Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 15; Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Paganini; Bach-Busoni: Chaconne

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One could make the case for this October 1950 recording by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli of Ferruccio Busoni's transcription of Johann Sebastian Bach's Chaconne from his Partita in D minor being the single greatest piano recording ever made.

There's the piece: one of the most profound meditations on Man and God ever composed. There's the transcription: one of the most searching explorations of keyboard sonorities ever written. And then there's the performance: one of the most recklessly virtuosic, relentlessly awe-inspiring, and ultimately astounding performances of anything ever recorded. You'll weep, you'll cry, you'll fall on your knees and beg for mercy, but the vast vistas of eternity in Michelangeli's performance will reveal more of the nature of infinity than mortal ear can apprehend or mortal mind can comprehend.

Michelangeli's March 1950 recording of Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Paganini is nearly as great, with the same virtuosity and the same ability to inspire awe. And Michelangeli's February 1953 recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto in B flat with Ettore Gracis conducting the Orchestra Sinfonica da camera dell'Ente dei 'Pomeriggi Musicali' di Milano is almost as great, with the same virtuosity and the same ability to inspire awe. But even if this disc held only Michelangeli's Bach-Busoni Chaconne, it would still be mandatory listening for anyone who loves great music. EMI's digital transfers as good as one could hope.

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