Maria Curcio was born in Naples in 1919 and died in March 2009.
She was best known as an eminent teacher, after health crises
ended an active performing career around the time of the end
of the Second World War, and she had a fine list of pupils to
her name. One of them was Barry Douglas, who contributes an
interesting two paragraphs concerning his studies with her.
And another was Anthony Goldstone whose ‘International Piano’
journal article about her, and his studies with her, is reproduced
in the booklet, and who performs on this tribute disc.
The works are all connected to Curcio; two contain her first
name in the title, and of the others, these were works with
which she had affinities, and composers with whom she had a
strong connection. Casella and Schnabel were among her mentors,
and so Goldstone duly performs music by them. The programming
is effective, in any case, irrespective of its source of inspiration.
Goldstone starts with two Lisztian concoctions, the first, an
obvious starting point - expressively and indeed linguistically
- being Ave Maria, and the second La Danza. The first is affectionately
spun, heartfelt, limpid and appealing, whilst the second is
played with reassuring élan. Goldstone measures and calibrates
the B section of Villa-Lobos’s Choro No.5 with precision, ensuring
that the outer writing retains intensity; the dance and the
melancholy are adeptly held in balance. Casella’s early Variations
on a Chaconne is a gripping if somewhat conventional piece,
echoing Handel and La Folia, and reminding us of one of the
Bach-Busonis in miniature. Nevertheless the characterisation
is strong, faster and slower variations are well handled, and
the music is stirring. As the variations proceed things are
progressively more interesting harmonically.
Three years after Casella’s Variations, Schnabel wrote his Waltzes,
delightfully unserious, of which the last of the four is both
the most extensive and the most quirky. Its extreme halts gently
guy the genre. The three most extensive pieces then follow;
a highly expressive Mozart A minor Rondo majoring in exceptional
layers of melancholy; then Beethoven Op.77 Fantasie, with its
elegant nobility; and finally a mature reading of Chopin’s Polonaise
in F sharp minor. These allow a gentle winding down via Reger’s
Mariä Wiegenlied and Schumann’s Widmung.
To finish there is a bonus track, which features Curcio herself,
playing marvellously, with Schwarzkopf and Klemperer live in
Amsterdam in 1957, essaying Mozart’s concert aria Ch’io mi
scordi di te? The soprano was later, in 1968, to record
it with Alfred Brendel, the London Symphony Orchestra and George
Szell. It ends the recital disc on a poignant yet uplifting