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CD Feature/ Dino Ciani: "Mozart - Piano Concertos No. 20 & 25"

img  Tobias

Dino Ciani may well be the James Dean of Classical Music. A semi-iconic figure of talent, ambition and that inexplicable star-quality, he was educated by the great Cortot and deemed one of the great already at a young age, when a catastrophic car accident killed him on the streets of Rome – he was only 32 years old. While his legacy of studio recordings was small, its spirit has survived the centuries unwithered and paved the way for a steady stream of re-releases, not least furthered by the untiring work of the Dino Ciani Association. On this CD, we see Ciani in full flight on two live cuts from the ARTS archives (a place we’d like to visit), the first from 1968 and the second taped in 1972, a mere two years before his untimely death.

It also marks one of the happy coincidences that the passing of time allows certain forms of artistic expression the chance to wait for the opportune moment. Neither in the studio-focussed 80s, nor in the digitally clean 90s could these concerts have been published, probably regarded as without merrit in the former and too “raw” in the latter, but with almost 35 years of hindsight both views can now openly be considered rediculous. The moving series “Great Pianists of the 20th Century” on Phlips Classics has already set the record straight in demonstrating that even granular sound pictures can lead to a maximum impact and in this case, the audio quality of the recordings is actually pretty impressive considering their age. Especially Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 sounds as clean and transparent as anything available in the shops and if the Concerto No. 20 has that certain live-feeling to it, then it only adds to the tension and adrenalin of the performance. Whatever the obvious composer-related reasons may have been for bringing together these two pieces on one disc, their soundproperties and aspects of emotional mood are much more important. On the one hand, there is the c major concerto, played with joy and weightlesness by the Orchestra della RAI di Napoli. If you’re looking for the most energetic and powerful interpretation, this is not the place, but the clear and concise instrumental rendering fits Ciani’s crystaline touch perfectly, This is not a rough meeting of strangers, but of like-minded parties, pushing each other upwards into heaven. Especially the relative dominance of the higher frequencies in the mix make this an almost ethereal, yet always earthly performance. In stark contrast, the d minor opening of the Concerto No. 20 places events in a dramatic and ill-boding light. Piero Bellugi directs the orchestra into passionate waters, but his style is not one of expressing everything all too obviously. Rather, there is a feeling of premonition lingering everywhere, which Ciani mirrors through his broken movements, sometimes tearing gaping holes into the score, then again healing the wounds with soft finger-kisses.

Both recordings are highly interesting to the expert and layman alike, as they approach Mozart in unusual ways and take away a lot of the Classical pathos often associated with the composer. Even more, they show Ciani as a man with an incredible flow and a passion in his playing which can manifest itself without hammering the keys or any ego-minded eccentricities. It is the unspoken contributions which leave the strongest impression, as well as his capacity to be closest to a universal message by just “doing his thing”. That, too, justifies the comparison to James Dean.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Dino Ciani
Homepage: ARTS Records

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