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Sergio Fiorentino (piano)
Live in Germany 1993
rec. January 1993, Münster (Bach) and December 1993, Dortmund. Warstein, Paderborn
APR 6034 [63:17 + 72:59]

This is a reissue of APR7036. It now appears in the current label livery 25 years after that original release and joins an ever-expanding list of Fiorentino singles, twofers and boxes – these last principally from Rhine Classics. His German tour of 1993 was instrumental in bringing his name back once again after nearly two decades of relative seclusion, during which he dedicated himself to teaching. Fiorentino was a selfless man, utterly unmaterialistic, and profoundly sensitive.

The music spans the whole year, though almost everything other than the Bach-Busoni (Münster, January) comes from disparate recitals in December. The Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV532 is heard in the pianist’s modification of the Busoni adaptation, the form in which he inevitably performed what was one of the staples of his repertoire after his return to full-time concert giving. You can hear another German performance, from Siemensvilla, Berlin on Piano Classics (see review) as well as a May 1998 performance from Taipei, Taiwan on Rhine Classics (see review). This Münster reading matches the tonal splendour of its rivals but scores over the Taiwan version by virtue of its avoidance of minor slips. Fiorentino certainly wasn’t known for his Bach, though he essayed Partitas, suites and transcriptions, but this is evidence enough of his command of the repertoire.

In the Taiwan concert he followed the Bach with Beethoven’s Op.110 sonata, something that seems to happen in APR’s disc simply because it’s programmed next but in fact it comes from a Dortmund concert later in the year. Otherwise, the 1993 and 1998 readings don’t differ conceptually at all, the tensile strength just as high in Dortmund as five years later in Taipei. Chopin’s Second Sonata comes from a Warstein concert and it stands comparison with his performance of the Third Sonata in Berlin, where he indulged some editorializing in Old School tradition. The Second Sonata had been in his recorded repertory since his London recording of 1954 (see review) and his Chopin was always finely balanced between dignity, clarity and the dictates of drama. There really isn’t much difference between his 1954 and 1993 readings of the work other than, of course, the benefits of better sound.

He often played Scriabin Sonatas and offered No.4 in Dortmund, an especially pellucid and beautiful performance. The second disc offers something of a miscellany including some of the encores he played. Schumann’s Fantasie is the major item here, given in Paderborn, and it too is a defined and practiced reading that might differ in local incident but in terms of span and reach closely resembles his Berlin performance of 1996. The Gounod-Liszt Faust Waltz is appropriately big-boned and buoyant, the Strauss-Tausig Man lebt nur einmal! shows Fiorentino letting his hair down and this is then followed by the Strauss-Godowsky Fledermaus Symphonic Metamorphosis. Both of these Strauss hyphenations come from Munster and it must have been a virtuosic evening for the audience that evening in December 1993. The encores all come from the Dortmund recital, the one where Fiorentino performed the Beethoven and Scriabin sonatas, and they are refined, elegant examples of his art focusing wholly on the waltz in its various incarnations.

The recordings were made on four different pianos in differing acoustics, but such is the remastering one would hardly notice. Paul Mertens’ original notes have been updated by Michael Spring, the two discs are priced as for one, and it’s very good to have these splendid recordings back in the catalogue.

Jonathan Woolf

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532 arr. Ferrucio Busoni. ed/rev. Sergio Fiorentino [13:28]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.31 in A flat major, Op.110 (1821-22) [20:00]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35 (1839) [21:55]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Sonata No.4 in F sharp, Op.30 (1903) [7:52]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Fantasie in C, Op. 17 (1839) [34:00]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Paraphrase on a waltz from Gounod's Faust, S407 (1861) [9:35]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Valse Caprice No.2, 'Man lebt nur einmal', Op.167 arr. Tausig [6:29]
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870–1938)
Symphonic Metamorphosis on Die Fledermaus (1874) after Johann Strauss II [8:27]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz in E flat major, Op. 18 'Grande Valse Brillante' [4:49]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Waltz in A-flat, Op.40 No.8 arr. Fiorentino [3:02]
Fryderyk CHOPIN
Waltz No. 7 in c-sharp minor, Op. 64 No. 2 (1847) [3:15]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Liebeslieder Walzer, Op. 52 Nos 1 and 6 (1868-69) [3:19]

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