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When Vanessa Benelli Mosell, the Italian pianist born in 1987, was still a teenager, she studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) after showing affi nities for his music. The Stockhausen work here was drawn from a scene in his opera Donnerstag aus Licht (1977-1980) in which a student undergoes three conservatory admission exams as a singer, trumpeter and dancer. In the opera, the candidate triumphs, as does Mosell here, with a strongly individual and delightfully personal statement. By contrast, some other pianists make this music sound like the aural equivalent of an A Level. Devotion and an occasional jolly taste for the grotesque is audible in this performance, which will warm the heart of any fan of modern piano music. Playing with authority and joy, Mosell is no less passionate, but considerably more lyrical, than her elder compatriot Maurizio Pollini, also identified with this repertoire.

The works by Scriabin on this CD are more of a mixed bag, in part because of competition from recordings by great pianists of yore. In the Scriabin Preludes Op 11, Mosell’s pliant, urbane, lyrical approach is perhaps closest to the admirable Gina Bachauer, eschewing the monumental architecture that Sviatoslav Richter and Glenn Gould found in this composer. Her Etude in C-sharp minor Op 2 No 1 seems a trifle bass-heavy and ponderous, but then, who could match the competition from Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels and others? Mosell is happier with the dance inspiration of Op 2 No 3, recalling terpsichorean twirls by Vladimir Sofronitsky. In the thrice-familiar Etude Op 8 No 12, Mosell manages equilibrium and restraint, welcome in this piece which other pianists sometimes make a meal of.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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