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Thread: The Italian Invasion

  1. #16
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    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.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  2. #17
    Rear Admiral Appassionata John Watt's Avatar
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    Todd! I really appreciate all the background you are supplying here,
    but I'm typing to reply to something you said, when will they be playing Italian music.
    Let's look at what you've got here, modern manufacture, re-recordings of previous sheet music.
    I'd like to see if you have some depth of background yourself,
    more than just saying you know what you like to hear. I'm seeing more than that already.
    Can you think ordinary reality, the actuality of mankind, pre-electronic?

    If a composer born in one country composes a piece while touring in another country,
    is that his country of birth's music, or the music of the country he composed it in?
    If a composer of one country composes music based on the music of another country,
    whose country is that music?
    If a composer of one country uses the instruments of another country, to blend with his sounds,
    what country of origin can that music be considered to be?
    If a symphonic recording business of one country uses equipment from another country,
    whose recordings can they be considered as origins?
    If you are sitting in one country, listening to a radio broadcast from another country,
    what country of origin is the music you are listening to?
    If you have the option of going to listen to live music being played in the same room,
    or listening to a recording where everyone involved is literally dead and gone,
    what time are you listening in?
    If a piece is composed on the piano, and is considered to be written for the piano,
    if a synthesizer or digital instrument can be equalized for more efficient and various sounds,
    that sound better as a recording, even just having Dolby noise suppression, is that still a piano piece?

    And right now, in all the entire world of music, going back to the early nineteen sixties,
    would you rather have all the royalty payments for all the symphonic classics,
    or what Thomas Dolby collects as being the most prolific seller of noise suppression effects?
    Is that wrong? Is it still about the songs?

    I am of Gaelic descent, and can only comment on Italians and the Holy Roman Empire.
    If you notice the word "italic", the slanting of letters to add dramatic effect,
    that's a very appropriate expression in the English language.
    Call it all roads lead to Rome road rage if you want.
    Here's a Jimi thing, where I'm at, and he also designed his font, fotos and artwork himself.
    When you type the alphabet, or just write it out, it's a natural thing for you, isn't it?
    That's because that's probably all you do.
    But try to pretend you are making the letters big and filling them in.
    You should notice right away that almost all the inside curves, big and small,
    are so easy to do with your left-hand, lefties must have designed them.

    Your left brain might be needed to answer some of my questions.
    I know I had to get down with your right-handed attitude.
    I never thought I'd be posting in this forum, but you inspired me.

  3. #18
    Captain of Water Music
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Watt View Post
    ...or what Thomas Dolby collects as being the most prolific seller of noise suppression effects?


    I assume you meant Ray Dolby, the engineer, rather than Thomas Dolby, the musician, yes?

    Anyway, my motivation for this thread was described in the first post.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  4. #19
    Rear Admiral Appassionata John Watt's Avatar
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    Hey! I'm a pre-Dolby kinda guy, so it's not just a middle-aged moment forgetting Dolby the inventor,
    when you're right, Thomas Dolby was pumped into my ears for so long,
    blinded by his own science.

    Too bad you're incapable, or just disinterested enough, to not answer even one of my questions,
    all based on your input here.

    The universe is expansive. Life is finite. John Watt, magle.dk
    Last edited by John Watt; Apr-27-2016 at 03:06.

  5. #20
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    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.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  6. #21
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    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.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

  7. #22
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    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.

    The universe is change, life is opinion. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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