Aldo Ciccolini: 87 Years Young

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 8

Mozart and Clementi may have been serious rivals, yet Aldo Ciccolini lavishes equal amounts of loving care and seriousness of purpose on their respective sonatas. Compared alongside his early 1990s Mozart cycle interpretations on the Koch Discovery label (long out of print, unfortunately), Ciccolini’s K. 332 and K. 475/457 Fantasy and Sonata have grown slower, starker, more dynamically contrasted without sounding extreme or contrived, and more refined in detail. The C minor sonata first movement’s trills and roulades boast impressive finesse, as do the recapitulation’s broken chords, while the central slow movement’s exquisitely shaded right-hand legato line is supported by a subtly contoured left-hand Alberti bass that assiduously points up harmonic felicities.

At 87, Ciccolini still can toss off K. 332’s virtuosic finale with sparkle and sheen, although the 88-year-old Earl Wild’s recording is a bit crisper and lighter in texture. However, Ciccolini’s lyrical, songful shaping of the Clementi G minor sonata’s surface bravura liberates the music from the square-cut barlines: listen to the finale’s gorgeously aligned repeated-note phrases, for example. The pianist also hammers out the first-movement introduction with an almost crude defiance that makes you sit up and take notice. The engineering is full-bodied and alive, but loud passages sound more metallic and monochrome than what you usually hear from this pianist in person. In any event, Ciccolini’s remarkable artistic Indian Summer shows no signs of waning.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Mozart K. 332: Wild (Ivory CLassics); Mozart K. 475/457: Arrau (Philips); Clementi Op. 34 No. 2: Shelley (Hyperion)


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