Stefano Bigoni studied piano with Gioiella Giannoni and Vincenzo Audino and achieved his diploma at the Conservatorio "G. Puccini" in La Spezia with full marks. He completed his musical education graduating in composition and instrumentation for bands at the Conservatorio "A. Casella" in L'Aquila with Maestro Piero Luigi Zangelmi.
ECM New Series is better known for its documentation of contemporary works, but the music of the past sometimes receives coverage when artists bring a new perspective to it. The Diabelli Variations, Op. 120; the Sonata No. 32 in C minor, Op. 111; and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126, are among the most original and intellectually stimulating works Ludwig van Beethoven composed for the piano, and the sophisticated interpretations of András Schiff are especially worthwhile for their insights into authentic performance practice and reception. Here, Schiff gives the listener options between a relatively modern sounding version of the Diabelli Variations and a period interpretation, without favoring one or the other. On the first CD he plays the Sonata and the Diabelli Variations on a Bechstein piano from 1921, though with minimal pedaling and a restrained execution that allows every inner voice and subtle dynamic to be appreciated. While this piano is not as hard or bright sounding as a modern Steinway, it is familiar to modern ears and most listeners will readily accept it. On the second CD, Schiff plays the Diabelli Variations, along with the Six Bagatelles, on a smaller sounding Franz Brodmann fortepiano, an original instrument from around 1820, Beethoven's time period.
Though Puccini represents the late-Romantic apex of the Italian operatic tradition, his songs are much less well known and, in their pared simplicity and emotional restraint, could hardly be more different from his stage works. The nineteen complete songs for soprano (two in duet with a mezzo) and piano cover themes typical of lyric poetry including life, death, personal resolution, love, nature, home and religious faith. There are also rare salon pieces and examples of Puccini’s secular and sacred juvenilia, written between 1875 and 1880.
This recording lives up to its title. In his prime, Phineas Newborn had phenomenal technique (on the level of an Oscar Peterson), a creative imagination, and plenty of energy. These trio sessions (with Leroy Vinnegar or Sam Jones on bass and either Milt Turner or Louis Hayes on drums) feature Newborn displaying plenty of heat and fresh ideas on compositions by Bud Powell, Bobby Timmons, Benny Golson, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis (along with two of his own). This is piano jazz at its highest level.
In its bell-like sonorities, clear textures and ritual manner, the piano music of Robert Saxton (born in London in 1953) suggests an almost oriental fascination with light and the way light refracts and diffracts – and yet it is audibly music written by an Englishman. In the two Books of Saxton’s Hortus Musicae in particular, this fascinating confluence generates a soundworld somewhere downstream from Takemitsu and Tippett, giving these gardens of music both a ceremonial dignity and sense of spring growth. Hailed as a pianist of ‘amazing power and panache’ (The Daily Telegraph), Clare Hammond is recognized for the virtuosity and authority of her performances and has developed a ‘reputation for brilliantly imaginative concert programmes’ (BBC Music Magazine, ‘Rising Star’).
Violinist Aleksey Semenenko writes of this new release: “I decided to make it the central focus of this album by placing Schubert’s Fantasy in C after Paganini’s ‘I Palpiti’ Variations. After hearing him play in concert, Schubert was so impressed by Paganini’s technique and style that he wanted to write something similarly virtuosic, which eventually resulted in the Fantasy in C major. Some passages are indeed on a par with anything Paganini has written. However, Schubert adapted the music into his own symphonic style. In Schubert’s Fantasy in C, technical brilliance is always at the service of the musical idea. Furthermore, Schubert is not as interested in the individual instrumental parts as Paganini was.” In addition to the Paganini and Schubert, Semenenko has included works by Grieg, Tchaikovsky, and Castelnuovo-Tedesco. “Stunning technique and intonation, verve, wit, (and) beautiful phrasing.” (The Boston Musical Intelligencer) “an unparalleled level of refined musicianship and stage presence.” (The Strad)