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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


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www.arbiterrecords.com

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) The Pietro Scarpini Edition
Piano Concerto No.4 in G Op.66
Piano Sonata No.32 in C minor Op.111
RAI Orchestra, Rome/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Recorded January 1952 (Concerto) and March 1961 (Sonata)
ARBITER 131 [62.32]

Arbiter here inaugurates the first of their series dedicated to the under-appreciated art of Pietro Scarpini (1911-1997). Devoted though he was to the masterpieces of the repertoire – his recitals of the Diabelli and Goldberg Variations were renowned – he also embraced Janáček, Schoenberg and Dallapiccola, who was a good friend. Scarpini had studied piano with Casella and composition with Bustini and Hindemith, counting Molinari as his mentor in conducting – and it was the latter who first conducted for him in 1937. His career grew after the War and he travelled internationally but his name was not widely known beyond connoisseurs. Part of the reason was his reluctance to record and the mantle of Italy’s leading pianist had by then been grasped – not that Scarpini would much have carried for the gladiatorial aspect – to Michelangeli. It’s timely then that this disc should appear and it shows Scarpini’s strengths in their considerable depth.

The Concerto performance was his only encounter with Furtwängler. The sound is adequate to good and certainly not unpleasant but it is somewhat constricted sonically, dating from 1952. The conductor elicits some pensive and withdrawn orchestral statements from the RAI orchestra, vesting the opening movement with a real sense of volatile withdrawal. Scarpini has just the right degree of lyric elasticity for Furtwängler’s kind of conducting and gives a great freedom to the piano part, a flexible, spontaneous sounding generosity of utterance. The Elysian flutes are here answered by gruff piano entries almost foreshadowing the orchestral/solo exchanges in the Andante con moto. There are certainly some mighty accelerandi here as well as a tense series of dynamics. In that slow movement one derives the feeling that this is less a dialogue between orchestra and piano and more a kind of dramatic monologue, of Shakespearean depth, in which by some alchemy it is as if the piano were playing all the way through and it is we who fail to hear. Though the outer movements are relatively slow, Furtwängler gives impetus to the rhythmic material and it never seems unduly slow. The conclusion isn’t especially neat playing but it is exciting and powerful.

Coupled with the Concerto is the Op.111 Sonata. From 1961 and in good, quite close-up sound (one can sometimes hear the pedal), this is a noble and acute performance that combines considerable richness of tone with a superior analytic mind. His command of the rhetoric is undeniable, the comprehensiveness and cohesion of the interpretation admirable.

So this is an admirable start to the Scarpini series. It comes with some worthwhile documentation – a biographical note, a career highlights compiled by Scarpini himself and a newspaper interview. He seems to have been almost as elusive on print as he proved to be on disc. Warmly recommended.

Jonathan Woolf



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