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Pietro Scarpini (piano)
Discovered Tapes - From Baroque to Contemporary
Pietro Scarpini (piano)
rec. 1950-67
RHINE CLASSICS RH-010 [12 CDs: 14 hours]

Previous volumes of live material in the Petro Scarpini edition were reviewed very favourably here (review ~ review). This volume of 12 CDs also includes his only commercial solo piano recordings. They last little more than half an hour in total, an almost incredibly meagre representation given Scarpini’s outstanding gifts.

A look at the programme, which runs alphabetically from Albéniz to Villa-Lobos, might suggest standard fare. But Scarpini (1911-97) excelled in major contemporary works too, so alongside staples such as the Brahms B flat major Concerto and Schubert’s Sonata D959 we find names that resonate and excite, such as Casella, Malipiero, Peragallo, Petrassi, and Sessions.

Taking things on a disc-by-disc basis we start with Scarpini’s own transcriptions of some Bach Chorale Preludes and arias from a session in Rome in 1961. Once past the opening one, Christus, der uns selig macht, which I found a bit clipped and prissy, things greatly improve. There are three Bach-attributed pieces heard in Busoni transcriptions of 1917 and to finish four Scarlatti sonatas. They are heard in slightly less focused sound than the Bach pieces but are played with authority and engaging esprit. Casella’s Partita for piano and small orchestra of 1924-25 comes from a 1967 broadcast and heads the second disc. Zesty and witty, with neo-classical drive and a Passacaglia at its centre, Casella ensures constant ear-titillation. Fortunately, Scarpini is heard a touch more in focus than the ensemble, which is directed very capably by Massimo Pradella. Janáček is represented by the Concertino in which Scarpini directs from the keyboard and the Capriccio. There’s an abrupt cut off after the third movement of the Concertino but the performance is successful and Scarpini’s lead authoritative. He plays well, if rather too loudly, in the slow movement of the Capriccio but otherwise I’m afraid the performance is something of an embarrassment. The rhythms are all wrong and the wind players don’t seem to know what they are doing. Best to fast-forward to the single Albeniz here, a lively El polo and the three little Villa-Lobos pieces extracted from A prole do bebę, virtuosic and charming.

Disc three offers real rewards. First there is Sessions’ Piano Concerto, composed during 1955-56 in memory of Artur Schnabel and recorded here live in Rome in 1958. Beveridge Webster might seem to be the pianist to go to in early performances of this work but Scarpini’s rigour proves precisely what’s required in this profoundly impressive work. This must have been one of the earliest European performances of the concerto. What’s for sure is that Malipiero’s Piano Concerto is heard in its world premiere, in Venice in May 1961. There’s the briefest of dropouts during the first movement – half a second – but otherwise the sound is excellent. Textures and motifs can be busy but they’re also translucent, and the incrementally zippy finale catches out the audience. Each of the movements is headed ‘mosso’, the central one being ‘molto mosso’. Dallapiccola’s Quaderno musicale di Annalibera concludes this disc. There are eleven piano pieces in the set, succinct character works that are in no way forbidding: rather thoughtful and engaging. There is slight damage to the only surviving 1954 transcription disc but not enough to notice.

The fourth disc has two concerto performances with Dmitri Mitropoulos in New York. Both are well-known to admirers of the pianist as well as the conductor. The Prokofiev Second Concerto (the 1924 second version) was on Music and Arts, part of the Art of Mitropoulos volumes (it was on volume two). It’s a magnificently visceral reading. Mozart’s E flat major Concerto, K482 followed the following year, in 1955. This too is an amazing interpretation; big, bold, full of life, brashly contoured orchestrally, with the Busoni cadenzas included. Stylistically more than slightly contentious it’s a performance you’ll not forget in a hurry.

Scarpini gave the British premiere of Petrassi’s Concerto with Nino Sanzogno directing the BBC Symphony in March 1959. The broadcast sound is truly excellent. It’s a work that embraces the rarefied as well as the ruminative, its variations second movement being searching and increasingly purposeful as the music boils over into the dramatic bravura of its finale. Mario Peragallo’s concerto was composed between 1949 and 1951 and is heard in this 1952 broadcast with Ferenc Fricsay in Munich. Its percussive intensity, and its withdrawn introspective elements, find a perfect foil in both soloist and conductor and the broadcast sound never buckles. Prokofiev’s First Concerto (RAI, Massimo Freccia, 1959) ends this disc, resonantly reinforcing Scarpini’s stylistic affiliations with the music. They’re further affirmed in the next disc where he essays three of the sonatas, Nos. 2, 8 and 9. The slow movement of the Ninth is particularly beautifully played.

The Brahms concerto comes from the original master. The performance was given in Rome with the city’s RAI orchestra directed by Vittoria Gui. This is a blazing hot reading and a few finger slips are the insignificant price to pay for such immediacy. Giuseppe Selmi is the solo cellist, whilst Scarpini strides through the finale in sparkling fashion. Schumann’s Humoreske follows and Scarpini captures alike the playfulness and wistfulness of the music. I didn’t really take to his Schubert D959. It’s rather deliberate and unconsoling, at its best in the scherzo. Clementi’s G minor sonata is much better and good repertoire to find whilst Brahms’s Sonata No.2 is dramatic and stormy, a big-boned reading that shows Scarpini could easily traverse the Romantic repertoire.

Schoenberg occupies Disc 9. Pierrot Lunaire has Magda Laszlo as vocalist and Scarpini, as he did in Janáček, directs from the piano. The sound is good. It’s much better than the Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, that oddity of 1942, in which the sonorous speaker is Alvar Liddell of the BBC – he comes through relatively unscathed, but the sound otherwise is inclined to be strident and there’s a little distortion too. The Rome RAI orchestra is directed by an expert in this kind of thing, Michael Gielen. The Piano Concerto provides some needed intensity. This is a splendid performance of a tricky work, presided over by Antonio Pedrotti in circa 1957. There are two Bartók concertos in disc ten and Scriabin’s combustible Prometheus. The barbarous drive of the 1926 concerto is brought out with exemplary drama, but the Third concerto is even better. It’s notably well-balanced and dynamically well voiced. The Adagio religioso is played with real beauty by Scarpini; and he plays the finale with flair and fire. This is another one of the outstanding performances on offer in this box. The Scriabin is from a stereo original master, one of the few stereo broadcasts here. Consequently, the work’s colour registers and there is real power in the reading of the ORTF under Piero Bellugi in January 1968.

As with Prokofiev’s concertos and sonatas, Scarpini was a master of both Scriabin’s wider reaches and his compact sonatas, of which he performs six on the penultimate disc. The recordings range in date from 1958 to 1968. There’s a particularly pellucid reading of the Andante from the Third Sonata and Scarpini admirers will enjoy their hero dealing with the coruscating demands of the two Mass sonatas. The final disc gives more Scriabin, a good selection from his set of Preludes, Op.11. He plays ten of the 24. He also plays Rachmaninov’s Variations on a theme of Corelli from Florence in 1958, a really vital reading in the Fiorentino class. The commercial recordings finish this disc and the set. They were of Stravinsky and Bartók and were made in Milan in 1950 for Durium and issued first on 78s and then reissued on both 10” and 12” LPs. The 10” missed off one of the pieces. He plays the Sonata and Piano-Rag-music of Stravinsky with crisp drive, and the Bartók Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm and Sonata with the embryonic command he was soon to show in the Concertos. It’s good to have these examples restored in this way.

The 36-page booklet has numerous finely reproduced photographs as well as reproductions of some of the concert programmes. Full track details are provided. There’s a one-page biography of the pianist by Emilio Pessina and a three-page interview between Scarpini and Giovanni Carli Ballola from 1965 is reproduced. All the notes are in English.

Whether radio broadcasts, transcriptions, original masters or LPs, the 24bit 96 kHz restorations by Emilio Pessina are as fine as one could wish. This box and its predecessors build up an increasingly irrefutable case for Scarpini’s greatness as an interpreter of a wide swathe of the repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf

Contents
CD1|61:35
Johann Sebastian Bach
[1] -[10] Transcription by P.Scarpini of 10 Chorale Preludes & Arias
recorded: studio | RAI Roma | 8 January 1961 | broadcast
[11] Transcription by P.Scarpini of Chorale Prelude BWV 691a
recorded: studio | RAI Napoli | 16 December 1964 | broadcast
Transcription by F.Busoni from 3 works attrib. to J.S. Bach, BV B 42 (1917):
[12] 1.Fantasia in D minor, BWV 905
[13] 2.Andante in G minor, BWV 969
[14] 3.Scherzo in D minor, BWV 844
recorded: studio | RAI Napoli | 16 December 1964 | broadcast
Domenico Scarlatti
[15] Keyboard Sonata in F minor, K.238 / L.27
[16] Keyboard Sonata in F major, K.107 / L.474
[17] Keyboard Sonata in D major, K.490 / L.206
[18] Keyboard Sonata in E major, K.206 / L.257
recorded: studio | NDR Hamburg | 29 April 1957 | original master

CD2|75:41
Alfredo Casella
[1] -[3] Partita, for piano and small orchestra, Op.42 (1924/25)
Orchestra Alessandro Scarlatti di Napoli della RAI | Massimo Pradella
recorded: live | Auditorium Domenico Scarlatti RAI, Napoli | 25 February 1967 | broadcast
Leoš Janácek
[4] -[7] Concertino, for piano and chamber ensemble, JW VII/11 (1925)
Orchestra del Maggio musicale fiorentino(soloists):Antonio Abussi, 1stviolin |
Carolina Francalanci, 2ndviolin | MarcelloFormentini, viola | Attilio Zambelli, clarinet |Pasqualino Rossi, horn | Romano Alinari, bassoon | Pietro Scarpini, piano/conducting
recorded: live | “28° Maggio musicale” - Teatro della Pergola, Firenze | 12 June 1965 | broadcast
[8] -[11] Capriccio, for piano left-hand and wind instruments, JW VII/12 (1926)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Ferruccio Scaglia
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 11 February 1961 | broadcast
Isaac Albéniz
[12] Iberia - Book 3 (1908): No. 3 El polo
Heitor Villa-Lobos
[13] -[15] A prole do bebę - series 1 “As Bonecas / The Dolls” (1918): Nos. 2, 6, 7
recorded: live | Sala bianca, Palazzo Pitti, Firenze | 4 February 1959 | broadcast

CD3|57:43
Roger Sessions
[1] -[3] Piano Concerto“in memory Arthur Schnabel”(1955/56)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Mario Rossi
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 4 January 1958 | broadcast
Riccardo Malipiero
[4] -[6] Piano Concerto“per Dimitri (Mitropoulos)”(1961)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI | Nino Sanzogno
recorded: live | Teatro La Fenice, Venezia | 27 May 1961 | broadcast
(world premiere:XXIV° Festival Internazionale di Musica Contemporanea di Venezia)
Luigi Dallapiccola
[7] -[17] Quaderno musicale di Annalibera, 11 piano pieces (1952)
recorded:studio | RAI Roma | 1 December 1954 | trancription disc

CD4|65:29
Sergei Prokofiev
[1] -[4] Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.16 (2ndversion, 1924)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra | Dimitri Mitropoulos
recorded: live | Carnegie Hall, New York | 7 November 1954 | original master
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
[5] -[7] Piano Concerto No.22 in E-flat major, K.482
(Cadenzas 1 & 3: Ferruccio Busoni, BV B14 - 1919)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra | Dimitri Mitropoulos
recorded: live | Carnegie Hall, New York | 6 November 1955 | transcription disc

CD5|74:33
Goffredo Petrassi
[1] -[3] Piano Concerto (1936/39)
BBC Symphony Orchestra | Nino Sanzogno
recorded: live | Royal Festival Hall, London | 4 March 1959 | broadcast
(first performance in Great Britain)
Mario Peragallo (1910-1996)
[4] -6] Piano Concerto (1949/51)
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks | Ferenc Fricsay
recorded: studio | Herkulessaal, Munich | 21 November 1952 | broadcast
Sergei Prokofiev
[7] -[9] Piano Concerto No.1 in D-flat major, Op.10 (1911/12)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI | Massimo Freccia
recorded: live | Auditorium RAI, Torino | 13 March 1959 | broadcast

CD6|67:12
Sergei Prokofiev
[1] -[4] Piano Sonata No.2 in D minor, Op.14 (1912)
recorded: studio | RAI Roma | 25 March 1955 | broadcast
[5] -[7] Piano Sonata No.8 in B-flat major, Op.84 (1939/44)
recorded: studio | RAI Roma | c.1954 | transcription disc
[8] -[11] Piano Sonata No.9 in C major, Op.103 (1947)
recorded: studio | RAI Roma | 29 April 1960 | broadcast

CD7|77:38
Johannes Brahms
[1] -[4] Piano Concerto No.2 in B-flat major, Op.83 (1878/81)
Giuseppe Selmi, cello solo (3)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Vittorio Gui
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 13 December 1958 | original master
Robert Schumann
[5] -[11] Humoreske in B-flat major, Op.20 (1839)
recorded: studio | RAI Firenze | 14 June 1958 | original master

CD8|72:52
Franz Schubert
[1] -[4] Piano Sonata No.20 in A major, D.959 (1828)
recorded: studio | RAI Firenze | 28 March 1958 | broadcast
Muzio Clementi
[5] -[7] Piano Sonata in G minor, Op.34/2 (1793)
recorded: live | Sala bianca, Palazzo Pitti, Firenze | 4 February 1959 | broadcast
Johannes Brahms
[8] -[11] Piano Sonata No.2 in F-sharp minor, Op.2 (1852)
recorded: live | Sala bianca, Palazzo Pitti, Firenze | 4 February 1959 | broadcast

CD9|77:54
Arnold Schoenberg
[1] -[21] Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21 (1912)
Magda Laszlo, voice
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI(soloists):
Severino Gazzelloni, flute/piccolo | Giacomo Gandini, clarinet | Ugo Fusco, bass clarinet |Dino Asciolla, violin/viola | Bruno Morselli, cello | Pietro Scarpini, piano/conducting
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 6 February 1960 | broadcast
[22] Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op.41b (1942)
Alvar Liddell, speaker
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Michael Gielen
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 6 February 1960 | broadcast
[23] -[26] Piano Concerto, Op.42 (1942)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Torino della RAI | Antonio Pedrotti
recorded: studio | Auditorium RAI, Torino | c.1957 | broadcast

CD10|70:06
Béla Bartók
[1] -[3] Piano Concerto No.1, Sz.83, BB 91 (1926)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Fernando Previtali
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 25 May 1957 | transcription disc
[4] -[6] Piano Concerto No.3 in E major, Sz.119, BB 127 (1945)
Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI | Antonio Pedrotti
recorded: live | Auditorium Foro Italico, Roma | 5 February 1958 | broadcast
Alexander Scriabin
[7] Prometheus “Le počme du feu”, Op. 60 (1909/10)
Orchestre National et Choeur de l’O.R.T.F. | Piero Bellugi
recorded: live | Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris | 10 January 1968 | original master, stereo

CD11|74:52
Alexander Scriabin
[1] -[4] Piano Sonata No.3 in F-sharp minor, Op.23 (1897/98)
recorded: studio | RAI Firenze | 28 March 1958 | broadcast
[5] Piano Sonata No.5, Op.53 (1907)
recorded: live | Sale Apollinee, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia | 20 April 1963 | broadcast
[6] Piano Sonata No.7, Op.64 “Messe blanche” (1911/12)
recorded: live | Sala concerti, Accademia Chigiana, Siena | 13 September 1968 | broadcast
[7] Piano Sonata No.8, Op.66 (1913)
recorded: live | Sala bianca, Palazzo Pitti, Firenze | 4 February 1959 | broadcast
[8] Piano Sonata No.9, Op.68 “Messe noire” (1913)
recorded: live | Sale Apollinee, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia | 20 April 1963 | broadcast
[9] Piano Sonata No.10, Op.70 “Les insectes” (1912/13)
recorded: live | “27° Maggio musicale” - Teatro della Pergola, Firenze | 19 June 1964 | broadcast

CD12|66:51
Sergei Rachmaninoff
[1] Variations on a Theme of Corelli, Op.42 (1931)
recorded: studio | RAI Firenze | 28 March 1958 | broadcast
Alexander Scriabin
[2] -[11] Preludes (24), Op.11 (1888/96): Nos. 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 22
recorded: studio | RAI Napoli | 16 December 1964 | broadcast

BONUS| Scarpini’s only solo piano commercial recordings
Igor Stravinsky
[12] -[14] Piano Sonata (1924)
[15] Piano-Rag-Music (1919)
Béla Bartók
[16] -[21] Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm (6) | Mikrokosmos Vol.VI, 148-153, Sz.107 (1939)
[22] -[24] Piano Sonata, Sz.80 (1926)
recorded: studio Durium S.A. | Milano | 1950



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