Pier Paolo Vincenzi

Wagner: Complete Piano Music

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Richard Wagner's reputation rests on his tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the other music dramas he created, including Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which revolutionized all aspects of late Romantic music and left their mark on modern music as well. Yet there is a small body of non-operatic works that shows a more relaxed Wagner working on a much smaller scale: his Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra, a group of songs, and a collection of pieces for piano. This double CD by Pier Paolo Vincenzi presents Wagner's complete piano music with three sonatas, a large-scale fantasia, and eleven short pieces that show the composer's attempts at finding a more personal and intimate voice. Vincenzi plays these neglected works with subtlety and warmth, and gives them their due, slight as many of them are. While these compositions don't rise to the level of greatness and genius of the operas, they are ingenious and often indicative of Wagner's abiding interest in Beethoven. This is most apparent in the Sonata in A, "Grosse Sonate," and the Sonata in B flat major, which are well-developed and earnest attempts at mastering sonata form. The Fantasia in F sharp minor, the longest piece on this recording, is also clearly inspired by Beethoven, and while it is ambitious, it is episodic and loosely structured. The selections that instantly sound like mature Wagner are the first track of the first CD, Eine Sonate für das Album von Frau M.W., as well as the short pieces that fill out the second disc, which include a piano arrangement of the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, Ankunft bei den schwarzen Schwänen, Notenbrief für Mathilde Wesendonck, and especially the Elegy in A flat, and the Albumblatt für Frau Betty Schott, which wholly embody Wagner's lyrical style. This 2013 release commemorates the bicentennial of Wagner's birth and provides an opportunity for fans to appreciate a side of his music that is seldom explored.

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