This first CD by Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell is subtitled
'Virtuoso Piano Music' - needlessly, perhaps, but truthfully.
None of the works played here is exactly under-recorded, but
for a debut recording this is certainly an impressive programme
in every respect.
According to the Brilliant Classics blurb, Pascal Rogé has called
Benelli Mosell "the most natural musical talent I have
encountered in my entire life as a musician and teacher",
and shortly before his death Karlheinz Stockhausen said she
"has the power to let people appreciate my music".
It has been known for 'older gentlemen' to get carried away
when spending time in the company of young women, especially
sultry, blonde, voluptuous Italian ones with a prodigious artistic
talent - far better therefore to let the musicianship speak
That means letting these four great works speak for themselves
- which Benelli Mosell does indeed do. Perhaps her youth prevents
her from imposing a strong personality on the music, but in
an online interview in Italian she implies that she understands
- from her study with Stockhausen of his Klavierstücke
- that the pianist's role is to communicate the composer's
ideas to audiences; in other words, performers should not make
the music about themselves. Mitsuko Uchida has devoted
herself to this cause, and Benelli Mosell may well be following
a similar path. She is so obviously photogenic that unscrupulous
agents will doubtless try to persuade her to 'do a Lang Lang',
and thereby relegate composers of genius to footnotes - but
so far, so good. On Brilliant at least she seems in safe hands.
In any case, to open a debut recording with Prokofiev's sarcastic,
fiendish Seventh Sonata is a true baptism of fire. Yet
Benelli Mosell seems to revel in the densely chromatic, often
virtually atonal tumult of much of this Stalin-Award-winning,
viciously anti-Stalinist work. To follow that with Liszt's phenomenally
virtuosic Rhapsodie Espagnole would be artistic suicide
for mere mortals, but Benelli Mosell's arms and fingers, presumably
after a good rest, are more than willing, and able, to take
on the relentless onslaught of gorgeous notes, and she does
so with great panache.
After these two works, a keyboard sonata by Joseph Haydn might
seem like a stroll in the park, but not so when the sonata in
question is the no.53 in E minor, Hob. XVI/34, in which
Haydn's poetic restlessness and harmonic ambiguities surprisingly
begin to resemble Beethoven. Though Haydn himself would probably
have been astounded by Liszt's and Prokofiev's super-human pianism,
this Sonata of his is nevertheless liberally scattered
with virtuosic demands on top of the specialist skills required
by Classical form. Benelli Mosell takes the opening Presto
a little on the sub-presto side, but she makes up for it in
the Vivace molto finale. The Adagio middle movement
is a well-placed balm in this otherwise fairly hectic programme.
From its opening bar, Skriabin's First Sonata, op.6 drops
the pianist right back into the turbulence and drama of the
early 20th century - yet amazingly, Skriabin's visionary work
was written with almost a decade still left of the 19th. Benelli
Mosell's account of both the bleak Adagio and the desperately
sad, funereal last movement is very moving: full of emotion
and insight beyond her years.
The recording is good, although the Steinway piano sounds as
if it has seen better days, and the microphones are close enough
to pick up sometimes too much of the noise of the piano action.
Acireale is famous for its spectacular location at the foot
of Etna, its carnival and its churches. The liner-notes do not
specify the exact location of the recording, but the lack of
reverberation suggests that Brilliant preferred the technical
reliability of a studio.
For pianophiles to be in a position to determine whether or
not Pascal Rogé really was hamming it up, much more evidence
will be needed, and on the strength of this disc can be eagerly
anticipated. Meanwhile, for anyone looking for an introduction
not only to Benelli Mosell's indisputable gifts, but to the
piano music of Liszt, Prokofiev or Skriabin, this is a good,
neutral place to start.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk