“Aldo Ciccolini plays 13 Valses”= CHABRIER: Feuillet d’album; CHOPIN: Valse, Op. 34, No. 2; PIERNE: Viennoise; SIBELIUS: Valse triste; GRIEG: Souvenirs, Op. 71, No. 7; SATIE: Je te veux; SEVERAC: Valse romantique; TAILLEFERRE: Valse lente; SCHUBERT: Kupelwieser-Walzer; DEBUSSY: La plus que lente; MASSENET: Valse tres lente; BRAHMS: Valse in A-flat; FAURE: Valse-Caprice No. 3, Op. 59 – Aldo Ciccolini, p. – La Dolce Volta LDV 13, 58:26 (12/13/13) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
As organized by pianist Aldo Ciccolini (b. 1925), this assemblage of waltzes (rec. 21-24 May 2013) “amused [him] to mix and match all these different pieces, some of them serious, others very tuneful and even popular.” Ciccolini, performing on his Yamaha instrument, lovingly creates an “invitation du voyage” of personal memoirs in music, recorded in stunning piano sound by Francois Eckert.
The exquisitely nostalgic ripples begin with Chabrier’s dulcet Album Leaf, followed by Chopin’s A Minor Waltz, the very first such piece Ciccolini performed as a child. Ciccolini intends for the most extended works – Faure’s Valse-Caprice and Pierne’s suite Viennoise, Op. 49bis – to serve as the “pillars” of this recital. The Pierne suite reflects both the Paris salon and the night-life sensibility of the Folies Bergere, at once. Liquid and erotic, the harmonies lilt of Vienna while hinting of transcendental pleasures.
Ciccolini has always harbored a special affection for the music of Edvard Grieg, and the Efterklang (“Remembrance sounds”) from the last set of Lyric Pieces recalls the Arietta from Book I, Op. 12. Ciccolini’s strong ties to the piano music of Erik Satie became public domain over fifty years ago: for Ciccolini, Je te veux nobly retains “its powers of seduction, its cabaret aspect.” Ciccolini considers Deodat de Severac’s music “the spirit of rural France.” Severac’s Valse romantique projects an elusive quality, syncopated and capable of sudden onrushes of energy and varied textures.
Schubert’s Kupelwieser Walzer owes its existence to a score the composer had presented to a painter, Leopold Kupelwieser. Richard Strauss harmonized the few but tender bars of this passing moment of lyricism. Ciccolini calls Debussy’s La plus que lente “a piece [that] does not age.” Simple in its means, melancholy, and sensual, the Debussy piece brings to Ciccolini memories of Marguerite Long and her association with the composer, and who played the sad waltz for Ciccolini by request. The essence of “popular charm” suffuses Massenet’s Valse tres lente, a plaintive, subtly Iberian work that proceeds melodically over a persistent bass pattern. The last of the explicitly “sad waltzes” comes to us via Sibelius and his famous Valse triste, a composition Ciccolini has added to his repertory relatively recently. Though we may miss the colors the orchestra alone provides, the lilting piece retains its haunted, stop-in-the breath character in the keyboard transcription.
The last triptych establishes Faure’s Valse-Caprice No. 3 in G-flat Major, Op. 59 as the fulcrum upon which the remaining two pieces rely. Ciccolini admits he would like to record the thirteen nocturnes by this highly individual French composer. Ciccolini cedes the fact the Faure’s harmonically intricate music does not fit easily under the hands, but he brings off the passionate piece with an easy, natural panache. The best-known of the Brahms set of Waltzes, Op. 39, the No. 15 in A-flat Major expresses a tight-lipped, mournful simplicity. Ciccolini concludes with a little, perfumed waltz by Germaine Tailleferre, a charming piece that already seems to be evaporating even as it plangently proceeds.