Thursday, 11 February 2016

Truly impressive performances from pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli on a new release from Solaire Records entitled Liszt: The Franciscan Works

Sandro Ivo Bartoli , a graduate of the Florence State Conservatory and the Royal Academy of Music in London, collaborated privately with Russian piano legend Shura Cherkassky. In the early 1990s, with Cherkassky’s encouragement, Bartoli began to rediscover the Italian piano literature of the early twentieth century, soon establishing a trend and becoming its leading interpreter world-wide. In addition to the concertos of Casella, Malipiero, Pizzetti and Petrassi, in 1995 he gave the first modern performance in the United States of Respighi’s Toccata for piano and orchestra in an historic concert that was broadcast by PBS in the series ‘Great Performances’. In Europe, he toured extensively with orchestras such as The Philharmonia, the Hallé, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Stockholm String and the Max-Bruch Philharmonie, working with conductors such as Peter Stangel, Nicolae Moldoveanu, Michele Carulli, Simon Wright, Vladimir Lande and Gianluigi Zampieri among others. He has performed alongside such giants as Martha Argerich and Rodion Shchedrin.

Recent engagements have included Rachmaninov’s Second Concerto in Dresden, Liszt’s Malédiction concerto in Munich, Chopin’s Second Concerto in Grosseto, Mozart’s ‘Jeunehomme’ Concerto in Milan, as well as appearances on Radio Nacional Clàsica Argentina, Radio Nacional Española, the Icelandic Radio and Radio Muzical Romania.

Bartoli has recorded the complete concertos of Gian Francesco Malipiero with the Radio Orchestra of Saarbrücken (CPO, winner of the Diapason d’Or 2008), works for piano and orchestra of Ottorino Respighi with the State Orchestra of Saxony (Brilliant Classics, 2011), the First Piano Concerto of Erik Lotichius with the Academic Symphony Orchestra of St. Petersburg (Navona, 2013) and solo albums devoted to the music of Alfredo Casella, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Percy Grainger, Frédéryk Chopin, Ferruccio Busoni, and ‘The Frescobaldi Legacy’ (Brilliant Classics, 5 de Diapason, 2013).

Sandro Ivo Bartoli now features on the second release of Solaire Records, the new label by Berlin-based producer Dirk Fischer, entitled Liszt: The Franciscan Works.

The 1860s saw the death of Franz Liszt’s (1811-1886) 20 year-old son Daniel and his 26-year-old daughter Blandine.  After years of travelling Liszt announced that he would retreat to the solitary life. He found an apartment in Rome where, in 1865, he took minor orders in the Catholic Church.

Liszt wrote a number of works inspired by St. Francis of Assisi which Sandro Ivo Bartoli gathered into a recital programme. It is this programme that he has taken into the studio to record for Solaire.

Deux Légendes, S.163 date from 1862-63. Bartoli brings a fine delicate fluency to Saint François d'Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux, nicely phrased, revealing so much of Liszt’s poetic vision. He moves through some rich, broad Lisztian phrases with such well controlled dynamics that when the peaks arrive they have all the more impact. Saint François de Paule: Marchant sur les flots brings such a change of character yet still with a sensitivity that reveals so much. There are some wonderfully fluent, billowing phrases with this pianist bringing the feel of a live performance such is his sense of freedom. There are passages of tremendous fire and passion. This is a truly impressive performance

Bartoli brings a fine power and assurance to San Francesco. Preludio per il Cantico del Sol di San Francesco d'Assisi, S.498c as well as some beautifully well-shaped poetic passages in a well-judged performance. He also brings a formidable power to the impressive opening of Cantico di San Francesco, S.499. However, it is his fine phrasing and understanding of the dynamics allied to a fine sense of poetic vision that makes this such a commanding performance.  

Alleluia et Ave Maria, S.183 dates from 1862 with this pianist finding a fine clarity of line in the richly dense opening passages of Alleluia showing a formidable technique allied to a fine overall vision. Ave Maria d'Arcadelt brings some particularly lovely, gentle passages where Bartoli is sensitive to every dynamic and nuance.  

Bartoli brings a rippling fluency to Les Jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’este, S163/4 from Années de Pelerinage (Third Year) (1867–77), finely controlled and shaped, revealing an almost Debussian flavour. There is a lovely delicacy in the most exquisitely turned phrases whilst rising to moments of great passion.

Miserere d’après Palestrina, S.173/8 has a most wonderfully conceived opening before moving through delicately shaped phrases and some fine moments of increased passion. Ave Maria Die Glocken von Rom, S.182 brings a gentle balm, Bartoli’s fine sense of structure bringing a fine cohesion to this beautifully shaped performance that rises in drama briefly before falling to a gentle coda.

These are truly impressive performances from this fine musician. He receives a first rate recording. There are interesting booklet notes concerning Liszt and The Franciscan Connection by the pianist and notes on Aspects of religion in the work of Liszt by Tobias Fischer as well as many colour photographs.

I would like to hear more from this fine pianist.

See also Solaire Records first release: 

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