Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Aldo Ciccolini : Beethoven Sonatas 31 and 23 (Appassionata)

Aldo Ciccolini was born in August 1925, which would make him, in July 2006 when these sonatas were recorded in Montpellier, an eighty-year-old.

You won't get much sense of this in the playing. The first sonata, the A flat, takes a minute or two to settle in, but by the time he tackles the Appassionata he's in full flow. This is one of those performances that makes you think Beethoven—yes! rather than Ciccolini—yes! It has fire in its belly, and certainly doesn't wallow in the lyrical side of the slow movement. There is something fierce about the way he brings it to its climax.

Ciccolini is a pianist whose considerable popularity in his adopted France is mirrored by his utter neglect elsewhere. Perhaps these performances will arouse a little curiosity…

Beethoven: Sonata No. 31 in A flat major, Op. 110
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, Op. 57

Aldo Ciccolini, Piano
Recorded July 2006 in Montpellier
MP3 VBR averaging about 190 kbs

Download from rapidshare


  1. Thanks for this one --- have you heard that complete Beethoven cycle Ciccolini did for an Italian label in the 90s? I'm apparently the only person on the planet that likes it: it's quite eccentric, but never in a bad way. I'm going to have fun checking out these live performances which are (as I recall) not much later than the studio recording of all 32. (I particularly liked the Op 110 on that set, so this should be interesting.)

    Too bad that all anyone seems to remember Ciccolini for is Satie and Albeniz ...

  2. I should thank you again for the Sokolov Clementi, the Schiff, Pludermacher, Tipo ... this is becoming my one-stop shop for the latest, often unusual, repertoire from pianists I know, as well as ones that I don't know ... Sokolov's Couperin takes the cake. I've listened to it quite frequently. Since the guy doesn't make records anymore, anything I can find by him is worth hearing; I never would have imagined he was doing all-Couperin concerts! (I've also heard some great live Schubert from him recently ... D959? I think.)

    Thanks again.

  3. Mee too, I think YEAH! every time there's a new Ceol post. Those Preludes in the previous find were everything you indicated and more.

    Can't wait to hear this one.

  4. Maready - you are more than welcome! What Italian label? Are they still available in any sense? EMI France has issued all his EMI/Pathé recordings, which is the occasion of a spat on rmcr between me and the ever-cranky Tom Deacon, who hates Ciccolini (and, indeed, most French pianists, it seems).

    Guillermo - glad you liked the preludes. What a white-hot performance! ¡De puta madre! And thanks for all the good statework!

  5. Ronan:

    I have Ciccolini's complete Beethoven cycle, studio recordings from 1995-2000, on the Bongiovanni label. I went back and had a listen after downloading your post, and they are as I remembered them --- beautifully recorded, on a very un-Steinway sounding piano, with Ciccolini's age only showing in a few fingerslips and fudged passages. More than compensated for by the 'poetry' --- for once I think that would be the right word. They may very well be out of print --- hmmm ... wonder if someone should post them?

    The topic of this set will come up if you search RMCR --- the same person you mention was very quick to call the person who asked about it an "idiot" and the pianist a "mediocrity". This was during the time said person was busily promoting the works of Joyce Hatto, so he may not have had time to actually listen to the set in question ...

    Thanks again!

  6. Is the Ciccolini EMI set in the same format and price range as the Marcelle Meyer and Yves Nat sets? Hey, any chance you have some unissued Meyer you are planning to post for us?

  7. Me again --- I answered my own question by looking up the EMI set --- WOW! Looks great, although I don't know if I can afford it now ... if you didn't pick up the EMI 17-CD set of Marcelle Meyer, though, it's still available and I can't recommend it enough; even if you have the earlier "Introuvables" sets, they actually remastered the recordings, with amazing results ... and the price is right.

    The Italian Ciccolini LVB is apparently in limbo ... there is an identical set to the one I have listed on Amazon, but from Nuova Era --- however it is unclear whether it is in print or not. Here's the link:


    I've been listening again, and it is quite wonderful, particularly if you are a fan of Beethoven and/or Ciccolini :))

    I may have to post some of it, or at least upload some for you if you are interested.

  8. I'd be fascinated. I've checked, and it's unavailable anywhere – even the redoubtable Amazon france and germany are out.

    I got the Mayer when it appeared - as you might have gathered, I'm a french pianists sort of person - and I also got the Yves Nat, which is truly wonderful playing.

    And as for our friend on rmcr, he can be a champion of new talent too, as well as an utter curmudgeon. He admitted to me in a private email that he enjoys the often offensive email exchanges he has with his many detractors.

  9. RonanM:

    I've made a small selection of my favorite sonatas from the Ciccolini Beethoven set and they will be posted this week. I'm glad to hear from you that you don't see the set in print anywhere either (well not GLAD, just reassured that I won't be blatantly stepping on anyone's copyright.) It's the sort of set one would expect to see an outfit like Brilliant jump on, so I'll be happy to do my bit to build up a demand for its eventual re-release.

    I must thank you again for this post --- both for the Ciccolini concert and for reminding me about set. I hadn't listened to it in a few years and I actually like it quite a lot. It's a really unusual approach to the music, and I mean that in a good way. I've also gone on an LVB sonata listening and playing spree ... I'd taken a break from them for a few years, so I'd like to thank both you and Mr. Ciccolini for your advocacy!

  10. I'd love to hear them!

    Great quote from Aldo:
    "Certain composers could not resist the temptation to defy the laws of nature. Even Brahms fell into that trap in his "Variations on a Theme by Paganini", which are extraordinarily stupid. Paganini's second ceonrto contains some pointless difficulties, and not all the notes in Rachmaninov's second concerto are of equal interest"

    At 84, he's got wilful opionions in him, which I think you can hear in the playing too!

  11. RonanM:

    My feelings entirely, M. Ciccolini! (re Brahms' Paganini Variations --- I will use that line - 'extraordinarlily stupid!'
    the next time I have to explain to myself why I don't want to hear that piece, even if Michelangeli is playing it!

  12. Sorry the links are dead. Would you find it possible to restore these performances? Many thanks.