Clementi, Ravel, Chopin

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Clementi,Ravel
LABELS: Music and Arts
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B flat, Op. 12/1; Gaspard de la nuit; Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat
PERFORMER: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-955 AAD
By common consent Michelangeli was an all-time great among pianists, with a technique that made the hair stand on end, but his interpretations were notoriously erratic, and he clearly believed that second subjects and trio sections called for slower tempi and an elastic handling of rhythm. This CD is of a 1959 London recital, so the Chopin Sonata is a different performance from the Praga reissue reviewed last month. But the interpretation is much the same – an unjustified pull-back for the opening movement’s second subject, and a trio section in the scherzo which is so slow and rhythmically distorted that it sounds almost like another piece.

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The Clementi Sonata is less idiosyncratic, with scintillating fingerwork in the opening Presto and gentle rubato at appropriate moments, but Michelangeli, typically, plays only eight of Clementi’s 11 last-movement variations, and those in an order different from the composer’s.

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Gaspard is a supreme test of any pianist’s technique and stamina, but nothing fazes Michelangeli. He plays ‘Ondine’ fast, but it doesn’t sound hurried. The melody lines are beautifully picked out, the balance superbly calculated. My star rating for performance reflects the interpretative waywardness, not the technique, which is quite beyond praise. Wadham Sutton