MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major; Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor – Dino Ciani, piano/ Orchestra Sinfonica A. Scarlatti della RAI di Napoli/ Barbirolli (K. 503)/ Orchestra Sinfonica A. Scarlatti RAI di Torino/ Piero Bellugi – Arts

by | Feb 19, 2007 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503; Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 – Dino Ciani, piano/ Orchestra Sinfonica A. Scarlatti della RAI di Napoli/ Sir John Barbirolli (K. 503)/ Orchestra Sinfonica A. Scarlatti RAI di Torino/ Piero Bellugi 

Arts 43082-2, 64:28 (Distrib. Albany) ****:

Remasterings of two vintage Mozart concerts by the late Italian virtuoso Dino Ciani (1941-1974), whose star shone brightly for the duration of his active career until a fatal car accident took him from us. A pupil of Cortot, Ciani was admired in the music of Bartok, Liszt, Chopin, Debussy, and Hummel; his Mozart remained less well known. The performance of the Mozart K. 503 with guest-conductor John Barbirolli has prior appeared on CD in the edition from Stradivarius (STR 100050). The sound on the Arts instantiation is much improved, and the piano has a more natural voicing without sonic slurs in tone. That the two performers utilized a scholastically discredited edition of the concerto should not keep collectors away.

The playing by Ciani (1 or 5 January 1968) of such a hugely-mounted Mozart concerto attests to Ciani’s ambition and digital fortitude. The piece lavishes any number of runs and Mannheim rockets on the solo part, while the orchestra takes us through the sequence of affects–risoluto, espessivo, dolce, and scherzando–in that order. Lovely serenity for the cantabile elements: flute, French horn, and piano, in the Andante, with Ciani’s consistent application of free rhythm in the relaxed passagework. Liquid phrasing and an exalted, singing tone make the collaboration worth seeking. The sonic definition of the finale: Allegretto enjoys the most reverberant upgrade, with the supporting winds and strings breathing an entirely new airiness into the mix. Clean oboe solo under Ciani’s deft runs, the string basses a-throb. Three big chords and we are in the midst of a real Romantic’s Mozart, all creamy luster. Musicbox precision for the ritornello, then spit-fire fioritura, a real showcase for all the principals.

Ciani had performed the Mozart D Minor Concerto in 1970 Milan with Gavazzeni; this performance with Bellugi is from Turin 28 January 1972. Again, Ciani relishes the opportunity to slow down the pulse and bask in Mozart’s harmonies. In a memoir by Gavazzeni, the conductor recalled how Ciani loved “the study of phrasing, legaturas, and dynamic contrasts between the soloist and the orchestra.” Ciani’s staccati are hard, percussive, crisp, so that the ensuing legato runs stand in bold contrast. Some real grumbling just prior to the recapitulation, the tremolando strings quivering with agitation. The tumultuousness of the performance makes the piece an addendum to Don Giovanni. Nice oboe and bassoon work to underscore Ciani’s thrilling runs and octave statements of the main theme. Beethoven’s cadenza by Ciani literally captures one’s breath; when he was “on” the kid had the same magic as our own Willy Kapell. The Romanza proves dreamy a la Schumann until the central section, taken at a devilish pace. The B-flat episode, however, Ciani plays in a purely unembellished manner. The return to the opening song casts away all storm clouds, flute, winds, and strings announcing Paradise Regained. The Rondo opens with a blizzard worthy of Vivaldi Furioso, but the strings soon soften the blows, and the woodwinds know that D Major is nigh. Lovely intertwining of flute, oboe, and bassoon; it sounds like a vivacious quartet for piano and winds. Beethoven cadenza again, a bit abbreviated like the first, but rife with potent energy; and a rush with the bassoon-oboe duet to the superheated coda, tympani and trumpet contributing to a musical tempest of the highest order.

— Gary Lemco