Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays Malagueña

Piano was invented in Italy, but it replaced the harpsichord thanks to Germany and England.  Muzio Clementi, who started the specific teaching of the instrument, was born in Rome but worked in England. Ferruccio Busoni, ruler of the concert scene, was born in Empoli but worked in Germany.  Only in the twentieth century appeared the first Italian who could compete with the most important pianists of other nations: it was Carlo Zecchi, born in 1903.  Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, born in 1920, was the second.  Benedetti Michelangeli was a pure cultural product of Italy, or rather of Lombardy.  In Milan he graduated at the age of fourteen and he did not take master classes with famous pianists while continuing to study with his teacher.  At the age of nineteen he won the Geneva Competition.  The great Alfred Cortot declared: “A new Liszt was born".  It was much more than a sentence, it was an explosive bomb.  The Geneva Competition was held in July, war broke out in September and Benedetti Michelangeli was therefore unable to exploit the impact force of the explosion.  His career started at a high level in 1946 but really took off later.  His transition from celebrity to myth occurred when, in 1964, he held concerts in Moscow and Leningrad.  Russia that had scattered a dense group of piano heroes around the world prostrated itself reverently in front of the Italian who came from a peripheral piano culture.  The first records told us that Benedetti Michelangeli actually came from a peripheral culture, but they also told us that he was a great artist, creative and unmistakably original.  His path represents a profound evolution - cultural - as an interpreter.  Benedetti Michelangeli's repertoire in the 1940s was quite vast but was then subject to radical eliminations and few additions.  A highly selected number of pieces, constantly taken up, reworked, restructured, retouched under a microscope. But at all times he was unyielding, frighteningly ruthless with himself in the search for an ideal that could not be defined because it was not of this world.  It was the yearning for the inexpressible.  

In the neoclassical age little salon pieces of medium difficulty, written for amateurs, were abandoned by pianists.  Albeniz Malagueña Rumores de la Caleta  is a piece of both dance and song: the tight dancing accompaniment of the guitars and the very intense sensual song of a lover's serenade.  In this notorious recording, made in 1942, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli marvels us with the perfect control of the piano  timbre alterations.  Under his hands you can really listen to the murmuring accompaniment of the guitars in the distance and the heartbreaking intensity of the song of the guitar in the foreground: the distance between the two elements and the two guitarist timbres are pure magic.  One might think that Michelangeli could have attended the concert held by the great guitarist Andrés Segovia at La Società del Quartetto in Milan in 1934.  Anyway what leaves us astonished is that such historical recording was made in Milan in 1942 when Michelangeli was only 22 years old: he was a genius.

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli plays Albeniz Malagueña Rumores de la Caleta.

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