Winner of the prestigious Premio Venezia prize, Vincenzo Maltempo ‘rides high among many young and gifted Italian pianists.’ (Gramophone, January 2015). His recordings on Piano Classics have won critical acclaim for their technical finesse and musical sensitivity. His album of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies was an Editor’s Choice in the February 2017 issue of Gramophone: ‘exceptionally fine interpretations’. Regarding his most recent issue of the complete sonatas by Scriabin (PCL10168): ‘Maltempo has an excellent command of the instrument and is responsive to the multi-dimensional texture and complex harmonies of the music.’ (Gramophone, December 2019)
His latest release is a timely one, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in Bonn with the two major variation sets and the ever-elusive, whimsical Bagatelles which have taxed the hands and imaginations of all the greatest pianists. All the works here derive ultimately from the composer’s instincts as an improviser and thinker at the keyboard: playing continually with ideas both physical and intellectual, working them over and around the body of the instrument that was his own principal medium of expression.
Between 1782 and 1800, he composed twelve variation sets for solo piano, almost all based on popular or operatic melodies. For the last of them, however, Beethoven drew on a theme of his own, initially composed for a contredanse but then reused in his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus, and later immortalised as the subject of the variations in the finale of the Eroica Symphony. The Op. 34 variations marked a seachange in the composer’s treatment of his form, sharing the expressive reach of his sonatas and concluding with an ambitious fugue.
Even the Eroica Variations, however, give little notice of the visionary transformation wrought upon an upbeat but modest waltz, sent to him by his publisher Diabelli, in his final work in variation form. They occupied Beethoven on and off for five years, during which time he explored every possibility of the theme and of variation-form itself. The result is, in the words of Alfred Brendel, ‘the greatest of all piano works.’ Here and in the final Bagatelles we find Beethoven challenging even the outer limits of his own prodigious imagination as well as the fingers of his performers and the minds of his listeners. Amid the cavalcade of Beethoven releases in 2020, Maltempo’s new album is a big event.
Celebrating Beethoven’s birthday in 2020 this 2CD set presents piano works by the master which don’t belong to the monumental Sonata-canon but to other forms in which the composer poured out his genius: Bagatelles and Variations.
The three sets of Bagatelles (Opp. 33, 119 and 126) show Beethoven the improviser, a mind overflowing with ideas, experiments and jokes, but also capable of penning down the most tender and intimate miniatures, infinitely touching in their sincerity and deep feeling.
The Eroica and Diabelli variations are masterworks of his middle and late period respectively, towering achievements of invention and expression. As a “bonus” we also hear the exquisite Op. 34 Variations and the Rondo Capriccioso Op. 129 (Rage over the Lost Penny).
Italian pianist Vincenzo Maltempo, one of the most interesting pianists of the young generation, made his name in his staggering recordings of unjustly forgotten romantic repertoire: Transcendental Studies by Lyapunov (Piano Classics PCL0124) received 5 stars in several classical magazines (a.o. the French Diapason). His recording of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies received rave reviews, a Gramophone Editor’s Choice: “extraordinary breadth and nobility..little short of perfection..”, “9/9, close to ideal” (Jed Distler Classicstoday.com). His recordings of Alkan have “confirmed his place in the restricted circle of Alkan’s best performers, 5 stars”(Diapason), “Exhilarating, thrillingly demonic, 5 Stars” (Andrew Clement in The Guardian.