Author Topic: The Italian Invasion  (Read 41249 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #140 on: June 13, 2020, 03:08:10 AM »



Rarely do I focus on the liner notes of a recording.  I just don't care.  Most of the time, I don't even read them, and now that I buy more downloads than optical discs, I either don't get notes or never even look at them.  For this physical media purchase, though, I decided to take a peek.  Maurizio Baglini penned notes extending to fourteen booklet pages for Schumann's Album für die Jugend.  He provides a separate written description for each of the sixty-two tracks on the two discs, in addition to a short essay preamble.  Baglini put a lot of thought and effort into this recording, and it shows.  While the music remains simple and direct, Baglini's playing does occasionally veer into the romantic and perhaps slightly overcooked when it comes to high level dynamics.  On the flip-side, the quiet playing he coaxes from his Fazioli is quite beautiful and at times sweet.  Overall, this recording of these works is probably the most enjoyable in my collection, more so than even Michael Endres'. 

If and when Baglini finishes his Schumann cycle, assuming the quality level stays the same as the releases to date, it will be my preferred complete set among the three I will own - le Sage and Ciocarlie being the others - and it is much better than my memories of the Demus set I offloaded years ago.

SOTA+ sound.

The recording more than makes up for the terrible trousers and boots pictured on the cover.  (Seriously, dude.)
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #141 on: June 20, 2020, 05:07:12 AM »



Giuseppe Albanese is a pianist I feel compelled to watch and listen to just to hear what he does next.  He started his DG Italia career with a disc of Austro-Germanic fare, then switched to Liszt - ranging from one of the most dazzling recitals from the last decade to a somewhat disappointing set of concertos - then moved on to this, a disc of transcriptions of dance or dance-themed pieces.  As an artist, he places a premium on showing off what he can do, which is fine, because he can do quite a lot. 

Before settling in for a complete listen to this disc, I started by listening to Herbert Schuch's recording of Weber's Invitation to the Dance, heretofore my reference for this piece.  (Weird, I know, to have a reference of this piece.)  In it's 8'19", Schuch packs rhythmic snap, clean articulation, lightness and weight in perfect measure, in a performance that flows and sounds lovely.  Albanese opts for the Carl Tausig transcription, and thus for something rather different.  The opening is more relaxed, more precious, and more focused on minute effects than rhythmic snap.  And what effects.  The trills, glissandi, and dancing figurations sparkle with the Fazioli's high end.  And then a grand arpeggio leads to the main dancing theme, lazy and lilting.  Albanese just can't but show off the upper registers of the playing, just as he cannot help but show off the swelling dynamics the instrument can generate.  And he also, because he can, shows how to play with not one, not two, but seemingly three or four dynamic ranges at once.  He can only pull off this prestidigitation by adopting his tempi of choice.  (Or maybe not; maybe he could do it playing crazy fast.)  It is garish virtuosity of the highest, most cultured sort. 

Next up is Ernst von Dohnanyi's transcription of the waltz from Leo Delibes' Coppelia.  As undanceable as a waltz can be, Albanese hams it up again.  Given the nature of the music and transcription, hoping for something more doesn't seem reasonable.  He uses the Magic Merlin Fazioli for this piece, and the Debussy transcription to come, and the sonic differences between instruments are subtle but noticeable. 

Next comes Mikhail Pletnev's transcription of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.  Pletnev's version seems to be comparatively popular among virtuoso pianists, and with good reason.  Here Albanese takes full advantage of the quick upper register decays and the low register heft, and he plays with enough rhythmic good sense to fully support his glittering and punchy playing of the music.  And if one wants to hear a piano fill a listening space as well as nearly any orchestral recording, this is it, in the Pas de deux.  Seriously, this would make as good a test track for super-speakers as any piano recording I have ever heard.

Next comes the transcription of Stravinsky's The Firebird by none other than Guido Agosti.  Here, the instrument and Albanese's ability to generate a massive and flawlessly controlled sonority generate excitement and heat sufficient to singe one's ear hair, whether using speakers or cans.  Just when one thinks the opening Danse infernale is where it's at, along comes the Berceuse that makes one want to hear what Albanese might do with Messiaen.  Yep, the Finale is a quasi-almost-actual-orchestral transcription.  Nice.

At this point in critical listening, it was time to take a little break and switch to Yukio Yokoyama playing his own transcription of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune.  Unabashedly pianistic, bright, and colorful, Yokoyama writes to his cool strengths, as he shudders out some passages, and dispatches runs and forte chords with precision, speed and accuracy.  It loses the atmospheric effects of the proper version, but how could it not?  Albanese uses Leonard Borwick's transcription, and this one does a better job of creating a languid, hazy atmosphere, though the radical nature of the original is lost.  As the piece progresses, Albanese's massive sonority again takes on a more orchestral than it should sound, and his wide dynamic range helps immensely, as does the warmer sounding piano. 

The disc closes with Ravel's La Valse.  There are other virtuosic performances in the catalog, but none with as much power or garish but effective nonchalance.  Albanese makes a meal of the piece, rushing, swelling, pounding, whispering, even strumming the strings.  There's fin de siècle excess aplenty, and Albanese never sounds rough or unready.

This recording is most decidedly not one for those seeking deep piano playing.  It is a very fine recording for those who, at least from time to time, want to revel in virtuosity for the sake of virtuosity.

SOTA++ sound from the Fazioli Concert Hall. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General