Pietro Scarpini (piano)
Discovered tapes - Mahler … and beyond
RHINE CLASSICS RH-021 [5 CDs: 322 mins]
This series of six volumes (33 CDs in all) has been important in drawing attention to Pietro Scarpini’s name. He was largely an absence in recording studios, his preference lying in private tapes, broadcasts and recitals, though he is remembered for his work with Furtwängler in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, a live performance that has been released by a number of labels, not least by Rhine Classics itself.
This final volume has a solid composer-led look with large-scale works predominating in the main, though the 1963 Scriabin recital is clearly different, given that Scarpini intersperses sonatas with small collections. The first disc also includes Scriabin, a blistering rendition of Prometheus directed by Piero Bellugi in 1968, in stereo, and while the chorus can sound rather muddy nothing comes between the listener and the music making. The rest of the first disc is given over to Scarpini’s ingenious transcription, for two pianos, using the original manuscript sketches, of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, less the first movement. Scarpini recorded this by overdubbing in February 1950 in the RAI Studios in Rome. It offers an opportunity once again to gauge Scarpini’s unerring structural insight into major repertoire. It’s notable too that he felt impelled to undertake this performance and clearly laboured hard over it, recording on 16” acetate discs.
CDs 2 and 3 are devoted to the same work, Busoni’s Piano Concerto in C major. The earlier of the performances is the one given in Turn in 1954 and preserved, like the Mahler, on 16” acetate transcription discs. Fernando Previtali conducts RAI Turin and the final chorus, sung by the male choir, is heard – Rhine Classics notes - in the Italian version of Vittorio Gui. Scarpini reprised the work in Cleveland twelve years later with George Szell, this time employing the original vocal chorus, here with the male choir directed by Robert Shaw. This broadcast is preserved in fine stereo sound. Scarpini’s conception remains largely consistent though it’s noticeable that he and Szell take the third movement, the Pezzo serioso, at a rather more incisive tempo than was the case in Turin. Nevertheless, despite the more obviously attractive 1966 sound both performances are very much worth hearing, given that the Turin is heard in very decent mono. The greater thrust (in that one movement) and orchestral precision of the Cleveland reading, must though, take the palm.
Disc 4 houses more Busoni, the Indian Fantasy which teams him, once again, with Bellugi, with whom he must have enjoyed cordial and compatible musical collaborations. This dates from 1966, though not from the same concerto concert, and the transfer comes from the original reel tape, taken from the live performance in Siena where Bellugi directs the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. It should be clear by now, given the ‘classical’ poise that Scarpini finds in this work, that he was a Busoni pianist worthy to be bracketed alongside Egon Petri. This is followed by a 1960 broadcast of Valentino Bucchi’s Concerto in rondò, for piano and orchestra, composed in 1957, and accompanied by RAI Roma under Ferruccio Scaglia. This is a 14-minute one-movement work both percussive and giocoso, tightly structured and rhythmically charged. The dappled Lento section toward the end is played very beautifully by Scarpini. Violinist Sandro Materassi (1904-89) and Scarpini formed a long-standing duo, but before that Materassi had been Dallapiccola’s sonata partner since 1930. The two works heard here, the Due Studi, and Tartiniana Seconda, Divertimento for violin and piano were recorded for Italian CBS in Rome in 1973. Rhine Classics has taken this LP and remastered it using 24bit/96kHz. The former contrasts a delightful Sarabande with a Fanfare and Fugue whilst for Tartiniana Seconda, Dallapiccola is at his most fresh-limbed and homage-conscious in his baroque evocations.
The final fifth disc offers everything that was broadcast from Scarpini’s April 1963 Scriabin recital given in the Sale Apollinee in the Teatro La Fenice, Venice. He is a vivid exponent of the composer’s music as might have been predicted from Prometheus heard in the first CD. He plays the Op.51 set of Pièces with stylistic acumen – the third is a particular delight – and is no less successful in the somewhat broader and changeable demands of the two sonatas; No.5 moves with sinuous excitement through its alternations of dynamism and languid expression, and the Black Mass sonata (No.9) is similarly successful in its combination of digital control and interpretative insight. Rhine Classics helpfully notes those other pieces that Scarpini played but weren’t recorded.
This is a well compiled and formidably performed set. Restorations are excellent and the documentation is pertinent and sports some fine photographic reproductions. It marks a fitting end to the Scarpini odyssey on this label.
Previous review: Stephen Greenbank
CD1 | 63:54
Mahler / arr. Scarpini
Symphony No 10 in F-sharp major (1910)
(deciphering & transcription for 2 Pianos, from the original manuscript sketches of II, III, IV, V movements)
studio | RAI Roma | 13.II.1950
Piano I & Piano II parts, recorded with overdubbing technique
Prometheus (Le poème du feu), Op 60
OS e Coro Acc. Nazionale St. Cecilia | Piero Bellugi | live | Roma | 24.IV.1968
CD2 | 70:02
Piano Concerto in C major, Op 39 (final chorus: Italian rhythmic version by Vittorio Gui)
RAI Torino | Fernando Previtali | 26 February 1954
CD3 | 67:10
Piano Concerto in C major, Op 39 (final chorus: original German rhythmic version)
Cleveland Orchestra & Chorus | George Szell | 3.II.1966 -stereo-
CD4 | 60:50
Indian Fantasy, Op 44
Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino | Piero Bellugi | Siena | 7.IX.1966
Concerto in rondò, for piano and orchestra (1957)
RAI Roma | Ferruccio Scaglia | 23.IV.1960
- 2 Studi, for violin and piano
- Tartiniana Seconda, Divertimento for violin and piano
Sandro Materassi, violin | Pietro Scarpini, piano | studio, Roma | 1973
CD5 | 63:54
The Legendary 1963 Scriabin Recital in Venice:
- 4 Préludes, Op 48
- 4 Pièces, Op 51
- 4 Pièces, Op 56
- Piano Sonata No 5, Op 53
- 2 Poèmes, Op 63
- 2 Préludes, Op 67
- 2 Poèmes, Op 71
- Vers la flamme, Op 72
- 5 Préludes, Op 74
- Piano Sonata No 9, Op 68 “Messe noire”
- Poème, Op 32/1
live | Sale Apollinee, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia | 20.IV.1963