Aldo Ciccolini, piano – “Homage to DEBUSSY”

by | Oct 19, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Aldo Ciccolini, piano – “Homage to DEBUSSY”

Program: Reverie; Masques; Le plus que lente; L’Isle joyeuse; Suite
Bergamasque; Deux Arabesques; Ballade; Danse; Pour le piano suite
Studio: RAI Trade/VAI DVD 4353 
Video: 4:3 full screen color, all regions
Audio: PCM mono
Length: 77 minutes 
Rating: ****

Recorded live in concert at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan in 1987, this
all-Debussy program with Aldo Ciccolini has the aura and visual hues of
a religious ceremony – a priest delivering sacred rituals to the
votaries of music. The program divides itself neatly into groups, with
the first ending after a blazing rendition of L’isle joyeuse, whose
rousing finale elicits the first sounds from the rapt audience.
Ciccolini’s tempos are quite slow, especially for Le plus que lente and
the opening Prelude of the Suite Bergamasque; and the scrupulous
camerawork seems intent on revealing the chordal progressions as they
unfold under the pianist’s deft hands. Livio Sivini’s lighting warrants
consistent high praise. The ensuing Menuet, too, stalks, catlike,
across the keyboard, except that the left hand’s singing line
transcends the motor elements which create it, and it rises into a
lovely nocturne. Languidly, the Clair de Lune lies in its own
dream-time, with the hall being lit to emphasize the trinity of
Ciccolini’s head and torso, hands, and keyboard. Exquisite pedaling
keeps our ears on the nuances of the Passepied, belying its almost
metronomic regularity of rhythm. Applause; then the Deux Arabesques,
especially the E Major, with its distillation of modal harmony and
semi-chorale processions. The second Arabesque comes off like a
scherzino from the Moulin Rouge, perky and bittersweet, as the camera
pans back into the upper reaches of La Scala.

Applause, and the final group: Ballade, Danse, and Pour le piano. The
parlando style of the Ballade seems welded to improvised figures, bits
from Reverie, and clusters of variations on the opening motif. The
camera only pans in for the middle section; prior, it had only posed
Ciccolini in a medium shot – the master colorist at work. Then, the
camera  frames Ciccolini from center stage, with those massive,
football player’s shoulders in startling relief to the delicacy of the
sounds he creates. The Danse (Tarantelle styrienne) comes at us from
the inner action of the piano, the hammers jumping in visual
juxtaposition with the staccato fingers. The Pour le Piano suite
receives Ciccolini’s most aggressive, percussive treatment of the
evening, although this is not to deny the diaphanous aspects of his
palette. The Sarabande, however, emerges from a twilight world of sound
– a bit of Massenet, plainchant, and French folksong. The Lisztian
light hand rules in the Toccata, the camera revealing how the florid
melody rises out of the sheer bustle of the finger work. The left hand,
the crossed hands, the staid, sang-froid of the performer as he
executes some demonic runs and spans, all certify a level of artistry
in which poet and interpreter dazzle a gratified audience. Though mono,
the sound is clean and wide range.

–Gary Lemco

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