Pianist Aldo Ciccolini in Recital and in Concert

by | Jul 25, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Pianist Aldo Ciccolini in Recital and in Concert

Program: SATIE: Gymnopedie No. 1; Tyrolienne turque; Dane maigre;
Espanana; Embryons desseches; DEBUSSY: Suite Bergamasque; RAVEL: Pavane
pour une infante defunte; RACHMANINOV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor:
Allegro  (with Orchestre Radio-Canada/Ernesto Barbini)
Studio: VAI DVD 4338
Video: 4:3  Color/B&W  
Audio: PCM Mono
Length: 52 minutes
Rating: ****

Pianist Aldo Ciccolini first came to my attention with his EMI LP
35421, a selection of keyboard works by that most irreverent satirist
of music, Erik Satie (1866-1935).  Mr. Ciccolini’s 4 February 1979
solo recital at the Baldwin SD-10 includes a group of works by the
witty and laconic master, including the Gymnopedie No. 1 and two wild
parodies, the Espanana, which chops up Chabrier’s homage to Spain; and
the second section of Desiccated Embryos, the d’Edriophthalma, which
does some injustice to the middle section of Chopin’s famous Funeral
March from the B-flat Sonata.  The Satie pieces, excepting the
opening Gymnopedie, tend to be rather percussive, rhythmically tricky
pieces asking much of the left hand, which Ciccolini palms off with a
marked degree of sang froid. That Mr. Ciccolini absolutely resembles
actor Armand Assante’s half brother should endear him to those who like
musicians to be matinee idols.

The pearly aspects of Mr. Ciccolini’s art emerge in the Debussy, where
after a staid, marcato Menuet, the Clair de Lune basks in warm and
deliberate tempos, shimmering arpeggios, and deft pedaling. The camera
completely detaches the pianist’s hands for the fnal Passepied, which
films as a true dialogue among ten dextrous and songful fingers. The
Ravel Pavane captures Ciccolini’s meditative temperament and capacity
for making ravishing washes of sound or moments of wistful and dreamy
longing. The declamatory passages are still a bit percussive to my
taste, but Ciccolini’s upper register is French cream. The background
for the recital, by the way, is an expressionistic assemblage of wooden
or cardboard boxes, which makes a severe contrast with the black
mahogany of the Baldwin.

A lean and youthful Aldo Ciccolini graces the keyboard for the 5
January 1956 performance of the Rachmaninov opening movement of the
Third Concerto. The black & white camera reaches over the pianist’s
right shoulder to capture his supple finger work. Ciccolini’s playing
is in the literalist, hard-patina mode (on another Baldwin) that might
make him the French equivalent of America’s John Browning. Some elegant
superimposition of images, featuring the work of the pianist’s fourth
and little fingers with the entering bassoon solo, makes for
interesting visuals. We don’t get much of conductor Barbini, who comes
off as a competent time-beater. The show is all Ciccolini’s, with
shoulder, elbow and wrist each making its visual presence known, then a
pull-back for medium shots of a very intense, athletic young Frenchman.
The playing acquires a febrile, passionate texture as the momentum
increases. The cadenza is a cut version, but it allows Ciccolini to
show off some deft fioritura and elegant block chords. Ciccolini made
his New York Philharmonic debut around this time with Dimitri
Mitropoulos, and I would love to have a video or CD record of that
collaboration. Meanwhile, admirers of this durable and versatile artist
should thoroughly enjoy these rare images, while movie producers may
lament their having missed a potential rival to Alain Delon.

–Gary Lemco

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