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Piano Concerto in F minor
Souvenirs de Beethoven
Canzonette Italienne
Un Soupir

Francesco Nicolosi (piano)
Razumozsky Symphony Orchestra  Andrew Mogrelia
Naxos 8.553701 (62 minutes)
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Sigismond Thalberg (1812-1871) was one of the major talents of the generation of virtuoso pianists which was led by Franz Liszt. Like Liszt, he became well known in Paris during the 1830s, and press reports suggest a good deal of rivalry between the two, no doubt encouraged by their sensationalising potential. In truth the two men saw one another as colleagues rather more than rivals, though they could not resist taking part in 'pianistic contests', which resulted in Liszt emerging as the clear winner.

Thalberg travelled widely and his reputation went before him. The Piano Concerto in F minor is his opus 5, a relatively early work. The style is not exactly new, recalling an amalgam of Weber and Chopin (whose concertos were also early works). This performance benefits from a recorded sound which is truthful, and the balance between piano and orchestra is particularly effective. However, while the music-making is accurate, it does seem slightly careful. There is little of the sheer élan which a concerto of this type might demand, and which an extra rehearsal or two might have achieved.

For this reason the solo items on the disc are rather more interesting as performances. In particular the extended Souvenirs de Beethoven, a 'grand fantasy' on themes from the Seventh and other symphonies, gives us a compelling example of a phenomenon which was very much in vogue during the nineteenth century. And Nicolosi plays it with appropriate fire and imagination. He also displays the more poetic aspect of his personality and technique in the charming miniatures which comprise the remainder of his recital.

Terry Barfoot


Terry Barfoot

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