issued by the Estate of Arturo Benedetti
Michelangeli’, proudly proclaims the
front cover. On the other hand the booklet
essay, by Jed Distler, is taken from
an article in Gramophone of April
2003 and is not concerned with these
particular performances, dwelling instead
on the legend that is Michelangeli,
to this day. The more we have of this
elusive genius the better, so even before
any discussion of the performances themselves
we have an invaluable document.
After seeing the Michelangeli
on DVD, it is difficult not to imagine
him as he plays, his face almost mask-like.
Interesting how he raises the level
of the Mozart from its rather workaday
orchestral exposition through an almost
regal rendering of the solo part all
the way to a sovereign, multi-coloured
cadenza. Michelangeli does generate
a perhaps surprising amount of adrenalin,
though. Try the split bass octaves at
3’20 in, for example.
The infamous literalism
kicks in in the Romanze. Whatever its
patrician bearing, it remains difficult
to imagine anyone being actually seduced
by this! There is even a finger-slip
at around 4’35, just in case anyone
thinks Michelangeli superhuman. The
middle section holds considerable drama
and, such is the interaction between
piano and orchestra, one begins to see
Münchinger, occasionally heavy-handed
in the first movement, in a different
No doubting the minor
mode of the explosive finale. The ‘provincial’
orchestra simply cannot match Michelangeli’s
vim and verve here, leading again to
the elevation of the stature of the
exploratory cadenza. The end is perhaps
not supremely high voltage – again perhaps
resulting from the mismatch of pianist
A fascinating document,
and an invaluable addition to the five
other Mozart 20s available from this
pianist from various labels.
Michelangeli is blissfully
alone in the Beethoven Sonata. Andrew
Wilson’s Michelangeli discography lists
no less than eight other Michelangeli
performances of this work (http://www.andrewfwilson.co.uk/abm1.htm#beethoven).
Why Michelangeli chose the select few
sonatas he did must presumably remain
buried with him, but he makes a more
than solid case for this one ... and,
perhaps predictable, plays fewer wrong
notes than most – although there are
some. Accents are harsh at times, almost
violent, but this is in keeping with
the grand scale on which he paints.
He ends the exposition as if it is the
end of the movement, such is his finality.
His tone is uncompromising. There is
a simply massive chord at 9’18, while
the chords right at the end are awe-inspiring!
The Adagio is more
emotive than one might expect from this
particular set of fingers, the organ-like
bass at around two minutes in totally
in keeping with his conception. The
sprightly yet robust Scherzo leads to
a mightily impressive, in finger-work
terms, finale, although some might find
accents periodically stabbed-at.
A must-hear for Michelangeli
fans, and indeed for all lovers of great
pianism. Which is what this is, when
all is considered.