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CD Review

Great Recordings of the Century

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano
Philharmonia Orchestra/Ettore Gracis
EMI 67258
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This release is another example of why you need to have more than one recording of a piece in your collection. Yes, guys and gals, you can use this review to prove to your spouse that your collecting is not just duplication. I reviewed the Ravel on another GROC release with Samson François, coupled with his left hand concerto and an awesome Gaspard de la nuit (EMI 66957). At that time I stated a definite preference for it over the Michelangeli, indicating that the bright sound on the other release was possibly an impediment. Here is a new mastering of that recording and now both should belong in your collection because the difference between the two is staggering. This latest release constitutes a completely new impression of Michelangeli's playing. The sound is fuller, richer, and smoother. There are more inner details. It is more listenable. It is pleasant on the ear.

The sound is while warmer now, is not so atmospheric as for François. There is no doubt, however, that Michelangeli is considerably more intense in his playing than François. It literally had me on the edge of my chair as I listened. From the opening bars it catches fire and takes off. It is, without question, a great recording. On the other hand, I would strongly recommend that you also have the François in your collection. The ability to compare and contrast performances is essential to an appreciation of any piece of music. François is more laid back, more atmospheric in playing as well as recording. This brings new insights to Ravel's music, offering an alternate, and equally good perception of the music.

As for the Rachmaninoff, well nobody plays it better. In other performances the piece does seem less than its predecessors. Michelangeli will have none of that. In his hands, literally, the piece takes off and resonates in my mind. The orchestral accompaniment (and who is this conductor?) is excellent. I have heard the piece played by Rachmaninoff and you should have that recording in your collection. (Currently to be found on an excellent, inexpensive Naxos release 8.110602) Michelangeli offers a more intense interpretation, in effect creating a wholly new perception of the gem.

Sometimes people ask me why I have duplicate recordings in my collection. Listen to the two discs discussed herein and you will hear why.

Copyright © 2000, Robert Stumpf II