Michelangeli's and Bolet's Carnaval, the latter on Decca, share a number of great virtues and minor limitations. The scale of their playing is grand and imperious, without any of the forced quality heard from various young or middle-aged pretenders; their intimate confiding is as free from eccentricity as their public declamation is free from hysteria. On the other hand at comparatively late stages in their careers neither is prepared to take on pieces like "Paganini" with the reckless abandon they once might have displayed; and the calculation behind their rubato can make them sound either puritanical (Bolet) or mannered (Michelangeli).
So if you are looking for mistiness or susceptibility in your Schumann it wouldRead more be best to steer clear—Michelangeli is as charmless in "Chiarina" as Bolet is stolid in "Eusebius", and neither is a spontaneous "Coquette". But if you are prepared to grant that no single performance can be all-embracing you can find formidably articulate pianism and interpretative wisdom in both of these.
...Michelangeli sets Carnaval in the framework of three extracts from the Album fur die Jugend—the "Sailor's Song" and the two "Wintertime" pieces—presumably because the last of these contains a pointed reminiscence of Carnaval's "March of the Davidsbündler".
-- Gramophone [7/1988] reviewing the original CD release of the Schumann recordings, EMI 49325, along with Bolet, Decca 417401
The Bach, recorded in 1948, is...a superb performance notable not only for its staggering digital control (few other pianists can offer this level of detail and precision), but also for its wide-ranging color and touch (from steel to soufflé) and for its often shocking (but always compelling) bending of the tempos. The Brahms (recorded, also in 1948, with Michelangeli’s own excisions and re-orderings) is similarly impressive as it leaps effortlessly from the hard-boiled to the feathery. Both performances, even when the rubato is extreme, have a kind of forward momentum entirely absent from Carnaval.
-- Peter J. Rabinowitz, FANFARE [9/2004] Read less
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