COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Chopin,Debussy,Liszt & Ravel,Schumann
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Michelangeli Ð The Vatican Recordings
WORKS: Images Book 1; Images Book 2; Préludes, Book 1; Piano Concerto No. 5
PERFORMER: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano); RAI SO Rome/Massimo Freccia, Gianandrea Gavazzeni
CATALOGUE NO: 999.001 ADD mono (distr. Complete Record Co.)
Michelangeli died in June at the age of 75. What no obituary quite dared say was that he sacrificed art to technique. I listened to these live performances given at the Vatican on various occasions from 1960 to 1987 with fascinated horror. His Holiness Himself could not be more infallible. But Michelangeli’s precision leaves no room for imagination. Despite odd examples of licence, like spreading chords in Debussy’s ‘Hommage à Rameau’ and staggering the hands in Ravel’s ‘Le Gibet’, Michelangeli nails the sounds rigidly to the text and the result is music-making at its most ponderous and heartless.
The first of the four discs was recorded in 1987, very close, and the dynamic range is drastically restricted. On disc 2 the Debussy Préludes recorded in 1977 are still woollier, and on discs 3 and 4, concerto recordings from 1960 and 1962 are boxy, like an old radio. I wonder what Pope John XXIII thought of Liszt’s silly romp around the Dies irae. Adrian Jack