The 21 Nocturnes Opp.9, 15, 27, 32, 37, 48, 55, 62 & 71; in C sharp minor, Op.posth; in C minor, Op.posth
Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
Recorded in December 2002, Église St Marcel, Paris
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: December 2004
CD No: CASCAVELLE
VEL 3064 (2 CDs)
Duration: 1 hour 54 minutes
These beguiling renditions of Chopin’s 21 Nocturnes find Aldo Ciccolini (the Naples-born French pianist) in generous form. 2005 brings his 80th-birthday (on 15 August) and this relatively recent recording reports a seasoned pianist in fine, very musical and communicative form.
It’s easy to misshape this music with excessive rubato and to spray it with too much perfume. Ciccolini avoids excess, sentimentality and being over-fragrant. Chopin’s heartfelt music is the stronger for it. Ciccolini’s simplicity of phrase, and numerous subtleties of touch and colour, are always at the service of the music, and he sees the ‘bigger picture’ of each Nocturne, not least in those pieces that have wildly contrasting middle sections, and at which points Ciccolini brings drama and passion as a natural rather than a forced release of emotion.
What is also evident is how varied Chopin’s Nocturnes are; playing all 21 at a single sitting emphasises that each is its own world, something that Ciccolini underlines by his awareness of the particulars of each one. Ciccolini’s playing here is a prime example of old-world charm, generous phrasing, easeful manner and strength and purpose, which melds styles (from soft to rugged) and the pieces themselves into a very satisfying whole. Integration and affection are Ciccolini’s hallmarks, qualities that satisfy structure and invention without affectation or indulgence; rest assured, though, that when flamboyance is needed, Ciccolini can conjure a grand gesture, too.
Above all, Ciccolini loves and appreciates the music and his devoted playing invites and involves the listener. A lifetime’s experience informs these engrossing, often soulful interpretations, which are recorded with a fine balance between presence and space, the piano sounding with tonal refulgence.
Such playing makes Ciccolini’s recital at the Wigmore Hall on 6 July of Debussy and Liszt something keenly anticipated; a rare London appearance.