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Reine Gianoli (piano)
Recitals in France 1962-1966
MELOCLASSIC MC1044 [78:36 + 79:15]

Browsing the internet, the catalogue is by no means awash with recordings made by the French pianist Reine Gianoli (1915-1979). Perhaps the best known are Mozart's 17 piano sonatas she recorded live between 1947 and 1955 and issued on the Doremi label (DHR-7901-5). Her teachers make an impressive line-up: Lazare Lévy, Alfred Cortot, Yves Nat and Edwin Fischer, and she worked with some of the most renowned orchestras and conductors, the latter including Paul Paray, Felix Weingartner and Hermann Scherchen. She participated in the Strasbourg and Lucerne Festivals, appearing with Pablo Casals, Pierre Fournier, Georges Enesco and Edwin Fischer. Aside from her concertizing, she was eagerly sought after as a teacher. In 1947, she took up a post at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, then in 1977 at the Conservatoire de Paris. I was interested to discover that Jean-Yves Thibaudet was one of her pupils. She died in Paris on 21 February 1979 at the age of 63.

The solo piano works on this 2 CD set derive from three piano recitals, recorded in France. Two are dated 1962, and one was set down four years later in 1966. One is marked as a studio recording, the other two are designated live. Each is mined from the vaults of Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française.

We begin with a recital from the RTF Studio, Paris, dated 19 December 1962. Gianoli opens with Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903. It has all the colour and panache we have come to expect in this popular work. The Fantasia's improvisatory character is truly met, and the flowing arpeggiations dazzle. The narrative aspect to the opening movement of Beethoven's Op.31 No. 3 is emphasised. The Scherzo is sprightly and bounces along, and the finale gallops along with vigour and verve. The semiquaver figures gleam and sparkle in Schubert's A flat Impromptu. Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.9 showcases some breathtaking virtuosity, very much reminiscent of Cziffra's recording. Schumann's Piano Sonata No.1 in F-sharp Minor, Op.11 is the only item featured from a live recital hosted at the Grand Casino, Dieppe on 24 July 1962. I can't say I'm taken with it. I don't feel that Gianoli is fully in her comfort zone. She sounds non-committed, in a performance that’s routine and uninspired. I'm sorry, but I'll have to pass over this one.

From 28 February 1966 comes a substantial 80-minute recital. The venue is Paris' Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Once again Bach provides the curtain raiser, a wonderful noble and imposing Chaconne in the Busoni arrangement, with a compelling sense of structure. Gianoli savours the expressive lyricism of Schubert's Piano Sonata in A Major D.664, but unfortunately the last movement is marred by some finger slips. The lion's share of the recital is devoted to Chopin's 24 Preludes. It was probably with Cortot that she studied this cycle, after all it was a work the master excelled in. There's a logical flow throughout Gianoli's performance, and she makes much of the contrasting drama and lyricism. I love her phrasing of No.1. No.4 is wistful yet never over-indulged. The supersonic finger passages on No.16 are clean and precise, whilst No.20 is a noble, grand edifice. No.24 brings the cycle to a close with passion and fire. The autumnal Rhapsody in G Minor, Op.79/2 by Brahms, is complemented by the carefree Scarlatti Sonata in C.

Each of the piano recitals are in very good sound, and make a satisfying listen. Meloclassic’s attractive presentation includes a sturdy gatefold with the booklet notes fitting snugly between the two discs. The liner provides a detailed biography of the pianist together with selections of the pianist in her own words. Of special interest are her recollections of Alfred Cortot as a teacher. The black and white photographs are the icing on the cake.

Stephen Greenbank
Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

BACH: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903 [12:50]
BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No 18 in E-flat Major, Op.31/3 [21:51]
SCHUBERT: Impromptu in A-flat Major, Op.90/4, D.899 [7:26]
LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsody No 9, HS 244/9 [6:32]
rec. 19 December 1962, Paris, Studio RTF Studio Recording
SCHUMANN: Piano Sonata No.1 in F-sharp minor, Op.11 [29:54]
rec. 24 July 1962 · Dieppe · Grand casino · RTF · Live Recording
BACH/BUSONI: Chaconne in D Minor BWV 1004 [14:27]
SCHUBERT: Piano Sonata in A Major D 664, Op.posth 120 [19:19]
BRAHMS: Rhapsody in G Minor, Op.79/2 [6:56]
CHOPIN: 24 Préludes, Op.28 [35:50]
SCARLATTI: Sonata in C Major K.159 [2:42]
rec. 28 February 1966, Paris, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, ORTF Live Recording

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