The Italian Invasion

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Todd_A

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #20 on: 3 Feb 2016, 01:24 am »





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

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

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

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


Todd_A

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #21 on: 6 Feb 2016, 02:31 pm »







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

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

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

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

Superb, warm sound throughout.

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

Todd_A

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Re: The Italian Invasion
« Reply #22 on: 24 Apr 2016, 07:36 pm »




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

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

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

Top shelf sound.