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Michelangeli on DVD (Debussy, Chopin and Beethoven)



Opus Arte DVD OA 0941D, OA 0940D and OA 0939D

Several studio recital DVDs of Michelangeli, playing for Turin TV in 1962, are released (separately) by Opus Arte. They are self-recommending for connoisseurs of piano playing in the 20th century, and make salutary watching as demonstrations of technical infallability, and perfect tonal control with exemplary economy of movement. The b & w filming is austere, upon the pianist's insistence, and I find the lack of distraction satisfying. Sound quality as remastered is satisfactory.

But Michelangeli can be disconcertingly cool, notably in Beethoven. However, every DVD collector of great pianists should have at least one of these; the best, to our mind, are the Chopin and Debussy boxes. The Debussy selection is notable for the many quieter and deceptively simpler pieces which display his famed command of the subtlest timbre and touch; an object lesson for all who learn and teach Children's Corner.

The Debussy disc has also a cringe-making documentary of a certain slight historical interest. We learn of Michelangeli's devotion to his advanced pianists course in his home town Brescia, which he ran at his own considerable expense, hoping that its fruits would prove to be a legacy of equal importance to his recordings. The pianists practised for many hours a day on 16 pianos Michelangeli supplied, behind closed windows for the neighbours' sakes.

There are rehearsed interviews with several pupils of the day, and one was encouraged to identify "the greatest living Italian musical genius"? Many composers were mentioned, all to be passed over, the latest of those still well remembered abroad being Dallapiccola and Donatoni. There could be only one possible answer, that eventually was left to our imaginations... Finally the great man himself was prevailed upon to play one of Debussy's Images, but not a word did he utter to camera.

Full track lists, with video clips to help prospective purchasers, are on the Opus Arte website, including Jimbo's Lullaby.


© Peter Grahame Woolf