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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op 58 [35:19]
Piano Sonata No. 10 in G major, Op 14/2 [17:36]
Piano Sonata No. 11 in B-flat major, Op 22 [21:55]
Piano Sonata No. 4 in E-flat major, Op 7 [27:49]
Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op 13 “Pathétique” [18:55]
Piano Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op 111 [26:58]
Rondò a capriccio in G major, Op 129 [5:46]
Pietro Scarpini (piano)
RAI Roma/Wilhelm Furtwängler
rec. 1952-1978
RHINE CLASSICS RH-020 [74:56 + 79:37]

Rhine has focused extensively on the surviving legacy of Italian pianist Pietro Scarpini and you will find a number of their releases reviewed on this site. But Rhine wasn’t the only label to promote his recordings, as the late Allan Evans’ Arbiter label released a disc called ‘The Pietro Scarpini Edition’ (see review), the first of a projected series, which contained two of the performances in Rhine’s latest release. These were the Op.111 sonata and the recording by which Scarpini is best known, the Piano Concerto No.4 in the live RAI Rome performance with Furtwängler given in 1952.

The jump in sonics from previous restorations of the concerto to that presented by Arbiter was striking and very welcome. Quite a lot had had to be taken on trust before, but aurally things were clear and clean in their transfer and that’s the case here too, which is not surprising as I suspect that Arbiter had access to a high-quality original source, as does Rhine. Even so it remains a live 1952 broadcast. I won’t repeat my comments about these two performances other than to note that one now has the opportunity to hear the two other Beethoven sonatas that Scarpini recorded on 13 March 1961 when he also performed Op.111 – namely Op.14/2 and the Pathétique.

They share the resilient and technically strong elements – but above all the interpretative excellence – that so distinguished his reading of Op.111. The G major sonata, Op.14 No.2, balances elegances and fervour to great advantage and Scarpini’s passagework is arrestingly lively, his wit and crisp chording in the slow movement admirable. Assuming he opened the recital with this sonata, moved on to the Pathétique and ended with the Op.111 – a surmise – one can tell that he was in excellent technical shape for this Milan performance. As for the Pathétique itself, one feels again the directness and the rightness of his conception from those big resonant chords – almost but not distorted in the recording – through the athleticism of his finger work, the moving directness – shorn of all artifice - in the slow movement and the vigorous summation of the Rondo finale.

Three items were taped at home by Scarpini. The earliest is a 1970 recording of the Rondò a capriccio in G major, Op 129 (‘Rage over a Lost Penny’) which frolics delightfully and with ample technical security free from any recital nerves. In 1972 he home-recorded the Sonata in B flat major, Op.22, full of expressive richness and stirring brio. No one is claiming that these home tapes, despite Rhine’s best efforts, are the equal of commercial studio recordings; in the case of this sonata there’s a brief one-second buckle in the Adagio and there are some passing noises. That’s also true of the last home studio recording, the E flat major, Op.7 where one can hear the clatter of turned pages falling in the Largo. Despite setting the microphone rather too close to the piano, one can nevertheless admire this great Beethovenian in intimate action, his control well-nigh exemplary. It seems inconceivable, as it has throughout this entire series, that Scarpini only made one commercial recording, but he was a man who preferred the less glacial arenas of live performance and home taping. He is not alone in that.

The booklet presentation is customarily attractive and 24bit 96 kHz remastering has been employed throughout. Scarpini’s legacy can now be seen in all its variety and richness in this series of Rhine releases and this latest example is no less impressive than the previous examples.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

CD1 [74:56]
Piano Concerto No 4 in G major, Op 58 [35:19]
Wilhelm Furtwängler | RAI Roma | live 1952
(new remastering)
Piano Sonata No 10 in G major, Op 14/2 [17:36]
Circolo della Stampa, Milano | live 1961
Piano Sonata No 11 in B-flat major, Op 22 [21:55]
private tape, home studio | 1972

CD2 [79:37]
Piano Sonata No 4 in E-flat major, Op 7 [27:49]
private tape, home studio, Roma | 1978
Piano Sonata No 8 in C minor, Op 13 “Pathétique” [18:55]
Circolo della Stampa, Milano | live 1961
Piano Sonata No 32 in C minor, Op 111 [26:58]
Circolo della Stampa, Milano | live 1961
Rondò a capriccio in G major, Op 129 [5:46]
private tape, home studio | 1970

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