Dario Bonuccelli

Wagner: Complete Piano Works

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Released in 2013 for the bicentennial of Richard Wagner's birth, this double-disc album of his complete piano music shows a side of the composer that is seldom heard. Wagner's reputation rests on his music dramas, most significantly on the tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, but also on such masterpieces as Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Parsifal, which influenced western music well into the 20th century. Yet the young Wagner emulated Beethoven in his piano sonatas and his massive Fantasia in F sharp minor, and revealed his own style gradually, in a handful of short dances and album leaves. This presentation on Dynamic eschews chronological order and presents the more characteristic pieces on the first CD, while saving the early sonatas for the second disc. Greater emphasis is placed on the Wagner we know, especially in the opening arrangement of the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde, and the handful of pieces that Wagner wrote from the 1850s on. The dances that are included are of limited value, except perhaps for their imitation of Chopin and Liszt. However, Wagner's earnest struggles with sonata form are perhaps of greater interest to students of his musical development, and the second disc gives a clear view of Wagner's style in the 1830s. Dario Bonuccelli's playing is clear and focused, but lacking emotional involvement throughout the first disc until his reading of the Fantasia, which is adequately impassioned. Yet Bonuccelli has saved his best performances for the sonatas, which clearly benefit from his committed playing and lucid interpretations. Dynamic's sound is quite deep and spacious, giving Bonuccelli extraordinary presence and resonance.

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