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Notes and Editorial Reviews
MOZART Fantasy No. 4 in c. Piano Sonatas Nos. 12, 14. CLEMENTI Piano Sonata in g, Op. 34/2 • Aldo Ciccolini (pn) • LA DOLCE VOLTA 06 (70:57)
No one could accuse Aldo Ciccolini, on the strength of this record, of being wishy-washy or thinking like the herd when it comes to Mozart or Clementi. No siree. Here we have the octogenarian pianist attacking the music of both of these 18th-century composer-pianists as if they had Beethoven and
Schubert on their minds when they wrote it. Ciccolini’s attack is bold, dynamic, dramatic, and emotionally charged. He plays these pieces as if his life depended on it. He makes them interesting—so much so that I’m now wishing that he has the time and the inclination to record all of the Mozart sonatas.
Some of the roots of his musical philosophy may be found in a quote in the booklet: “One thing is certain, and I believe this profoundly, all of Mozart’s music is music for the theater. There are always characters, and this makes playing Mozart’s sonatas much more difficult than if you were approaching them as merely sonatas. You have to picture characters, dramatic situations.” And Ciccolini certainly finds drama in this music. Listen, for instance, to the opening movement of the famous Sonata No. 12 in F: After the first flourish, which he plays like a brief prelude, Ciccolini is all over the music, thumping out bass notes with impunity and attacking the right-hand part with dramatic flair. The galante-style interludes are treated almost like “Deh vieni alla finestra” from Don Giovanni. Yep—Mozart’s theatricality is all there. It might also be noted that, for the most part, Ciccolini plays at tempos a shade slower than you may be used to, in order to emphasize “clarity and a certain logic.” They certainly do work.
Nor is Ciccolini’s approach reserved for Mozart. Muzio Clementi, whose playing Mozart complained of as “mechanical,” is approached with enthusiasm and reverence by Ciccolini, particularly the canon in the final Molto allegro. But there is much more to Ciccolini’s playing of this piece than just the canon; as he states in the notes, he is particularly fond of the slow movement as “some of the purest pages of classicism.” Coming as it does between the two Mozart sonatas, it provides an interesting, Italianate contrast.
This disc is so good, in fact, that it’s almost on another level from nearly all the CDs I’ve reviewed so far this issue. The others are climbing up the mountain, trying to find their balance between what they feel and what they are told people want to hear, namely chaste, clean, and relatively featureless performances. Ciccolini is on top of the mountain looking down, and he doesn’t much care who’s climbing up. He’s found his footing, and he’s ready to give people the benefit of his years of thought, practice, and feeling of these pieces.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Mozart and Clementi may have been serious rivals, yet Aldo Ciccolini lavishes equal amounts of loving care and seriousness of purpose on their respective sonatas. Compared alongside his early 1990s Mozart cycle interpretations on the Koch Discovery label (long out of print, unfortunately), Ciccolini’s K. 332 and K. 475/457 Fantasy and Sonata have grown slower, starker, more dynamically contrasted without sounding extreme or contrived, and more refined in detail. The C minor sonata first movement’s trills and roulades boast impressive finesse, as do the recapitulation’s broken chords, while the central slow movement’s exquisitely shaded right-hand legato line is supported by a subtly contoured left-hand Alberti bass that assiduously points up harmonic felicities.
At 87, Ciccolini still can toss off K. 332’s virtuosic finale with sparkle and sheen, although the 88-year-old Earl Wild’s recording is a bit crisper and lighter in texture. However, Ciccolini’s lyrical, songful shaping of the Clementi G minor sonata’s surface bravura liberates the music from the square-cut barlines: listen to the finale’s gorgeously aligned repeated-note phrases, for example. The pianist also hammers out the first-movement introduction with an almost crude defiance that makes you sit up and take notice. The engineering is full-bodied and alive, but loud passages sound more metallic and monochrome than what you usually hear from this pianist in person. In any event, Ciccolini’s remarkable artistic Indian Summer shows no signs of waning.
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
K 475 in depth March 30, 2013
By John Patrick Dickson See All My Reviews
"This is just a short review. I have been listening to Mozart's piano music for over 80 years and do not claim to be a musicologist but I know what I like. Can the performer play ?- can I hear the notes in the rapid passages - are they even and do they accurately follow the scored dynamics of the passage. Is the recording lucid transparent and of sufficient dynamic range ?. Transparent as opposed to muddy. My favourite Mozart pianist is Arthur Rubenstein but perhaps that dates me. Does the choice of tempo suit me ? Is the player and enthusiast ? or with a wooden mathematical soul ?. Finally does the performer clearly love the music played - there's the real soul of the music - has it dug out his/her emotions or not ? I loved this recording and would give it all the stars in the firmament. ----------The following is not part of this review.--------- I am an admiring listener of King FM and when I click buy CD on the Keys channel your site comes up but not the CD I clicked on. Just a bit more integration required here - GOOD LUCK."