Notes and Editorial Reviews
Although Aldo Ciccolini is best known by way of his acclaimed late-1960s Erik Satie cycle for EMI, his repertoire ranges far and wide, with pitstops a-plenty off the beaten path. EMI's "Les Introuvables d'Aldo Ciccolini" resuscitates some of the pianist's long-out-of-print recordings, which showcase his eclectic proclivities. Disc One commences with a charming Chabrier group. Under Ciccolini's nimble fingers the Bourrée fantasque sounds easier to play than it actually is, and he tears into Camille Chevillard's hefty "de-orchestration" of España like a hungry tiger. It's good to hear the familiar Scherzo-Valse in context with the nine Pièces pittoresques that proceed it. Filling out the disc are selections from Ciccolini's pioneering mono Satie disc. Good as the Gymnopédies and Gnossienes are, I prefer the pianist's slightly more refined stereo and digital remakes, but retain affection for his burly 3 Morceaux en forme de poire, for which Ciccolini plays duets with himself via overdubbing.
Ciccolini projects Grieg's early Sonata, a handful of Lyric Pieces, and the underrated G minor Ballade with a kind of dry-eyed demeanor and nervous energy that, coincidentally or not, mirrors Grieg's self-interpretations. On the other hand, Ciccolini's finicky, short-breathed phrasing throughout much of Schubert's sublime B-flat Sonata (D. 960, Op. Posthumous) undermines the music's visionary largesse and lyric beauty. There's nothing gingerly about the pianist's rabble-rousing fingerwork in a mesmerizing Scarlatti sonata group and selection from Rossini's way-undervalued Sins of my Old Age.
Hard core pianophiles might register disappointment that the final disc is given over to Debussy and Ravel chansons, however I'm more than impressed with Ciccolini's individual yet sympathetic accompanying prowess that provides a solid base for Janine Micheau's attractive, peppercorn soprano in a well-programmed Debussy group. And Jean-Christoph Benoit's light-timbred baritone is perfectly suited to Ravel's prismatic sound world, especially in the Histoires Naturelles. In the main, this collection has something for everyone, and its budget price won't break your bank. If it sells, perhaps EMI will be enticed to reissue Ciccolini's late-'70s Liszt recital, including stunning performances of the two St. François Legends. Or maybe they'll bundle the pianist's Debussy and Satie cycles into bargain boxes to ring in his 75th birthday year. Are you listening, EMI?
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com