In Memory of Sergio Fiorentino: Chopin Piano Works Import
This recital was taped, live, only a year before Fiorentino's untimely death in 1998 at the age of 70. The story of the pianist's interrupted career (due to a plane crash) may be dramatic, but this kind of playing doesn't need any boosts from such irrelevant factors. Fiorentino was a complete Chopin player. His nocturnes are smooth and placid, while the ballade and polonaise are tremendously dramatic. It's astonishing to think that these nearly perfect performances come from a single unedited concert, but the level of musical projection is even more impressive than the pianist's flawless technique. This is one for the ages, and fortunately the recording quality is excellent. --Leslie Gerber
The program begins with four preludes, including the A-flat and the D-flat. The latter is played with stunning concentration and beautiful tone; the former is wonderfully songlike. The waltzes evoke a vanished savoir-faire and carefree exuberance, although the melancholia of op 64 no 2 is a fine contrast. The nocturnes (op 27/2, op 15/2) are for me the high point of the disk in their autumnal shade and underlying tensions. Once again, we are treated to some wonderful contrasts in the etudes op 10/4, 6, 8, & 10, and the mazurkas. The official program closes with two larger works, the Polonaise in c-sharp minor and the Ballade in A-flat. For me, Sofronitsky owns the former, but I can at least forget him temporarily when Fiorentino plays. The Ballade is superb. Two more waltzes are features as encores.
The sound on this disk is excellent. There is some non-intrusive audience noise, and applause only follows the Ballade and the encores. The Yamaha piano makes a lovely sound.
This disk is doubly fortunate since I understand that APR won't bring out any Chopin in the studio series, so the disk goes nicely with the Chopin Second Sonata on the live in Germany disks. Fiorentino's death surely marked the death of one of the great Chopin players -- his waltzes rank with Lipatti's, his nocturnes with Rubinstein's, and his Mazurkas with Kapell's. This is a beautifully balances recital which is as good as anything Fiorentino ever recorded.
I would only urge those who know nothing of him to invest in this recording. On it, you will hear one of the very greatest pianists of the last century and, undoubtedly, even among them one of the very finest exponents of Chopin. That may, on the face of it, appear an unusual claim on behalf of someone who may not be at all known to the reader of this review. To that I would only say that if you listen to the playing I think you will be converted.
He really was a most extraordinary musician and a most self-effacing artist whose interpretations, particularly (in my opinion) of Chopin and Bach will, in time, receive the recognition they deserve.
I am personally delighted that he is, at last, getting the acclaim that we, privileged to know his playing from many years ago, always believed he one day would receive.
For all those interested in great music or great artists or who want to hear the full possibilities of the piano, I really urge you to invest in this CD. I doubt very much that you will find a minute of disappointment.
Alan M. Watkins