Janáček: Sonata, From the Street, 1.x.1905; On the Overgrown Path; In the Mists; Reminiscence; Zdenka Variations

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COMPOSERS: Janacek
LABELS: Soupir ƒdition
WORKS: Sonata, From the Street, 1.x.1905; On the Overgrown Path; In the Mists; Reminiscence; Zdenka Variations
PERFORMER: Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: S 202 (distr. abeillemusique.com)

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Aldo Ciccolini has long been associated with French music, so his enthusiasm for Janácek is a pleasant surprise. He came to his piano music through seeing the opera Jenufa and then hearing the playing of Janácek’s pupil Rudolf Firkušný, which for obvious reasons is always taken as the touchstone. András Schiff’s much more recent recording on ECM is, however, an attractive alternative. Now in his late seventies, Ciccolini doesn’t sound like an elderly pianist at all and brings to this profoundly personal music a sense of smouldering intensity which occasionally bursts into flame. The piano is a Fazioli, with a very brilliant, rather hard sound which can become wearing. The resonant recording suits the mysterious atmosphere of In the Mists and the two cycles called On the Overgrown Path in particular, but it has picked up a faint thud from the pedal action throughout, which you can only try to ignore. The early Zdenka Variations, which complete the disc, are hardly recognisable as Janácek and serve to point up the astounding originality of the musical language he had developed by the time of the 1905 Sonata.

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