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Len Mullenger:


Piano Concerto
NewPhilharmonia Orchestra, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (recorded Royal Festival Hall 17 June 1965)

Preludes Book 1.
(recorded Royal Festival Hall 13 April 1982).
MICHELANGELI, Arturo Benedetti.
BBCL 4043 -2 (ADD) (68.53)

This is a legendary performance of the Grieg. To many of us the best performance ever recorded. It is, without doubt, the version to buy. It stands skyscrapers above its nearest rivals.

The magnificent fingerwork, the contrasting tone, the exciting attack, the robustness of the music in the hands of this supreme king of the keyboard are quite astonishing. There are no flaws, no uncertainties just mind-boggling magic. And he makes this concerto into a very very powerful piece contradicting those performances that wallow and drag out sentimentality in nauseating pastel shades. The orchestra are in fine form. There are some absolutely shattering moments. It is a performance that when you listen to it in the privacy of your home you are so elated you have to stand up , cheer and applaud. And, quite frankly, if your neighbours think you are crazy, let them.

This is the performance to judge all others by but no one will ever come near it.

The only other pianist who gets the first movement cadenza 'spot on' for tempi and sheer brilliance is Peter Katin. All other pianists that I have on record or disc, and I have about 20, turn this cadenza into a gentle, stop and start disjointed affair. The big tunes in this performance are not hindered by slushy sentimentality but are so mightily strong that , if you have never heard this performance, you may think it is a different concerto. You are also in for a rare treat. This performance is valuable.

Every note counts with this pianist and every note is there. He has the correct finger, wrist or arm weight for each note . He does not just play the music and count it no big deal if a few notes are missing or lost. Every note is there. It is a phenomenal performance.

The recorded sound could hardly be better. That opening drum roll starts as a whisper and ends with a metallic roar.

But the tenderness is there. It is not the weak sort of tenderness of an episode of Little House on the Prairie or a Bette Davis tearjerker. Tenderness with purpose and strength.

This is a disc that I am going to wear out.

And to the Debussy:

I become irritated by Debussy being played as pastel music where the music gets slower and bogged down as pianists want to hang on every nuance. These are performances with strength as well. Michelangeli is not interested in impressionistic dithering but the onward direction of the music.

Again every note counts in this performance. Just listen to how wonderfully well he strikes unaccompanied bass notes. You don't have to imagine that they are there. They are!

I felt that I was hearing these pieces for the first time. I know that, after hearing this superlative performance, I will not try to play them again.

This is artistry at its unassailable best.

The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is given a very different reading from the usual dreamy performance and The Engulfed Cathedral is very imposing.. It must have been a mighty edifice.

Michelangelis' recordings should be obtained by all genuine music lovers. His performance of the Ravel G major Concerto and Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto no. 4 (to me, his finest work) will never be equalled.(CDM5672382 ) £8.50 Review

Record of the month ? No, a record for a lifetime.

You can keep your Richter and your Kissin. It is Michelangeli that is the king! This is nothing sort of sensational!

 David Wright

Performances Beyond praise

Recording Exceptional

Reviews from previous months

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