Aldo Ciccolini - Enregistements 1950-1991 (56 CD box set, APE)
Aldo Ciccolini – Enregistements 1950-1991 (56 CD box set, APE)

Performer: Aldo Ciccolini
Audio CD
SPARS Code: ADD/DDD
Number of Discs: 56 CD box set
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Erato
Size: 14.5 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

CD 01 Mozart, Scarlatti
CD 02 Mozart, Scarlatti
CD 03 Tchaikovsky, Franck, Vincent d’Indy, Prokofiev
CD 04 Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Stravinsky
CD 05 Borodin, Arenski, Kabalevski, Satie
CD 06 Chopin, Liszt
CD 07 Liszt
CD 08 Liszt
CD 09 Albeniz, Mompou, Falla
CD 10 Bach
CD 11 Scarlatti, Rossini
CD 12 Chopin. Grieg
CD 13 Grieg, Mussorgsky
CD 14 Liszt
CD 15 Liszt
CD 16 Liszt
CD 17 Liszt
CD 18 Granados
CD 19 Albeniz
CD 20 Chabrier
CD 21 Debussy, Saint-Saens
CD 22 Satie
CD 23 Satie
CD 24 Satie
CD 25 Satie
CD 26 Severac
CD 27 Severac
CD 28 Schumann, Brahms
CD 29 Brahms
CD 30 Brahms, Schubert, Chopin
CD 31 Schubert
CD 32 Franck
CD 33 Franck, Vincent d’Indy, Castillon
CD 34 Massenet
CD 35 Massenet
CD 36 Saint-Saens
CD 37 Saint-Saens
CD 38 Debussy, Ravel
CD 39 Mozart, Beethoven
CD 40 Liszt
CD 41 Liszt
CD 42 Satie
CD 43 Satie
CD 44 Satie
CD 45 Satie
CD 46 Satie
CD 47 Debussy
CD 48 Debussy
CD 49 Debussy
CD 50 Debussy
CD 51 Debussy
CD 52 Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninov
CD 53 Debussy, Ravel
CD 54 Ravel, Faure, Hahn, Poulenc, Debussy
CD 55 Satie
CD 56 Albeniz, Falla

My first exposure to Aldo Ciccolini’s playing came many years ago while listening to classical radio station KMFA. I turned on the radio and heard the delightful sounds of Satie’s gymnopedies. After learning that the pianist was Ciccolini, I rushed out to procure one of his sets of Satie’s works. This current EMI compilation contains a generous assortment of Satie including recordings of the gymnopeies and 3 gnossienes from 1956 and 1963 (both exquisite)and the set of Satie recordings from the 1980s. All performances are outstanding, infused with humor and biting wit.

I must confess that I have not yet listened to many of the 56 CDs in this set. But I have already found enough delightful recordings to make me glad that I obtained the set. One Saint-Saens disk contains an outstanding version of piano concerto no. 5 performed with the Orchestre de Paris conducted by Serge Baudo recorded in 1970. The disk also contains a lively Carnival of the Animals with Ciccolini and Alexis Weissenberg joining Georges Pretre and the Orchestre de la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire (recorded in 1966).

Jean Martinon leads the Orchestre de Paris in 1974 recordings of the two Ravel concertos. Martinon is one of my favorite Ravel conductors, and the orchestra and pianist really nail these performances.

Debussy’s piano works are scattered throughout the set, recorded at various times and uniformly excellent. I am particularly fond of the 1991 recordings of Children’s Corner and Suite Bergamasque.

Unexpected but welcome surprises so far have been a stylish 1976 rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, a very atmospheric 1953 recording of Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain with the Orchestra National de la Radiodiffusion Francaise conducted by Ernesto Halftter, and assorted sonatas by Dominico Scarlatti.

I’m looking forward to delving into a couple of disks of Mozart sonatas next, followed by Liszt’s Les Annees de Pelerinage, Granados Goyescas, and Albeniz’s Iberia. I anticipate many hours of delightful listening ahead!

I heard that this set contained updated remasterings of many previously released CDs. So, I got it in hopes that Ciccolini’s “Goyescas” by Enrique Granados and “Iberia” by Isaac Albeniz were among them, and indeed they are (CDs 18 and 19) and they absolutely were remastered in 2009, with far superior results to the previously released CDs of these works that were remastered in 1990 (Iberia / Goyescas). (I also have a lengthier review of these performances, there.) I put on both CD releases and the improvement in these more recent remasterings is stark, with quieter background and increased dynamic range and clarity of tone throughout (especially in “Goyescas,” but “Iberia” is noticeably improved as well). So, if you are willing to spend the extra money and value Ciccolini’s other work as well, or really want updated sound on these particular recordings, as I did, I highly recommend getting this complete set of EMI recordings instead of the older CDs, which are still available for far less.

As an additional bonus, the new set, on CD 19, includes an additional recording of one of the movements from “Goyescas” and two short works by Manuel de Falla not found on the 1990 releases.

In addition, as I reviewed for the earlier releases, I believe these recordings of “Goyescas” and “Iberia” by Ciccolini to be among the best, if not the very best, ever made from a musical standpoint, with the last recording of “Iberia” by Alicia de Larrocha offering a different and very fine, but perhaps less powerful, musical conception. In both works, Ciccolini offers a much cleaner and steadier reading, with soaring lyricism and a subtler and more strategic approach to rubato, rather than the wide swings in rubato that de Larrocha generally employs throughout. But many love her rubato, and for them, Alicia de Larrocha is clearly the master of these masterpieces.

As for the rest, I am gradually working through them, currently listening to his Schumann, Brahms, and Schubert CDs (CDs 28-31). Like much of Ciccolini’s output, I had not heard these performances at all, and they are quite a revelation. They show just how much of a master musician Ciccolini was, regardless of the style of music he played. The best word I can use to describe this and all of his playing I have heard is “generous” (to a fault). He makes no compromises I can hear, yet never fusses about the details, even as gets all of them. I believe this is because of his complete command of tempo, rhythm, and dynamics as well as judicious use of the pedal in everything, and all of it propelled by a simple aim to sing throughout, no matter the complexity of the texture or counterpoint. Famous for his simple humanity that always gently parried excessive formality and sought to engage the heart of everyone he met, his music speaks exactly the same language.

11 Comments

  1. I am a classical music beginner and had not heard of Aldo Ciccolini before. I have a question about his career. How does one record 56 CD’s worth of music and not be given a volume in the Great Pianists of the 20th century collection? Are there any other pianists out there that were not part of the collection that I should check out? And I greatly appreciate the effort you have gone to for this website. It is much appreciated.

  2. Having been introduced just recently to Ciccolini via his Satie recordings, I’m delighted to find this important set available here. Many thanks indeed.

  3. Thanks for the great post! It’s hard to imagine all that’s here.

  4. Thank you very much, Whatever. I have enough record by Ciccolini, Chopin specially, but the rest of this Collectium is a great gift for all of us. I think Ciccolini was a some forgotten pianist, in the world dominated by the german and russian artists. May be a similar case of some spanish pianist: Rafael Orozco, José Cubiles, Joaquín Achúcarro… What a pity!
    Again, thank you.

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