These are lovely, even heartfelt performances of two little-known masterpieces by a master pianist that have only one serious flaw. It's not the playing. Aldo Ciccolini has more than enough technique to blaze through Janácek's tremendously difficult music, more than enough sensitivity to soar through his passionate lyricism, more than enough sense of tempo to drive his gnomic rhythms, and more than enough clarity of purpose to elucidate his gnarly textures. And it's certainly not the music. Although Janácek was widely considered an ethnic eccentric for a good part of his career, his music, especially his operas, long ago assumed its place in the standard repertoire, and in Ciccolini's hands even his sometimes enigmatic piano music is as compelling, even as compulsive, as Debussy's at its most obsessive. The flaw, however, is not with Ciccolini's hands but with his feet, specifically, with his pedaling. It's not his pedaling per se -- his subtle gradations of tone and nuanced blends of tone are wonderfully evocative -- it's the sound of his pedaling. Whenever the music is quieter than fortissimo, one can hear his pedals rising and falling -- and Janácek's piano music is quieter than fortissimo most of the time. The sound of the piano itself is more than adequate, if not quite exemplary -- a little too distant sometimes and a little too close other times -- but the nearly incessant sound of Ciccolini's pedaling could drive some listeners mad.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|In the mists (V Mlhách), pieces (4) for piano, JW 8/22|
|Piano Sonata ("Zulice, 1.X.05," "From the Street, 1 October, 1905"), JW 8/19 (final movement lost)|
|On the Overgrown Path (Po zarostlém chodnícku), for piano, JW 8/17|
|Theme and variations for piano in B flat major ("Zdenciny variace," "Zdenka Variations"), JW 8/6|