Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli - The unpublished EMI live recordings (London 1957)

The best track to play first on this magnificent set is the last, where Michelangeli spends half an hour rehearsing and accommodating an audio soundcheck. He dives effortlessly into Debussy’s “Reflets dans l’eau”, gives a sickly sniff (he had a bad cold at the time), chats a little, throws off some miraculously even scales, shifts to “Hommage a Rameau” — repeating the odd phrase at will — and then ushers in the misty chiming of “Cloches a travers les feuilles”. However, at 9'28'' he stops playing, frustrated over some aspect of the instrument ; there’s a spot of fairly heated banter, a hapless technician mutters “nothing to do with me!” and Michelangeli continues through most of Schumann’s Faschingsschwank aus Wien. Were you to stop there, you would already have heard some of the most stylish, finely sculpted and fastidiously phrased pianism on disc ; but the main prize is the concert itself — taped at the Royal Festival Hall the day before those historic Rachmaninov/ Ravel concerto recordings (9/88) and discovered in EMI’s documentation by Malcolm Walker.
Readers who are familiar with Michelangeli’s 1971 DG recording of Debussy’s Images will be astonished at this highly mobile 1957 concert performance of “Cloches a travers les feuilles”, which is almost a full minute faster than its stereo successor ; or “Reflets dans l’eau”, which glides across the water’s surface with such swiftness and ease that the more considered DG alternative — glorious though it is — sounds studied by comparison. “Hommage a Rameau” is shaped with the utmost finesse and “Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut” coloured by exquisitely graded nuances.
As for repertoire, the Schumann items duplicate a BBC broadcast recording from the same month, once available on a BBC Records LP (2/82 – nla). There are minor differences between the two in terms of tempo and phrasing (for example, Carnaval’s “Promenade” clocks up 2'40'' in the broadcast as opposed to 2'27'' in concert), but Testament’s vastly superior sound quality – surely the best mono Michelangeli recording on the market – swings the balance securely in its favour. The performance of Carnaval is a choice gallery of aural sculpture, whether in the minutely calculated responses of “Pierrot”, the teasing rubato of “Coquette”, the energy and attack of “Papillons”, the effortless flow of “Chopin” or the ecstatic lingerings in “Aveu”. Michelangeli’s “Eusebius” is tender but unsentimental, whereas his “Florestan” has enough ‘reflective’ ingredients to suggest that the two characters are closer in spirit than we often think. Faschingsschwank aus Wien contrasts muscular assertiveness (the opening Allegro) with the most amazing control (in the “Romanze”), while the “Intermezzo” promotes a virtually orchestral range of dynamics.
Michelangeli’s Chopin has a rare nobility, the Fantasie in F minor especially which, at a rather faster tempo than usual, holds together as a narrative entity. The First Ballade is marginally freer in approach than the memorable DG recording of 1972 (11/84), though no less imposing. Then there are the encores, a sunny posthumous E flat Waltz (a regular extra on Michelangeli’s concert programmes) and Mompou’s sad but tender “Cancion”. I came to the end of this set humbled by, and grateful for, some wonderful piano playing. Michelangeli’s art is both rare and elusive, his expressive vocabulary finely distilled and unlikely to impress those who listen only for technical mastery. It’s therefore ironic that those who criticize Michelangeli for ‘coldness’ or ‘aloofness’ are often the very commentators who are so dazzled by his virtuosity that they cannot hear beyond it. Take note, and do not suppose that a glittering surface precludes a searching musical mind. Testament’s transfers are superb, and so are BM’s notes.

Source :

Arturo Benedetti
(The unpublished EMI live recordings, London 1957)


Cd. 1

Robert Schumann

Faschingsschwank aus Wien, Op. 26
1 I. Allegro. Sehr Lebhaft  9:57
2 II. Romanze. Ziemlich langsam  2:48
3 III. Scherzino  2:14
4 IV. Intermezzo. Mit grösster Energie  2:08
5 V. Finale. Höchst lebhaft  5:05

Carnaval, Op. 9
Scènes mignonnes sur quatre notes
6 I. Préambule. Quasi maestoso - Più moto - Animato - Vivo - Presto  2:22
7 II. Pierrot. Moderato  2:02
8 III. Arlequin. Vivo  1:07
9 IV. Valse noble. Un poco maestoso  1:46
10 V. Eusebius. Adagio  1:12
11 VI. Florestan. Passionato  0:56
12 VII. Coquette. Vivo  1:36
13 VIII. Répliques. L'istesso tempo - (Sphinxes)  1:09
14 IX. Papillons. Prestissimo  0:36
15 X. A.S.C.H. - S.C.H.A (Lettres dansantes). Presto  0:57
16 XI. Chiarina. Passionato  0:59
17 XII. Chopin. Agitato  1:15
18 XIII. Estrella. Con affetto  0:26
19 XIV. Reconnaissance. Animato  1:40
20 XV. Pantalon et Colombine. Presto  0:50
21 XVI. Valse allemande. Molto vivace  0:58
22 XVII. Paganini. Itermezzo. Presto  1:24
23 XVIII. Aveu. Passionato  1:12
24 XIX. Promenade. Comodo  2:27
25 XX. Pause. Vivo  0:14
26 XXI. Marche des "Davidsbündler" contre les Philistins.
Non allegro - Molto più vivo - Animato - Vivo - Animato molto -Vivo - Più Stretto  4:02


Cd. 2

Claude Debussy

1 Et la lune descend sur la temple qui fut. Lent (Images, Série/Set II, II)  5:02
2 Cloches à travers les feuilles. Lent (Images, Série/Set II, I)  3:33
3 Hommage à Rameau. Lent et grave (Images, Série/Set I, II)  6:20
4 Reflets dans l'eau. Andantino molto (Images, Série/Set I, I)  4:29

Frédéric Chopin

5 Fantasie in F minor, Op.49  12:43
6 Ballade n° 1 in G minor, Op.23  8:52

Frederico Mompou

7 Canción (from Canción y Danza n° 6)  1:48

Frédéric Chopin

8 Valse in E flat major, Op. posth.  2:49

9 Rehearsal and sound-check  32:47


Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli - p

Recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall, London ; March, 4 1957


Some old posts, reposts and new links


anders said...

thank you for these

guiller said...

Many thanks!

Frank said...

I owe you a debt for introducing me to Michelangeli--amazing player!

rubingould said...

Thank you so much!

Add Noname said...

Avez-vous un lien qui fonctionne ?
No more active link… Uuurrrkkk = disappointment

Melanchthon said...

Pedro del Castillo Alonso said...

Thank you very much!!

Anonymous said...

Superb music, thank you MM.

migue said...


Anonymous said...

Add Noname
Merci pour les liens !