IDI IDIS 6468/9 50:08; 69:57 (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:
Italian pianist Dino Ciani (1941-1974) was the classical music equivalent to American actor James Dean. A graduate of the Santa Cecilia Academia in Rome, Ciani became one of Alfred Cortot’s favorite proteges at his master classes in Paris, 1968-1972. Having won the Beethoven Competition in Vienna, 1962, Ciani accepted invitations to play in Montreux, Salzburg, Spoleto, and Chicago, where he performed his final concert with orchestra, playing the Beethoven C Minor Concerto under Giulini in February 1974. A month later Ciani died in a road accident 27 March 1974. His death at age 33 immediately bore sad comparisons with Ginette Neveu, Guido Cantelli, and Dinu Lipatti. The brunt of the recital dates from Teatro Manzoni in Milan, 19 January 1970.
Collectors are aware of the few but important sources of Ciani’s concert work, especially in the face of the dearth of restored commercial recordings from French Ricordi, DGG, and Dynamic. Some years ago, Stradivarius offered a 3-CD set (STR 10014/16) of taped programs from recitals, including a Brahms D Minor Concerto with Abbado and sonatas by Weber and Hummel, and the cycle of Schumann’s Novellettes, Op. 21. The Beethoven C Minor (Milan, 5 February 1968) offered as the “bonus tracks” on the present IDI set, is the same performance that had been available on the all-Beethoven disc from Hunt (Arkadia CDGI 915.1). Many of the IDI offerings are the product of the snuck-in microphone technique, devoted amateur tapings; this often untrustworthy audio source can be heard in process in Danseuses de Delphes, where the owner shifts the microphone to achieve a better piano sound. As with many live Toscanini recordings, we keep wishing the audience would cough on the beat!
Like many of the Cortot pupils, Ciani is in love with the piano’s sonorities–like Gieseking and Brailowsky–and he provides some ravishing colors for Voiles and the entire, knotty Out of Doors of Bartok, a piece Ciani championed, along with Book VI from Mikrokosmos. The D-flat Nocturne by Faure proves most gratifying for its combination of soft Watteau coloration and cleanly delineated architecture. The first five notes of Les Collines d’Anacapri tell you something, even before the tremolandi and Spanish rhythms take over. The few uninterrupted moments of the Spanish song in La serenade interrompue pulsate with hints of Sarasate. Des pas sur la neige sounds extraterrestrial. The lovely simplicity of La fille aux cheveux de lin is the very hallmark of Ciani’s own style, passionately unaffected. Ciani takes La cathedrale engloutie rather briskly, but the rising of the castle of Y’s, with its Tristan evocations, showers us with liquid pomp, mystery, and heraldry.
Ciani’s big technique makes its presence known, as in Franck’s Prelude, Chorale et Fugue, played rather in a literalist manner, but with savvy use of silences – a Cortot heritage. Ce qu’a vu le lent d’Ouest provides mighty etude for Ciani’s especial rhetoric. That Bartok’s savage Allegro barbaro follows Debussy First Book of Preludes seems proper enough, considering that of all the composers with whom Bartok could have studied in Paris, he chose the often irascible Debussy. The brilliant glitter Ciani effects from La danse de Puck parallels the hard luster he brings to the last section of Out of Doors. Ciani announces Allegro barbaro himself, and off we go on one wild ride of syncopations and sudden dynamic shifts. Granada is liquid skies and Moorish ecstasies, smooth as anything of Albeniz from Artur Rubinstein. The Grieg is rarified Mendelssohn, flighty, with a touch of Schumann’s Vogel als prophet. Some will find Ciani’s Op. 111 too glib, too mercurial a conception. For me, it has the earmarks of the young firebrand, the master of the controlled, fluid surface, mesmerized by Beethoven’s exploration of those “caverns measureless to man.” Rarely do Beethoven’s fughettas bounce with so much joie de vivre, in the manner of an Italian Gieseking. After spending two volatile hours with Ciani, we can say, as Cortot said of the late Dinu Lipatti, “You, Dino, bore a star on your brow.”