.jpg)


Some Ravel from Ammara.  The disc opens with a finely executed, detailed Serenade Grotesque that offers nothing particularly special to delineate it from the crowd, but then comes Jeux d'eau.  Here Ammara shows just how incredibly fine her dynamic control can be when playing pianissmo to mezzo-piano.  Her playing remains tonally beautiful throughout, and her right hand playing is light and sparkling.  It may lack the dazzle of Chamayou, but this, rather like Perlmutter, shows there's another way.  The Sonatine also benefits from ample soft playing in the opening two movements, though Ammara builds up the volume nice in the second movement for the climax without ever sounding hard.  The concluding Anime is perfectly paced with more fine dynamic gradation and tonal control.

To the big works, Ammara's take on Miroirs displays her meticulous control throughout.  Oiseaux tristes is almost hypnotic in its quiet and quieter playing.  The leisurely Une barque sur l'ocean offers calmer seas than the more extrovertly bold playing offered by Chamayou or Schuch, but Ammara's approach is just as captivating.  Her slow playing again becomes almost hypnotic in effect.  Alborada del gracioso is likewise just a bit slow overall, though Ammara ramps it up when needed, and she tosses off left hand figurations in a suitably guitar like fashion, and ends with an exaggerated coda.  Le vallee des cloches again offers some slower playing that is somber and hypnotic, but then near the end Ammara lets one passage rip, though in controlled fashion, of course.  An excellent take overall.  Gaspard ends the disc.  Ondine is again slow and quite beautiful and generally quiet, though Ammara builds up to a powerful climax, again displaying superb dynamic control.  Le Gibet offers more of the same, with an especially jarring dynamic range.  Scarbo is a bit on the slow side overall, but that masks more of the controlled tumult of Ammara's dynamic range and controlled scampering and her potent left hand playing.  The myriad details and fine touches invite headphone listening.  An excellent, individual take.

I hope Ammara records the rest of Ravel's piano works, but this disc has my two favorite pieces (Miroirs and Gaspard), so if this is all there will be, I'm very glad to have it.  It can veer toward mannerism, I guess, but I do like the mannerisms, so that's quite alright.

CD layer sound is near-SOTA, and is a bit more distant than her Schumann recording. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on January 29, 2017, 03:11:49 PM
Glad you like Ammara's Ravel about as much as I did! Meanwhile, I still need to explore more of her albums (as documented in this thread).
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 05, 2017, 07:53:14 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51glRshgEvL._SY425_.jpg)


Alessandra Ammara playing some late 19th Century piano music by Roffredo Caetani, godson of Franz Liszt, full time aristocrat, and sometime composer who lived from 1871 to 1961.  This disc contains works written in the 1890s, so they are from the pen of a young man.  The Ballata opens the disc, and this brief work is slow and subdued, and dominated by a dark hue enforced by healthy bass lines and dense textures.  It sounds rather like a hybrid of early Brahms and harmonically only mildly adventurous Rachmaninoff, or perhaps, a somewhat sedated Chopin.  It's not a masterpiece, but it would be at home in a drawing room recital.  Four Impromptus follow, and the first injects a bit more dynamic vitality into the mix before the second retreats into a sort of heavy, dreamy pianistic noodling.  The Andantino again introduces a bit of storminess into the mix, but never shakes off a sort of sense of resignation.  The concluding Molto allegro is the most energetic piece, and the most influenced by Chopin, and sings and soars when compared to the prior works.  The following Toccata is a bit more lively still than the preceding works, and is more texturally dense, and comes off rather well.  Amped up and played quickly, it could make for a good "what's that?" type of encore.  The big work here is the over forty-six minute, three movement Piano Sonata, Op 4.  It's an extended, large-scaled version of the preceding music, and it is more than occasionally boring.  There are certainly moments and even extended passages of intriguing music, but there are longer swathes of not paticularly interesting music.  Perhaps a too-fast, overtly virtuosic approach might energize the work and make the whole more interesting than the parts, but I doubt I'll find out.

Ammara plays superbly, and here she pedals more generously than in some of her other releases, creating a rich tonal pallete and some softer edges to go with the dark hue. 

Superb, fully modern sound.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 11, 2017, 07:18:18 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61c4zeHcmYL._SY425_.jpg)


Gianluca Cascioli plays Mozart.  And he records it.  Cascioli is credited as being recording engineer as well as pianist, and no producer is credited, leading me to believe this was his show start to finish. 

As he micromanages the recording, he micromanages the playing.  K310 opens with an Allegro maestoso slower than normal.  As the movement goes on, Cascioli manages to maintain an impressively even tempo overall, and he lavishes attention, maybe too much so, on every note and phrase.  The playing sounds very deliberate, and there's little in the way of overt urgency or drive.  The Andante cantabile is likewise a bit slow, and rather lovely, with Cascioli embellishing as he pleases.  He maintains impressively even, low volume trills in places, and as in the opener, he maintains a gently relentless forward momentum at all times.  It's not so much classical or romantic Mozart as it is post-modern Mozart, but with plenty of surface attractiveness intact.  The very Andante-like Presto keeps up the slow, deliberate, slow-motion and relentless sound.  He once again embellishes freely and deploys rubato and accents and (micro-) dynamics in a mannered way. 

K333 offers more of the same, with a slower than normal opening Allegro with idiosyncratic playing throughout.  Some of his accenting late in the movement really stands out.  The Andante cantabile sounds lovely, slow, deliberate, yet with an unusual forward momentum all the same.  In the middle section, he plays even more slowly, and plays the left hand notes with a dark, tolling sound.  The Allegretto grazioso is closer to conventional, with a relaxed tempo and feel overall, though Cascioli makes sure to insert his individual touches throughout. 

Cascioli includes the Prelude and Fugue, K394 in his recital.  This is a work I have a couple copies of buried in complete or expanded sets of his piano works, but I basically never listen to it.  As such, I came to it with basically fresh ears.  Cascioli's style is more aggressive, brighter, and a bit brisker in the Prelude and quite formal, clear, steady, and well paced in the fugue, with more of that gentle relentlessness on display. 

K570 closes the disc.  Again, Cascioli plays the opening Allegro slower than normal, though he throws in a lovely, intellectual approximation of fun playing, and he shifts between underscoring right and left hand playing.  The Adagio is stretched out to just shy of eleven minutes, with Cascioli lavishing attention on notes and phrases.  The playing maintains the musical line well enough, but others can do the distended thing better (think Pogorelich), though Cascioli's playing is at its most beautiful and delicate here.  The slow Allegretto is back to standard Cascioli traits, and while non-standard, they work well in his conception of the piece.  It is the strongest work on the disc.

Overall, this is somewhat difficult to assess Mozart.  It is highly mannered, and analytical to the Nth degree.  Nothing sounds spontaneous or fresh, or light, or fun.  And if some of the ideas don't really work, it's fascinating to listen to such thoroughly deconstructed Mozart.

Sound is superb, and nearly SOTA, and obviously exactly what Cascioli wanted. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on February 11, 2017, 11:41:07 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61c4zeHcmYL._SY425_.jpg)


Gianluca Cascioli plays Mozart.  And he records it.  Cascioli is credited as being recording engineer as well as pianist, and no producer is credited, leading me to believe this was his show start to finish. 

As he micromanages the recording, he micromanages the playing.  K310 opens with an Allegro maestoso slower than normal.  As the movement goes on, Cascioli manages to maintain an impressively even tempo overall, and he lavishes attention, maybe too much so, on every note and phrase.  The playing sounds very deliberate, and there's little in the way of overt urgency or drive.  The Andante cantabile is likewise a bit slow, and rather lovely, with Cascioli embellishing as he pleases.  He maintains impressively even, low volume trills in places, and as in the opener, he maintains a gently relentless forward momentum at all times.  It's not so much classical or romantic Mozart as it is post-modern Mozart, but with plenty of surface attractiveness intact.  The very Andante-like Presto keeps up the slow, deliberate, slow-motion and relentless sound.  He once again embellishes freely and deploys rubato and accents and (micro-) dynamics in a mannered way. 

K333 offers more of the same, with a slower than normal opening Allegro with idiosyncratic playing throughout.  Some of his accenting late in the movement really stands out.  The Andante cantabile sounds lovely, slow, deliberate, yet with an unusual forward momentum all the same.  In the middle section, he plays even more slowly, and plays the left hand notes with a dark, tolling sound.  The Allegretto grazioso is closer to conventional, with a relaxed tempo and feel overall, though Cascioli makes sure to insert his individual touches throughout. 

Cascioli includes the Prelude and Fugue, K394 in his recital.  This is a work I have a couple copies of buried in complete or expanded sets of his piano works, but I basically never listen to it.  As such, I came to it with basically fresh ears.  Cascioli's style is more aggressive, brighter, and a bit brisker in the Prelude and quite formal, clear, steady, and well paced in the fugue, with more of that gentle relentlessness on display. 

K570 closes the disc.  Again, Cascioli plays the opening Allegro slower than normal, though he throws in a lovely, intellectual approximation of fun playing, and he shifts between underscoring right and left hand playing.  The Adagio is stretched out to just shy of eleven minutes, with Cascioli lavishing attention on notes and phrases.  The playing maintains the musical line well enough, but others can do the distended thing better (think Pogorelich), though Cascioli's playing is at its most beautiful and delicate here.  The slow Allegretto is back to standard Cascioli traits, and while non-standard, they work well in his conception of the piece.  It is the strongest work on the disc.

Overall, this is somewhat difficult to assess Mozart.  It is highly mannered, and analytical to the Nth degree.  Nothing sounds spontaneous or fresh, or light, or fun.  And if some of the ideas don't really work, it's fascinating to listen to such thoroughly deconstructed Mozart.

Sound is superb, and nearly SOTA, and obviously exactly what Cascioli wanted.

I wonder if he says anything in the booklet which might help me follow what he does here, I couldn't get on with this recording at all when I listened to it when it first came out, maybe I should listen again.

Have you heard the Beethoven violin sonatas he recorded for DG in Japan? I enjoyed those much more, and I'm not normally much interested in middle period Beethoven.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: zamyrabyrd on February 12, 2017, 12:48:19 AM
Beatrice Rana is surely a force to be reckoned with. She was 18 in 2011:

https://www.youtube.com/v/-BFz4UpAsn0
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 12, 2017, 06:27:20 AM
Have you heard the Beethoven violin sonatas he recorded for DG in Japan? I enjoyed those much more, and I'm not normally much interested in middle period Beethoven.


Not yet, but it's in the queue after I first listen to Oistrakh/Oborin.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on February 19, 2017, 08:07:41 PM
Beatrice Rana is surely a force to be reckoned with.

A force to be reckoned with for sure. See my post here. (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,21.msg1033402.html#msg1033402)

Below is another Rana disc worth mentioning. Here she's partnered with more Italians: the orchestra Santa Cecilia. 

In some quarters Tchaik 1 may be derided as an overexposed warhorse but to me it's just great music. I purposely don't gorge myself on the piece so whenever I do listen to it it always sounds fresh. And here Rana and crew give this piece exactly that: a fresh take.

There's nary a hint - anywhere - of a blasé attitude toward the piece, nothing which spells "why us Lord??". Rather, the concentration and intensity are of the highest order. Obviously everybody involved went in to this project with 100% commitment, including the recording engineers. This is a stunner of a recording.

As far as pianist, for those familiar with Rana's playing there are no surprises here: her big, full sound is complemented by a keen dexterity, overlaying every big phrase with one delicate sub-phrase after another. It's remarkable how few pianists can play with this well-balanced mixture of "big" and "miniature". Of pianists of old the ones that come to mind are Fiorentino and Agustin Anievas, neither of whom recorded much (Anievas far less). (Latterly Cynthia Raim fits the bill but she records even less, still!).

Obviously, though, this is a collaborative affair. Pappano and orchestra walk the tightrope with Rana and hone the give-and-take to the tightest of tolerances. The Santa Cecilia orchestra has a full, rich sound yet it never swallows Rana, not that that would be an easy task anyway with her big sound. But the orchestra, too, is right in league with Rana in that they play "big" yet they don't shut out the finer details, with warmth, color, etc, at the ready. Everybody sounds well rehearsed and energetic with an eagerness which is infectious.

Next up: the Prokofiev.

 


Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on February 19, 2017, 08:15:34 PM
Hey Don

APRIL 12-15 | 2018
NICHOLAS MCGEGAN CONDUCTS
BEATRICE RANA PIANO
HAYDN Symphony No. 83, “The Hen”
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2

Dallas Symphony!
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Wanderer on February 20, 2017, 12:46:48 AM
Next up: the Prokofiev.

 




That's sensational, too.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on February 20, 2017, 04:58:56 AM
Hey Don

APRIL 12-15 | 2018
NICHOLAS MCGEGAN CONDUCTS
BEATRICE RANA PIANO
HAYDN Symphony No. 83, “The Hen”
PROKOFIEV Piano Concerto No. 3
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 2

Dallas Symphony!

!!

Hey, Brian. Will send PM tonight!
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on February 20, 2017, 04:59:44 AM
That's sensational, too.

Thanks, good to hear!
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on February 20, 2017, 08:07:20 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51SHqmxqZvL._SX425_.jpg)


Alessandra Ammara playing Chopin.  The disc opens with a loud left hand note announcing the open of the first Ballade.  (Proper volume took a little bit to arrive at on first listen.)  Ammara's approach is generally big and bold, and she adopts a generally brisk tempo, and throws in rubato that might be considered mannered.  Her dynamic range is good, but none of the playing really sounds gentle, and at times one may long for a bit more lyricism.  There are a few moments where Ammara seems to lack ideal composure, but these moments are rare.  Too, she seems too studied in her approach, and she lacks the tonal and technical flexibility of Seong-Jin Cho to pull it off as successfully.  The Fantasie retains the big, bold approach overall, though it sounds a bit hard and inflexible as a result.  Better is the Barcarolle, which finds Ammara playing with more sensitivity and lyricism, and her rubato works well.  The Op 30 Mazurkas close the disc, and they are a bit overdone from a dynamics and accents standpoint and a bit lacking in rhythmic flexibility, though they are enjoyable enough.  So good, occasionally very good, Chopin, but not a disc to rival established favorites.

Sound is close and weighty and clear, but the piano tone is a bit monochrome and sometimes the upper registers are a bit metallic.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on March 07, 2017, 07:54:18 AM
Someone recommended a Debussy etudes recording to me yesterday which I've been exploring today - by Mariangela Vacatello.

(http://classicstoday.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/vacatellodebussy-225x225.jpg)


The vision is totally fresh. Is it immature? I don't know. What I do know is that like Craig Sheppard's recording, it's communicative, and for that reason engrossing.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 19, 2017, 07:05:36 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51IJT7Gm-FL._SS425_.jpg)


I enjoyed Muzio Clementi's symphony set on Sony so much that I felt like trying at least some of his piano music.  As it happens, Pietro De Maria's debut recording was of Clementi's Op 40 sonatas, so picking the right disc was a cinch.  The three somewhat showy sonatas may never plumb the depths of Beethoven's contemporaneous works, but they are eminently entertaining, filled with verve and a sense of fun in the lighter, major key sonatas, and a fine sense of drama in the minor key work.  The young De Maria's playing strikes me as a perfect match.  He glides effortlessly along the keyboard, applying his beautiful touch with great frequency, throwing in some effective rubato, and playing with more than enough energy and strength when needed.  Having heard all but one of his later recordings, he has fulfilled the promise he shows here. 

Sound is near SOTA for the mid-90s, and is notably better than most of Naxos' other offerings from the era that I have heard.  A peach of a disc.

I may explore more of Clementi's piano output.  It sure would be helpful if Warner would reissue Maria Tipo's ten disc set, either on its own or in a big box.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André on March 19, 2017, 03:03:00 PM
My own experience is that I never tire of Clementi. I have the complete sonatas on Arts with Pietro Spada, as well as 2 volumes of Costantino Mastroprimiano's integral set on Brilliant. Both differ in their approach to sound production, style, articulation. I like them both, especially Spada's. I also have a few single discs. Each pianist seems to have a different voice in this repertoire. Possibly because it has not been trudged to death ? They have to find their own technical and interpretive solutions.

Coincidentally, I put this same Pietro di Maria's op 40 in my cart at JPC today ! They sell it for 1.99€, and I love this pianist's Chopin and Bach. That will be my 3rd italian pianist in this repertoire. I guess this is music they relate to.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Spineur on March 21, 2017, 10:33:35 PM
I came across this CD, through my interest in music of the classical era and Cherubini in particular.  Cherubini is best known for his lyric and sacred music output, but he composed also string quartets (see the Cherubini thread) and keyboard music.

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61%2B1frI7fXL._SL1174_.jpg)

Gregorio Nardi plays both the Haydn and the Cherubini beautifully and conveys deep emotions.  I checked his discography.  There are several Liszt CDs, a Schoenberg, a Schumann and more rarely recorded composers.  Well worth checking IMO.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 26, 2017, 06:55:32 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71JOS6nCpxL._SX425_.jpg)


This disc marks the first time I can recall that I've heard any of Mendelssohn's Piano Quartets.  The two quartets offered here, plus the world premiere recording of the brief Largo e Allegro in D minor for piano and strings, are the works of the precocious, young Mendelssohn, having been penned when he was between the ages of 11 and 15.  The pieces are not heavy, ponderous, deep explorations of emotion or musical structure or theory.  They are light, quite fun (No 3), and lightly dramatic (No 1) works that flow along nicely, and make for delightful entertainment.  Apparently, the First was even good enough to leave a positive impression on no less a figure than Goethe when he heard it in private performance.  Roberto Prosseda and the string players all do splendid work, and make what sounds like no flubs in this concert recording.  And what a recording.  It was made in a performance size room in Palazzo Chigi, and the room sounds quite sympathetic to chamber ensembles.  There's weight and warmth and a compression effect similar to that audible in Lina Tur Bonet's recording of Biber's Mystery Sonatas.  Good stuff, and sure to lift a listener's, any listener's spirits.

I don't always read liner notes, or pay much attention to them, but I feel compelled to mention the quality and detail of violist Francesco Fiore's writing here.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on March 30, 2017, 10:34:09 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61GpVWvUrRL._SS425.jpg)


Another serendipitous "why not?" purchase from the archives of Decca Italy.  This still recent recording (ca 2012) of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas by Syrian-born, ethnic Armenian, but all-Italian violinist Sonig Tchakerian is quite something.  In the perhaps not ideally translated notes, the author mentions that Tchakerian says "Bach has to be set free".  No, she doesn't go batty and play like a violinist version of Tzimon Barto, but within standard playing practices, playing a very nice sounding 1760 Gagliano, she plays with a very alluring rhythmic and dynamic freedom, almost always sounding fluid.  Sometimes she plays gracefully, but sometimes she really digs into the music, playing with an attractive gruffness, seeming to live the music rather than merely play it.  There's an energy to some of the playing that I haven't always heard in other recordings.  No, she's not as precise as Christian Tetzlaff in his Virgin recording, the last version I listened to, but I prefer this recording.  Maybe she doesn't quite match or beat Artur Grumiaux - how does one better perfection? - but she doesn't really need to.  This is another way to play Bach, and one I really dig.

Tchakerian has recorded a variety of other works, mostly on smaller labels.  She also recorded three Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Roberto Prosseda, which now is one of my unicorn CDs I will hunt for on occasion. 

Sound is superb, and the Armenian church in Venice used as the recording venue is a noticeable part of the success, seeming to be just the right size and to have just the right acoustic properties. 

Kick-ass.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2017, 12:15:05 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51YFvZJsBbL._SS425.jpg)


Vanessa Benelli Mosell goes all core rep.  And she enters a crowded field.  In Rach 2 she's up against some super-heavyweights (eg, Rachmaninoff, Richter, Zimerman, Rubinstein, etc).  She does not join them.  She does indeed display nimble fingerwork, with the opening of the finale especially nifty.  She projects skewed dynamics and power, though.  The left hand playing is notably powerful in some passages, whereas some of the fastest playing is much quieter in volume and smaller in scale, indicating perhaps some post-production knob twiddling was used for effect.  Her playing also generally doesn't include a lot of gooey legato, but is cleaner, clearer, brighter.  The orchestra plays superbly, and Mosell is closer to properly sized than often occurs in concerto recordings.  Overall sonics for the concerto are superb.  The production team hired Tony Faulkner as the engineer, so this is not surprising.

In the Corelli Variations, with Mosell the sole credited producer, she is up against fewer great recordings of the past, but she is up against a titanic recording of the here and now: Daniil Trifonov, who is easily my go-to.  He remains my go-to.  He handily outclasses Mosell in every regard.  Now, Mosell on her own is good enough, in a sort of non-standard way.  Her brighter tone serves her more modern approach.  No rich romanticism for her; this is flinty, cold steel playing.  Sonics are not as good as for the concerto, either.  The production team did not hire Tony Faulkner as the engineer, so this is not surprising.

So, a decent disc, but one that will almost certainly fade from memory.  The glamour photography is pretty much world class, though, as one can expect from this artist, who once again gives a shout out to a fashion designer. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 09, 2017, 07:25:09 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51EZPcERWNL._SS425.jpg)


Can a recording sound too good?  I sort of pondered that question while listening to this recording of the two Brahms Cello Sonatas and Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata played by regular duo partners Maurizio Baglini and Silvia Chiesa.  (The recording was made in Fazioli Concert Hall, which explains a lot.)  From the opening notes, where Chiesa's 1697 Grancino sounds so big and fat that it threatens to engulf the listening room before one can adjust, right on through to the end, the listener's ears are bathed in sonic goodness.  Chiesa's tone varies throughout as needed, but generally it is warm and rich and big.  One can revel in her delicate bowing, her forceful bowing, her lovely vibrato.  It's just splendid.  Behind her is Baglini's equally big sounding Fazioli, weighty down low and crisp and colorful up top.  From time to time, his playing assumes a scale that dwarfs Chiesa's.  I can hear why they perform together, and the back and forth indicates long working familiarity.  The sonic goodness on display at all times almost threatens to distract from the interpretations.  How could it not?  This sounds more detailed than I hear in person, and is just as clear, though audiophile soundstaging isn't the best ever (though that's a trait I don't concern myself with).  Fortunately, the interpretations themselves are excellent.  To the extent I have favorites in these works - probably Fournier/Firkusny for the Brahms and Perenyi/Schiff for the Schubert - that hasn't changed, but I will return to this disc just to hear some world class playing in great sound.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 15, 2017, 06:45:45 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71-u84OYbPL._SX425_.jpg)


Maria Perrotta's Schubert.  Perrotta has varied qualitatively in her prior three Decca Itlay discs, sounding sublime in late Beethoven, excellent in Bach, but not so hot in Chopin.  Fortunately, the Schubert is much closer to the Beethoven.  Looks like she might be a Germanic core rep type pianist.  Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Anyway, Perrotta starts off with D784, and hers is no wimpy version focused on beauty.  She brings out the anger and the bite in the sonata, especially the first movement.  No, she is not as hard hitting as someone like Lupu or Dalberto, but she shows she has got power.  She also displays a wonderful cantabile style when appropriate.  She follows with D960.  She omits the first movement repeat, which is a strike against it, and the bass trills aren't the deepest or darkest, but she plays with both tonal beauty and tenseness.  There's more than lyricism here.  As often happens with versions where the first movement repeat is excluded, the Andante sostenuto becomes the true heart of the work.  It is not particularly dark or bleak, but rather sounds quite beautiful and displays a sort of grim, accepting mien, a Schubertian take on Es muß sein, if you will.  The Scherzo is quick, lovely, and maintains some of the tension audible in prior movements.  The final movement is brisk and ratchets up the tension until finally some D784 style power erupts.  A strong ending to a strong performance.  The disc wraps up with the relatively rarely recorded Grazer Fantaisie, D605a.  The works makes for a nice contrast, being lighter, funner, and filled with moments of wonderful lyricism.  Being live, the recording lacks the sheen of perfection, and perfectionism, that Michael Endres brings to his effort, but that is more a difference of style I would think.  I do think it may have made more programmatic sense to put this work between the two sonatas, and end with the big one, but I'll take it as is.

The recording was taken from a single recital last year, and it shows.  Lots of audience noise intrudes, and Perrotta can be heard vocalizing on multiple occasions.  (Turns out I prefer female vocalizing to male vocalizing.)  There are also some passages of less than perfect command.  None of that really matters, though.  Sound quality otherwise is not quite SOTA, but is superb and fully modern.  This is Perrotta's second best disc.

Now, when will Perrotta record some Mozart?
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on April 15, 2017, 08:52:12 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61GpVWvUrRL._SS425.jpg)


Another serendipitous "why not?" purchase from the archives of Decca Italy.  This still recent recording (ca 2012) of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas by Syrian-born, ethnic Armenian, but all-Italian violinist Sonig Tchakerian is quite something.  In the perhaps not ideally translated notes, the author mentions that Tchakerian says "Bach has to be set free".  No, she doesn't go batty and play like a violinist version of Tzimon Barto, but within standard playing practices, playing a very nice sounding 1760 Gagliano, she plays with a very alluring rhythmic and dynamic freedom, almost always sounding fluid.  Sometimes she plays gracefully, but sometimes she really digs into the music, playing with an attractive gruffness, seeming to live the music rather than merely play it.  There's an energy to some of the playing that I haven't always heard in other recordings.  No, she's not as precise as Christian Tetzlaff in his Virgin recording, the last version I listened to, but I prefer this recording.  Maybe she doesn't quite match or beat Artur Grumiaux - how does one better perfection? - but she doesn't really need to.  This is another way to play Bach, and one I really dig.

Tchakerian has recorded a variety of other works, mostly on smaller labels.  She also recorded three Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Roberto Prosseda, which now is one of my unicorn CDs I will hunt for on occasion. 

Sound is superb, and the Armenian church in Venice used as the recording venue is a noticeable part of the success, seeming to be just the right size and to have just the right acoustic properties. 

Kick-ass.

I enjoyed reading this, not the bit about Grumiaux but the stuff about Tchakerian. She's good in the polyphonic music, with ideas about voice leading - even in the big bad fugue in 1005 she managed to tell a good story and create textures and harmonies like I'd never heard before as far as I remember.

She may sometimes get a bit too close for comfort to Barto-style, but I can skip those tracks. It's a sort of romanticism I suppose, to slow down and linger.

In fact, no, I won't skip them.  The violin sounds so glorious: complex, supple, graceful, somehow there's a patina to the sound which is most attractive, I'll listen to her do anything with the music I think.

I hope she'll record some Nono.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 04, 2017, 12:34:37 PM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51JFyqzF3YL._SS425.jpg)


When I listen to Rachmaninoff, twenty-nine times out of thirty, it's to solo piano music or piano concertos.  I rarely venture beyond that.  While I know I've heard his Cello Sonata and own at least one additional copy, I couldn't name the recording unless I consulted my collection.  I should be able to say I have a go-to now.  I really enjoyed Mrs Gatti's and Mr Baglini's prior Decca outing, so I decided to try this one.  The first thing people who've heard the Brahms and Schubert disc will notice is the decidedly different sound.  It's still SOTA, but it's more distant, offering more of the performance hall resonance (here the Forum Fondazione Bertarelli), and Chiesa's tone is less full and fat, though it is hardly thin.  She also readily displays her ability to power out a rush of notes to exhilarating effect.  Baglini sounds pretty much like he always does, but the more spacious acoustic allows his Fazioli to deliver a fully weighty lower end and a more massive scale, while also sounding less rich than when the instrument is recorded in Fazioli Hall.  The playing is generally very energetic and modern cool, where syrupy romanticism is approximated and stylized.  Haters of vibrato may want to steer clear, but I appreciate the approach here.  The disc contains the main work and an assortment of transcriptions of Rachmaninoff piano pieces.  It's not the deepest, most moving chamber music around, nor is it as good as the Brahms/Schubert disc, but my ratio of piano music may now drop to twenty-eight out of thirty listens when it comes to Rachmaninoff.

The disc is dedicated to two victims of the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 15, 2017, 05:42:11 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51M209HREPL._SS425.jpg)


Last year, I picked up Pietro De Maria's recording of the WTC, and it was superb in every regard and rates as one of my favorite takes.  When I saw he recorded the Goldberg Variations, I had high expectations.  The expectations have been met.  Overall, the set displays playing just about as beautiful as in the 48, but the approach is a bit different in some respects.  First off, there's the slow, restrained opening Aria, played with great beauty and poise, which is followed by a brisk and notably louder first variation.  De Maria does this multiple times throughout the set, following a lovely, slow variation with a pointedly faster and louder approach to the next, though everything is perfectly judged in this regard.  At times, in a slow variation, one might think that this is the pianist really wants to play, as it sounds graceful and gorgeous, but then he'll play some faster variations with superb, clean articulation and zippy tempi and a still lovely tone, and one will think this is how he really wants to play.  Throughout, he embellishes tastefully, varies dynamics basically perfectly (or at least perfectly to my taste), accents notes just right, and often plays with a high level of energy and ebullient lightness.  It is definitely possible that some listeners may find some of his playing too precious, but not me.  While I can't say it displaces my established favorites - Schiff on ECM and Perahia - I can say that it effectively joins them. 

The sound may be just a smidge bright, but is otherwise SOTA.

One amusing item of note, the disc's metadata reports Mahan Esfahani as the artist. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 01, 2017, 05:58:58 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61kGGZafVML._SS425.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 22, 2017, 04:13:29 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71mo%2BtUnibL._SX425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: marvinbrown on July 06, 2017, 07:20:31 AM


 A thread entitled "The Italian Invasion" and no opera??
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 03, 2017, 07:26:32 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/5103HqpwMEL._SY425_.jpg)


[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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Spineur on August 12, 2017, 10:47:19 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Oldnslow on August 12, 2017, 07:44:30 PM
Bellucci's first installment is characterized by many hesitations and  slow tempos--a very idiosyncratic start to the 32....
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: André on August 13, 2017, 04:55:46 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
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 15, 2017, 04:03:57 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51rD9pHhIiL._SY425_.jpg)

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51bxd2HD6-L._SY425_.jpg)

(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/518V5QrRGGL._SY425_.jpg)



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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on August 23, 2017, 03:49:25 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61bBWdJc0HL._SS425.jpg)


Here's a nice, low-cost surprise.  Thus far, I've only purposely purchased two CPE Bach recordings: Mikhail Pletnev's awesome single keyboard music disc, and Ana-Marija Markovina's hulking complete solo keyboard music box set.  I much prefer Pletnev's superior albeit more idiosyncratic pianism, though some of Markvina's playing is very enjoyable.  (I have a few CPE Bach discs buried in big box sets, too.)  I wasn't in the market for new CPE Bach, but this twofer was under $3 as an Amazon Add-On, so only one good cup of coffee was at risk financially.  Truth to tell, I bought the set with no investigation, and it was not until after I bought it that I learned that it's a HIP set, played on a modern Schwarz reconstruction of a 1749 Silbermann.  I'm generally not a fan of fortepiano recordings, with a few exceptions.  (When it comes to using ancient instruments or reconstructions thereof, I'm utterly indifferent.) 

Andrea Coen himself is an Italian performer and musicologist who has worked with HIP A-listers, put together the first complete critical edition of Domenico Cimarosa's keyboard works, and he is on the scientific committee (?) of the complete works of Muzio Clementi, as well as being engaged in some other major musicological endeavors.  He very clearly has the background for this project.

I didn't feel like doing extensive A/Bs with the music, but one couldn't hurt, so I decided on the first work in the Coen set, Wq 118/4 (H54).  Markovina's playing is generally crisp and light, and while Coen's is, too, it's also a bit more relaxed in overall approach.  Certainly, the more soothing tone of the HIP keyboard contributes to that when compared to a modern Boesendorfer, but so does the over minute longer that Coen takes.  Of course, some specific phrases and arpeggios become a bit clearer as a result.  Call it something of a draw, though being able to just kick back and relax and listen is fun here, in works that are not particularly deep.  Coen's overall approach doesn't change throughout the set.  That is not to say that the music ends up suffering from a "sameness" that can creep into such projects, because the music is nicely varied.  As I listened to the 135 tracks, the music ended up feeling like a lengthy collection of divertimenti.  I doubt I ever obsessively collect or listen to these works or this recording, but this is the type of disc that would make for outstanding background music while one is engaged in other endeavors where it is possible to shift full attention to the music on a whim.  I also suspect that I will, on a whim, just listen to some of the music when I'm in a mood for something a little different but not heavy.

Superb, with even the mechanism noise not detracting from enjoyment.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on September 06, 2017, 04:44:43 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41iqL5yh3FL._SY425_.jpg)


[This will be cross-posted in Schubertiade!]

Michelanagelo Carbonara is a thirty-something pianist born in Italy who studied at both the Santa Cecilia Conservatory and Academy, won or placed in over a dozen competitions, and worked with a variety of more famous names in master classes and the like.  He has done the touring thing, of course, and records mostly for Brilliant Classics, under both the Brilliant and Piano Classics imprints.  This is the first time I've heard anything from him.

The disc opens with D157.  Carbonara's approach in the opening Allegro ma non troppo is direct and unaffected, light and charming, lyrical and clear.  So far, so good, if a bit unmemorable.  The slow Andante contains more pronounced Schubertian lyricism and melancholy, without overdoing it, with left hand playing that sounds both full and light.  Carbonara finishes the sonata off with a quick, cleanly articulated Menuetto.  It sounds quasi-rushed and more stormy-lite than light.  A good start.

D664 follows, and Carbonara goes for endless, flowing lyricism in the Allegro moderato, playing some of the upper register music in a slightly precious way.  Sound is tilted to the middle and upper registers, though that doesn't matter much here.  The Andante is played even more beautifully and delicately than the opener.  The bass-light sound makes the music sort of float, and the very narrow dynamic range makes it fall softly on the ear.  Carbonara then ends with an Allegro that remains lyrical and includes approximations of more robust playing, the bass-light sound depriving the music of oomph, though here, in this sonata, that's not a major detriment.  Indeed, it's an excellent performance, one worthy on inclusion in a shootout, and the best thing on the disc.

D845 closes out the disc.  I tend to prefer an edgier, more intense approach to this sonata, though there are obvious exceptions (eg, Michail Lifits.)  Carbonara's approach is somewhat similar to Lifits in some ways.  He never rushes the Moderato, which is good, and some of the playing is very small-scale, very intimate.  Large dynamic swings sound medium-sized here, and a sense of mystery permeates much of the playing.  The Andante is slow and delicate and deliberate and intimate.  It's drawing room, Schubertiade Schubert, and strikingly effective.  The Scherzo is just about perfectly paced and a bit more robust than the first two movements, but it is still restrained, and the Trio is just gorgeous.  Carbonara closes out with a Rondo that alternates between vigorous passages and gentler passages quite nicely.  Like Lifits, he makes a strong case for a less intense reading of this sonata, though it lacks that some extra that Lifits brings.

Per Carbonara's site, he has all of Schubert's sonatas in his repertoire.  Even if the sonatas are not first choices for me, they are all excellent, and they are all purposely more intimately scaled than normal, though this trait is more obvious through speakers than headphones, strangely enough.  I wouldn't mind hearing a few more at some point.

Sound is close and dry and bass-light, with some pedal stomps audible here and there.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on September 10, 2017, 11:36:57 PM
(http://d24jnm9llkb1ub.cloudfront.net/icpn/3760195734346/3760195734346-cover-zoom.jpg)

Giulia Nuti plays Chambonnieres, Louis Couperin, François Hardel etc. Familiar music but the harpsichord she's got is amazing and she knows how to drive it! The recording captures the colours very well. Nuti makes the music into something  tender, sensual, gorgeous. Bauynmanuscriptliscious. I'm posting here because this is a recording which may win over even the most diehard pianophile. She works somewhere near Florence.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on October 05, 2017, 06:49:19 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61XKxcmZ-9L._SX425_.jpg)


Michelangelo Carbonara's Ravel.  Disc one.  This is just about the softest-edged, most Debussyan Ravel I've heard.  As on his Schubert disc, Carbonara uses a Yamaha CF III, and again the recorded sound is bass light, and here it also sounds delicate and sweet and warm.  Those wanting sharper, more linear, cleaner Ravel may want to avoid this set.  Make no mistake, some little felicities are meltingly lovely, and those felicities are not rare.  The delicate arpeggio that ends the Modere of the Sonatine is a marvel.  The Anime closer simply doesn't flow like most recordings, with some stilted left hand playing that nonetheless sounds slightly off-putting but also very intriguing.  Sometimes, things take a minute to get used to.  Jeux d'eau at first sounds too slow and unflowing, but as it proceeds one gets a better sense of what the pianist wants to do, and the right hand playing at the end is just beautiful.  To the extent it is "watery", it is the shimmer of a shallow fountain, some of the light refracting this way and that, at random. Carbonara tends toward hazy and languid playing throughout, but it reaches it's apex in Miroirs, where his timings and style are slow almost across the board.  The heavy dollop of impressionism transforms these pieces, though it won't be for everyone.  Noctuelles has a sort of meandering, flitting feel to it.  Oiseaux tristes, while not absurdly slow in terms of timing, is languid in the extreme, yet lovely.  Une barque sur l'océan has got to be one of the quietest, most relaxed versions I've heard.  Only about five and a half minutes in does Carbonara play with real power and speed.  For the most part, it seems like he cannot find a gentle enough piano or pianissimo note.  This is the antithesis of Schuch or Chamayou.  Carbonara plays Alborada del gracioso with more power, but not great speed, and his gentle playing becomes slightly hardened, but in a muffled way.  Only in La vallée des cloches does the pianist adopt a more or less standard timing, but his style still makes it sound slow, though the sometimes muffled accompaniment and the hazy melody work well together. 

Disc two starts off with Gaspard.  Carbonara's playing stays bass-light, dynamically constrained, with lovely right hand playing, though it's neither seduces nor sounds particularly watery/shimmering in Ondine.  Carbonara's style works superbly in Le Gibet.  The small, soft sound creates a simultaneously haunting and desolate and peculiarly comforting sound.  It's a grim but harmless dreamscape.  Scarbo is too slow and soft-edged to be truly effective, but in its resolutely anti-virtuosic style, it allows the listener to appreciate some passages shorn of bravado and potent dynamics.  It both doesn't work and sort of does.  No way the weak bass playing should work, but at the same time it is appealing.  This Scarbo doesn't menace.  This Scarbo taunts a protagonist rendered immobile by a drug induced haze; the little rapscallion jumps into view, leers nastily, disappears, pops back into and out of view fleetingly to taunt once more, then shuffles off into darkness.  It's definitely not reference level stuff, but it intrigues in its languid, opiated feel. The Haydn, Borodin, Chabrier, and Prelude miniatures come off nicely, in a relaxed sort of way.  The other two big works sound like the others that came before in their softness and smallness.  In Valses nobles et sentimentales, Carbonara is loath to venture beyond mezzo-forte most of the time, preferring to hover between that and piano.  Le Tombeau de Couperin ends the set, and Carbonara's timings are conventional and his overall style is slightly more direct and linear, and less hazy, but he never completely sheds his soft-edged sound. 

Like Tzimon Barto, this Ravel is different, but unlike Barto, it's not different just to be perversely different.  In its more or less impressionistic, hazy, at times anti-virtuosic style, it's definitely not for everyone, and it is hard to see this being a reference set for anyone, but for an alternative approach, this mostly works on its own terms.

Sonically, the sound is softer grained and more intimate through speakers than headphones, as with his Schubert disc.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: kishnevi on November 17, 2017, 05:10:53 PM
Given the many glamour shots in the liner notes, this could easily qualify for the Violin Babes thread as well.


The Paganini sounds like...what you expect Paganini to sound like, a warhorse. Couldn't she have picked a less well known concerto. Or at least another Paganini? But my problem lies in the concerto's warhorse status, not the performance itself.
The Wolf-Ferrari makes sitting through the Paganini worthwhile, although I would need to find my other recordings and do an A/B before saying more.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on November 17, 2017, 06:40:40 PM
Couldn't she have picked a less well known concerto. Or at least another Paganini?


The disc appears to be sticking with an Italian theme, and she may not have other Italian violin concertos in her repertoire right now.  And, of course, her first DG disc was the Paganini Caprices.  Does the booklet mention her partnership with Versace?  She's the first classical artist I'm aware of that has had such a deal.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: kishnevi on November 17, 2017, 06:58:23 PM

The disc appears to be sticking with an Italian theme, and she may not have other Italian violin concertos in her repertoire right now.  And, of course, her first DG disc was the Paganini Caprices.  Does the booklet mention her partnership with Versace?  She's the first classical artist I'm aware of that has had such a deal.

I made a quick flip through and saw no reference to Versace.

But I did discover the conductor is her husband. The booklet mentions his focus as being opera, which links to the supposed theme:  Paganini as influenced by Italian opera, Wolf-Ferrari as an Italian opera composer.

It wasn't until the applause broke out at the end that I realized the Wolf Ferrari was a live recording.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on November 17, 2017, 07:10:04 PM
But I did discover the conductor is her husband.


Another power couple.  I'm on the fence on buying the disc because I am close to my lifetime limit of Paganini recordings of any type, though my Wolf Ferrari collection is thin.  Of course, this is another case where UMG uploaded the disc to YouTube, so purchasing is not even required.  There are also concert performances of the Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn.  I'm hoping for the Brahms and some 20th Century concertos from her at some point, and more with Leonardi (or, better yet, Pace).
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Jo498 on November 18, 2017, 01:25:42 AM
The Wolf-Ferrari concerto (I have Hoelscher on cpo) is at least as good as the Korngold and should be known better. I dislike the Paganini sufficiently to not consider that disc above but for those who don't know the Wolf-Ferrari it could be a good option.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 22, 2018, 04:16:19 AM
(https://images-eu.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51qlpBsDYOL._SS425.jpg)


The second volume of Roberto Prosseda's Mozart sonatas starts off right where the last one left off, with K309, and it displays all the same traits as the first volume.  Interventionist rubato and ornamentation is evident in the very spirited Allegro con spirito and pops up everywhere.  Too, Prosseda displays what his Valotti unequal temperament Fazioli can do, ranging from hefty, warm bass to barely there pianissimo so soft one wonders how the piano emits a tone at all.  The playing veers squarely into trees rather than forest territory, but all the little felicities Prosseda delivers keeps the listener listening most intently.  Prosseda makes sure to open K310 in fast, forceful fashion, with the Fazioli's low registers delivering some rumbly, blurred punch in places.  In the Andante, some of Prosseda's playing offers hints of where Beethoven may have derived some of his ideas, especially in some extended left hand runs.  He also doesn't skimp on the drama, nor does he do so in the finale.  Prosseda then plays a K397 Fantasia that starts off dark and moody and mostly stays that way before transitioning attacca to the opening of K311, which offers a lighter, more refined contrast.  However effective marrying the two pieces might be, the playing in the sonata is just dandy start to finish. 

The second disc starts with a purely delightful K330, with closing Allegretto so lovely and light that one sort of listens entranced.  While I enjoy all of Mozart's sonatas, K331 has slowly emerged as perhaps my favorite, and not so much because of the Alla turca ending - though that is splendid - but because of the opening Andante grazioso theme and variations.  Prosseda plays the theme nicely, and then he imbues each variation with enough individuality, in the form of appropriate and lovely ornamentation, well judged rubato, occasional dashes of drama, and other nice little touches - very slightly shortened note values in some right hand arpeggios, say.  And at just a whisker shy of thirteen minutes, Prosseda's lavish playing offers extended musical satisfaction.  The Menuetto has ample little touches, while the Alla turca displays individual rubato, some moments of notable ornamentation, and large dynamic swings, including some extra-hefty forte playing and a sort of micro-cadenza.  K332 displays Prosseda's same traits, and adds a large helping of forcefulness, though there's still a lot of delicate, precious playing.  Ditto the second and third movements.  Prosseda includes the K400 movement completed by Maximilian Stadler as a sort of encore, and it offers more of the same.

Overall, I dig this set as much as the first one, though this is probably not the best choice for people who want straight-ahead Mozart.

Sound quality is possibly even better than the real thing.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on April 29, 2018, 03:56:30 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51dST-iQsUL._SS425.jpg)


I wasn't looking for a new physical copy of Liszt's Études d'exécution transcendante, but when Mariangela Vacatello's popped up for a couple bucks as an Add-On, I figured why not.  Ms Vacatello is not new to my collection.  I've got her twofer of Ginastera's complete piano music, and it is most enjoyable, even if she can't match Michael Korstick at his best.  (That's a pretty high bar.)  Vacatello made her public debut playing a Liszt concerto, so I kind of figured she should have a Liszt style down.  She does.  Vacatello is at her relative best in the most extroverted, unabashedly virtuosic music.  In Mazeppa or Wilde Jagd, she rips right through the bravura music with speed and power and excellent dexterity.  In music where either a lighter, more nuanced, or tonally varied touch might come in handy, like Feux Follets, for instance, others offer more.  Ricordanza shows that Vacatello can play with a gentler touch, though.  Harmonies du soir stands as the highlight, sweeping and romantic and expertly dispatched.  A decent set.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 06, 2018, 04:50:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/513%2Bw9wICiL._SX425_.jpg)


Gianluca Cascioli is a pianist of ideas.  Whether considering his Debussy or Mozart or Beethoven Violin Sonatas with Sayaka Shoji, Cascioli plays with individuality.  The results may be too much of a good thing, or not, depending on taste, but nothing he does sounds run of the mill.  When I saw that he recorded Op 106, I knew I would be getting the disc at some point.

The disc opens with Op 78.  Even here, Cascioli plays with distinct personality.  The Allegro ma non troppo starts with a big, bold sonority that almost evokes an organ-like sound, and he plays the whole movement on the slow side, spicing things up with personal rubato, and then after about three minutes, Cascioli splits the volume between left and right hands dramatically, keeping a steady pulse but while hammering out some right hand playing.  The Allegro vivace offers more of the stark, dual dynamic range playing and an exaggerated, puckish sense of humor, though it is entirely calculated.  It sounds like no other version and is packed with more ideas than some complete cycles I've heard. 

Op 81a acts as the bridge between the two sonatas.  Opening quietly and with a rounded tone, it sounds lovely but retains a sense of calculation.  As the movement moves to faster music, Cascioli never quite shakes a calculated feel, with all manner of personal touches, mostly rubato, but occasionally with accents.  The second movement, while not shaking the feel of calculation, does a better job of creating a sense of emotional turmoil, of longing.  Of more interest, though, is the sometimes rock-steady, sometimes purposely uneven bass, the hard-hitting but rounded forte playing, and some especially fine, emphasized arpeggios.  The closing movement is faster and more celebratory, but it, too is chock full of little touches throughout, with accenting just so here, and rubato just so there. 

Op 106 closes the disc.  Cascioli brings the Allegro in at a brief 8'26".  In his extensive liner notes, with fourteen footnotes and extensive quotes from Nikolaus Harnoncourt - the recording is dedicated to the conductor's memory - he states that he thinks the metronome marks are correct for the opening movement and that claims that Beethoven did not know what he was doing or that the composer relied on a broken metronome lack musicological evidence.  I read the notes before listening, and given the timing, I was hoping for a super-fast take.  The brief timing is accomplished by axing the repeat.  That ends up being OK since Cascioli also plays the piece uniquely.  To start with, Casciol's is less grand in conception than other takes.  While not really small in scale, the pianist doesn't use the grandest of gestures.  He also plays the opening chords and all returns at an unremarkable tempo.  He then plays other material in zippy, almost fun fashion, with the right hand playing dominates.  The movement moves forward at all times and is pianistic in conception - no quasi-orchestral sound here.  The Scherzo is fast and zippy and purposely congested.  It's also lighter in overall feel than many versions.  The Adagio comes in at a just slightly quick sixteen minutes and change.  Cascioli makes it sound faster than the timing implies.  He maintains tension throughout, and if the music never takes on an especially deep or desolate sound, the sort of idealized detachment works.  The coda is played very slowly and clearly, with Cascioli savoring the last notes.  The finale movement opens with a slow and precise Largo, with dramatic pauses.  The fugue is played at a reasonable tempo, with Cascioli sort of skating along.  It's often dynamically limited and it is not really clear or even about contrapuntal clarity.  It becomes almost a formal fantasia.  It's not unappealing, but it doesn't make the listener think "holy smokes, that rocks!".  But it doesn't have to.  Truth to tell, I was hoping for a slow, analytical, insanely clear disc more along the lines of his Mozart disc, but Cascioli offers something different.  This is very much a recording about fine and very fine details.

Cascioli has recorded a handful of other Beethoven sonatas.  I'm more than tempted to get my hands on them.  I don't know if he plans on recording a complete cycle, but if he does, it will be of the very idiosyncratic variety, like with Sherman and Pienaar and Heidsieck.

As with some prior Cascioli recordings, this is pretty much all his show.  He's producer, co-engineer, and did some post-production work.  The recording relies on audiophile brand hardware.  This disc sounds exactly the way Cascioli wants it to sound.  It sounds superb.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 13, 2018, 03:50:11 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/31geQRW5WnL._SS425.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on May 13, 2018, 11:31:19 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/513%2Bw9wICiL._SX425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 20, 2018, 04:03:29 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81%2BXpzAA2YL._SY425_.jpg)


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. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 27, 2018, 04:04:39 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/710mpSN7OJL._SY425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 02, 2018, 05:04:19 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/517%2BZipKRuL._SY425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 09, 2018, 04:55:52 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51F1jex4gML._SY425_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian 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.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Mandryka on November 21, 2018, 10:45:45 PM
I want you to try Francesco Cera’s Scarlatti and tell me what you think.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 19, 2019, 04:37:18 AM
(https://d24jnm9llkb1ub.cloudfront.net/icpn/00028948177295/00028948177295-cover-zoom.jpg)


Gianluca Cascioli is indeed a pianist of ideas.  While he does single composer discs, he also likes to put together themed compilations.  Sometimes he puts together more than one.  Take the disc 900.  Or rather, the discs.  There's 900, devoted to Russian composers, then there's 900 (Austria-Germany) devoted to Germanic composers.  I went Deutsche for this round. 

The disc opens with Zemlinsky's Fantasien uber Gedichte von Richard Dehmel.  The piece is very much of Zemlinky's lush, late romantic world, just under four minutes of harmonic luxuriance and beauty, even if the piece is on the slight side.  The next work is rather more formidable: arguably the best-ever Op 1, Berg's Piano Sonata.  Cascioli wades into territory where giants rule, and fortunately he fares pretty well.  His playing is a studied variant of of-the-moment playing, with individual passages taking precedence over the architectural whole.  The piece takes on a more romantic, fin de siècle feel than in some other recordings.  There's an instability to the playing, too, that sounds quite appealing.  Next up are two selections from the Op 2 Klavierstücke mit Überschriften nach Worten von Nikolaus Lenau by Johann Ludwig Trepulka, from 1924.  The miniatures likewise maintain a fin de siècle feel in their brief, sparse, attractive way.  They are like more melodically satisfying Webern.  Next up are selections from Josef Matthias Hauer's Atonale Musik, Op 20 from 1922 and a couple Zwolftonspiel pieces from the '40s and '50s.  Schoenberg's theoretical competitor wrote even more Webernian pieces, with the Op 20 pieces coming in at under two minutes, or even a minute, a pop.  They say everything they have to say with an economy of notes.  While undeniably ultramodern (for the time), they manage to sound rather appealing.  Those searching for memorable, hummable tunes may dislike the pieces.  The Zwolftonspiel are slightly broader of conception, the first a bit colder and sparser, the second a bit jollier and sparser. 

Next up is the Fourth Piano Sonata, Op 150, by Helmut Neumann.  The movements are compact, sparse, and unfold in a supremely logical way.  No excess notes here, and though again severe when compared to standard piano sonata fare - with an abrupt, purely logical end to the second movement Andante molto that nearly startles - Cascioli delivers the movements in a manner that makes them rather attractive nonetheless.  The next work is a big one, Hindemith's Third Piano Sonata.  My only prior exposure to this sonata came by way of Maurizio Paciariello's recording.  Cascioli makes a stronger case for the piece.  He delivers on the more expressive aspects of the music, sounding playful, forlorn, etc, while delivering both beautiful and austere sounds from his instrument as needed.  The piece comes across as more varied and substantive, and more in line with sonatas that predated it, making it seem like it's nothing less than the logical continuation of the Germanic sonata tradition.  Which it is.  To be sure, one hear hints of Prokofiev in the score (or perhaps one hears hints of Hindemith in Prokofiev's writing), and that is not only OK, it's most enjoyable.  The disc closes with Wilhelm Killmayer's An John Field: Nocturnes - No. 5.  In a sort of stylistic pastiche reminiscent of some of Berio's compositions, Killmayer, through Cascioli, delivers music that alternatively sounds unabashedly harsh and modern and breathtakingly gorgeous.  While the different sections sound marvelous, it is sometimes the transitions that beguile, as, for instance an arpeggio becomes the perfect vehicle to move between eras and styles with only a few notes.

Throughout the disc, Cascioli plays immaculately.  One gets the sense, as with his Mozart disc, that every note and every pause was thoroughly, exhaustively thought through.  Nothing is left to chance.

I ended up going for a 24/192 download since it was the same price as the 24/96 download and less than I would have had to pay for physical media.  Cascioli personally pays special attention to the sound of all his recordings.  This one is the best sounding piano recording I've ever heard.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on May 26, 2019, 04:20:59 AM
(https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/71ppGdd+YIL._SS425_.jpg)


This one kind of slipped in under the radar. This three track Liszt EP hasn't even been released on disc, nor have I found a download for purchase, though I didn't try too hard. Didn't have to since it's streamable. Baglini has recorded some other Liszt, and it's pretty darned good, so it's not too surprising that these three tracks ain't so bad, either. The EP starts off with À la Chapelle Sixtine, and the music is very much in line with other holy music of Liszt. It contains passages of bravura piano writing, but it also contains passages inspired by obvious and real devotion. It would be right at home in Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, and Baglini plays it very well indeed. Indeed, it makes me want to hear what he might do with the Harmonies. (It also makes me wish that Michel Block and Jean-Rodolphe Kars would have recorded it.) Sound is more distant and warm and the lowest lower register playing takes on a church organ like texture at points. The sound becomes notable because the first of two Valses oubliées is recorded much more closely. The second comes off fairly light and playful, but strikingly "modern", and almost Ravelian. Baglini plays his Fazioli in such a way as to maximize the benefit from the tart upper registers. Ditto the third valse, where the piano reverb, perhaps augmented with mixing desk tomfoolery, adds some nice color. It's more relaxed, let his long hair down Liszt. Baglini again demonstrates his Lisztian credentials. This entirely entertaining release kind of makes me wonder why the pianist didn't record more and release it in readily available download format. Oh well, it's available for free, and the streaming sound on Amazon is acceptable.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 02, 2019, 04:29:11 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61qomH-qzQL._SX425_.jpg)


(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51VQ5CD5qjL._SY425_.jpg)


Roberto Prosseda has turned out to be a reliably good pianist, so I figured I should sample his latest releases of Mozart and Mendelssohn, starting with Mendelssohn.

Prosseda wastes no time in demonstrating his Mendelssohn chops.  The opening Molto allegro con fuoco of the First has that light romantic sound and feel that Mendelssohn so effortlessly produced, as does the lovely but not overwrought Andante con moto, which Prosseda takes at a leisurely tempo, as if to allow the listener the opportunity to relish the musical goodness.  But surely with the first concerto, it is the almost unbearably delightful Presto that's the draw.  While Prosseda does not sound as effortlessly virtuosic as Jean-Yves Thibaudet - a near impossibility - he glides over the keys, spinning out the notes with abandon.  The Hague band keep up, and all forces combined keep things sounding just swell.  The slightly more dramatic second concerto sounds slightly more dramatic.  The nifty horn playing in the opening movement sounds great, and Prosseda once again sounds perfectly at home throughout.  He never makes heavy work of the music, but he doesn't make it sound slight, either.  It may be possible to think Perahia or Schirmer add more artistic weight to the piece, but if they do, it's not by much.  No, Prosseda's Mendelssohn is superb. The disc also includes the Rondo Brillant for piano and orchestra, which is like either a condensed concerto or a lengthy, fully developed movement from a mammoth concerto, take your pick.  Stylistically similar to the concertos, of course, Prosseda delivers more fine Mendelssohn playing.  The disc closes with the Hebrides Overture as something of a bonus.  Well executed, it sounds light and swift.  Throw in some high end Decca sound, and the disc is very nice.  I can't say that Prosseda displaces Thibaudet or even Schirmer, but then, he doesn't need to.

I figured I might as well listen to two new sets of the Mendelssohn concertos if I was gonna listen to one.  This thought was the byproduct of el cheapo closeout pricing of Saleem Abboud Ashkar's recording with Riccardo Chailly and Mendelssohn's old band, the Leipzig Gewandhausers.  Chailly brings to bear his formidable stick waving skills in the opening works, the Ruy Blus Overture (in the world premiere recording of Christopher Hogwood's edition), and the incidental music to A Midsummer's Night Dream.  Premium forces deliver premium results, there's no doubt, and the full scale big band rocks.  Only in sonics do they suffer in comparison, and then only by a practically irrelevant amount.  Had I bought this disc for the Dream, I'd be most pleased, as this is arguably the best rendition I've heard.  But no, I bought it for Ashkar, to hear what he can do.  He can do a lot.  Though Prosseda uses a Fazioli, Ashkar generates the slightly brighter sound, and perhaps an ever so slightly more refined one.  Indeed, while Ashkar chooses a similar overall pace in the first, there's greater fluidity, with more appealing legato and a gentler staccato, than Prosseda.  In the slow movements, Ashkar adopts a slightly brisker tempo and plays with a more flowing overall sound, but I can't say whether I prefer it or not.  Ashkar goes for an even quicker approach in the Presto, though his playing is sometimes not as clear as Prosseda's.  It's still most delightful.  The second concerto benefits even more from the Gewandhaus band's extra heft, while Ashkar offers more of the same overall approach.  Prosseda may offer a bit more drive in the conclusion, but Ashkar offers more refinement.   

Forced to choose a favorite disc, it would probably be the Ashkar disc, but part of that comes down to Chailly and the fillers.  Comparing just concertos Ashkar may again get the nod, but only slightly.  Best to have both. 
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Brian on June 02, 2019, 07:25:42 AM
Hmmm, very interesting, thank you. I have Perahia for the concertos and Szell for Dream - a pretty good situation to be in. But if the Chailly CD is priced to sell, why not have the best and the other best?
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 08, 2019, 05:10:27 AM
(https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/71v6P-locIL._SS425_.jpg)


The fourth volume in Baglini's Schumann survey offers more of the same of what came before.  The disc opens with Fantasiestücke, Op 12, and the first two pieces offer bold stylistic contrasts, with an exceedingly gentle and dreamy Eusebius in Des Abends and a fiery, impulsive, explosive Florestan in Aufschwung.  And so it goes throughout, with some nice highlights.  Grillen is purposely clunky and exaggerated, and In der Nacht takes very seriously the "with passion" instruction.  Baglini tends to go somewhat or fully to extremes within pieces, as both Fabel and Traumes Wirren demonstrate so those wanting more even keel Schumann may want something else.  I'm not sure I want my Schumann to be even keel.  Anyway, Baglini delivers the goods. 

Next comes the title track, as it were.  While Baglini is no slouch, there are other more beautiful, dreamy versions out there, and here the tendency to push the Florestan bits make the piece a bit larger scale than I often prefer.  (I gotta say, after hearing Yefim Bronfman play the piece as an encore, where he made it abundantly clear from his playing that this is a piece he adores, the recordings I've listened to since sound a bit too studio-bound and not quite sincere enough.)  The Three Romances, Op 28 follow, and the outer pieces are bold and sometimes clangorous, but the middle piece (Einfach) sounds dreamy and irresistibly beautiful.  Most excellent.  The little without opus Ahnung is nicely handled, as well. 

Then comes the disc closer, one of Schumann's great works, Gesänge der Frühe, Op 133.  Starting with a dark, rich, and as played, almost organ-like texture, Baglini keeps the sound tranquil as directed.  The pianist actually keeps much of his playing under wraps for the second piece, not going over the top, instead offering accenting of just the right amount.  Excellent.  The third movement Lebhaft is unabashedly extroverted and heavy but springy.  The fourth movement is likewise extroverted in nature, with Baglini playing with a headlong style through most of the piece.  The piece ends with a slow, somber Im Anfange ruhiges, im Verlauf bewegtes Tempo, in which the pianist establishes a dreamy but even less stable than normal feel which works quite well.  I'm not sure he rises to the best versions out there (Anderszewski, say), but Baglini delivers a fine version in his ongoing complete survey.  I look forward to the next disc.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 15, 2019, 04:50:48 AM
(https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/711R4mdUUmL._SS425_.jpg)


At last, Roberto Prosseda's Mozart sonata cycle is complete*.  And it offers more of the same.  The opening pages of the Allegro of K333 sparkle, with Prosseda tossing in his personal rubato and accents, and the Vallotti tuned Fazioli again sounds impossibly beautiful.  This beauty is further exploited in the Andante cantabile, which manages to sound ravishing when Prosseda plays staccato, albeit gently, and one eagerly listens as Prosseda offers a glorious eleven minutes and change of playing.  He caps off the sonata with a playful Allegretto grazioso.  A good start.  Next comes the K475/K457 super-sonata.  The Fantasia starts off by taking advantage of the Fazioli's powerful and clean sound down low, and Prosseda plays the movement with nice amounts of drama and power, offering something of a middle ground between Anderszewski and YES in terms of heft and intensity.  The sonata proper is lighter in mien, with crisp articulation and, at least in the Allegro assai, some delightfully sharp sounding high register playing.  I tend to prefer a bit more bite to the sonata overall, but Prosseda delivers a quite nice version.  Comparatively better, meaning it kicks butt, is K533/494.  Prosseda plays with something approaching insouciance in the Allegro, and again, the at times bright sound of the Fazioli aids and abets the artist's vision, and Prosseda once again delivers a full-length, every repeat included slow movement that allows the listener to wallow in the sonic goodness.     

Disc two starts with one of the greatest ever recordings of K545.  I mean, this cycle has had some high highlights to this point, but this single sonata alone justifies the whole project.  Prosseda delivers such a silky, beautiful tone, and he embellishes so freely but tastefully, and he injects such a sense of joy to the Allegro, that it simply charms.  Prosseda then plays the Andante with immense beauty, and perhaps moves beyond the confines of classicism more than a bit, but who cares?  And the Rondo, well, the Rondo is pure joy start to finish, with a nicely accented coda.  K570 follows, and the fairly heavily embellished Allegro is higher energy than K545, and almost sounds like a perpetuum mobile movement, with the accompaniment keeping things of track.  The Adagio is taken very slowly and may at times actually be too beautiful.  Nah.  The Allegretto is fun and plucky, with Prosseda poking out many of the notes with a delightful staccato and bass notes weighted just so.  Very nice.  The final sonata starts with an Allegro that again delights, though some of the playing starts to just a bit congested at times.  Prosseda returns to his almost too beautiful playing in the Adagio, and he adds a bit of forlorn drama, and it sounds just nifty.  The extra-bright and crisp Allegretto ends the sonata and cycle in outstanding fashion.  Throw in the Sonata Movement K312 as a bold and pointed encore, and one gets a twofer of no little accomplishment.

Prosseda's final installment of his Mozart set matches up to the standard set by the first two volumes.  Due to the instrument and tuning, the set sounds just a bit different, a bit novel, when compared to other sets.  That alone may make it worth hearing.  The pianist's individual and at times idiosyncratic playing, along with the at times immense levels of aural beauty he conjures, are what make the set worth hearing in the end.  This is not The One, the definitive set of the sonatas, but it is fantastic.  Between Prosseda, Dumont, Mauser, Say, and of course Endres and Youn, one could almost say we are living in the best time ever for Mozart fans.  (JK, for Lili Kraus, if for no other reason.)  This newest complete cycle makes me look forward to future Mozart sonata cycles.

Sound quality is even better than the real thing.



* And wouldn't you know it, but only a matter of months after releasing the third volume, Decca Italy is set to issue a discounted price three volume set.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: MickeyBoy on June 15, 2019, 01:04:28 PM
We hoi polloi want to know how to purchase this new 3-vol set. TIA.
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: Todd on June 15, 2019, 01:34:42 PM
We hoi polloi want to know how to purchase this new 3-vol set. TIA.


Amazon Italy: https://www.amazon.it/Sonate-Pianoforte-Complete-Box-Cd/dp/B07SDKWRJB/ref=sr_1_12?fst=as%3Aoff&qid=1560638033&refinements=p_n_date%3A510382031&rnid=412601031&s=music&sr=1-12
Title: Re: The Italian Invasion
Post by: MickeyBoy on June 16, 2019, 07:29:31 AM
thanks - it should be released soon.