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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
An Indispensable Black and White 1962 Video of MichelangeliJan. 15 2006
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
"Crystalline perfection" ... "a capricious perfectionist" ... "aloof, statuesque" -- all terms sometimes used to describe Michelangeli. These slightly disparaging terms contain some truth, but not all of it. Indeed, Michelangeli is one of those artists who call forth strong opinions. He frequently cancelled concerts. He sometimes gave the impression of disdain for the audience. He rarely played wrong notes. His persona was surrounded by mystery that intrigued music-lovers. And he was a magnificent artist.
This 1962 black and white film is made up of one live-in-recital performance (Beethoven Op. 111) and studio (RAI Turin) films (the rest of the program: Beethoven Op. 2, No. 3; Galuppi Sonata in C; Scarlatti Sonatas in C minor, K.11; C major, K. 159; A major, K.322; and B minor, K.27). They reportedly have been digitally remastered. Certainly both the video and especially the audio seem very nearly up to date. Sound is crystal clear and, frankly, exciting in its immediacy.
As for the playing, this is vintage Michelangeli at the top of his game. He was 42 when these films were made, still film-star handsome. Camera angles are few, camera movement sparse, and there are no straight-on head shots, but there are good views of his hands (and amazing hands they are). He sits bolt upright at the piano with few extraneous body movements. The playing is not, as it is sometimes characterized, cool or distant. His body language might suggest that it is, but indeed if one listens with closed eyes one hears barely suppressed emotionality in the phrasing and dynamics. His storied trills and legato are in place, but also his romantic phrasing is also in evidence. The little Galuppi sonata, a favorite of his (and apparently no one else plays it - perhaps they don't want to compete with him!) is so simple, so tender, so emotional that, in the first movement, I was left with tears in my eyes.
The Op. 111 is played masterfully. The first movement is dramatic partly because of the wide dynamics used. The second movement, a wondrous set of variations, is extremely satisfying; he underlines Beethoven's surprising, even sometimes shocking, juxtapositions. The filigree in the all-treble variation is breathtaking, and when he encounters those right hand trills that accompany right hand melodies (don't try this at home!) the playing is seamless and little short of unbelievable.
Beethoven's Op. 2, No. 3 - so rarely played by other pianists unless they are doing a complete traversal of the sonatas - was a great favorite of Michelangeli's. And he plays it in a fairly relaxed (perhaps 'confident' is a better word) manner but with plenty of snap to those opening parallel thirds. He manages the Alberti basses without their becoming trite, emphasizing the lyricism of the melodies they accompany. The slow movement, placed second in this sonata, is utterly serene and becomes the emotional center of the sonata. The amazing calm he conveys reminds one of his way with the second movement of his nonpareil Ravel G Major Sonata recording in that he seems to make time stop. In the Scherzo one is made all the more aware of how Michelangeli's left hand is fully the equal of his right. The Finale's opening chordal scales are truly exciting -- and voiced perfectly. One can see how some detractors would say that his technical mastery is perhaps too rehearsed, but frankly I disagree with that. What's wrong with being able to play a passage precisely the way you want it? At any rate, this often overlooked sonata is finished with a flourish and one comes away thinking it is one of Beethoven's best.
The four Scarlatti sonatas are among the more familiar of the 555 he wrote. Here, if anywhere in this recital, one can see that Michelangeli is not just a mechanicus. Each sonata is different, and more to the point, within each sonata one can find countless variations in dynamics, phrasing and touch. This is romantic Scarlatti - pianistic Scarlatti - that does not stray over the line into self-indulgence. Perhaps "crystalline perfection" isn't so far off the point after all.
TT=84 mins. No extras. Sound: LPCM mono. No subtitles -- simply title cards containing names of works and their movements in Italian.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The best Opus 111 ever?Nov. 13 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
One of the bigger disappointments of my concert-going life happened when Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli cancelled a recital in Chicago in 1978. By that time he was, by all accounts, pretty well on the way to terminal weirdness, and cancellations were to be expected. But that was to be my only opportunity to hear him live - ever - and I can only imagine what might have been.
Happily, Italian television managed to talk him into playing in front of a camera (and with pretty good audio) in the early 1960s, and this DVD is a record of some of those performances. It is an unusual recital - or would be from most pianists - consisting of the elegant but fairly inconsequential sonatas by Scarlatti and Galuppi, coupled with two substantial works by Beethoven.
With the exception of the Beethoven sonata no. 3, this film pretty much recapitulates a recording that was released on London/Decca around the same time. What you can't get from the audio recordings is the combination of power and refinement that Michelangeli brought to these pieces. You can't take your eyes off his hands - his outsized yet delicate hands.
A word about the Beethoven sonata 32, op. 111 - the piece that Thomas Mann described as the farewell to classical music and sonata form. Michelangeli's perfomance in this film is from a genuine recital - the only piece on the program recorded in front of an audience, as far as I can tell. It is flawless, but, more important, it is searingly intense. Michelangeli was accused of being cold and emotionless, and you can see why if you are simply looking at his perfect pianistic posture and his patrician mien. (I do wish he would condescend to smile once in a while.) But listen, and you will hear how long and carefully he has thought about the piece; how relentlessly he must have practised it to be able to bring off all those trills and triplets in the arietta so effortlessly; and how all that thought and all that work culminated in a transcendent performance of this most transcendent of works.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Best of Michelangeli..and BeethovenOct. 28 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
This DVD contains a sensational live registration of the opus 111 sonata of Beethoven and a studio recording of the beautiful opus 2 no. 3. This is as good as it gets!
Michelangeli was extreme in the way that he did not care for stardom, maybe did not care for the public, did not really care for recording, however did unconditionally care for MUSIC, and music alone. This does show in these outstanding performances of the Beethoven sonatas.
Michelangeli stated that all praise should go to the composer, not the musician. And praise should go to Beethoven: what marvellous pieces these are, what a miracle of creativity!
I simply cannot believe that anyone loving Beethoven's piano music would not buy this DVD. It's an absolute must-have. Enjoy!