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This 2-CD album reminds us of a remarkable pianist who has been too easily forgotten. Another invaluable offering from APR’s seemingly inexhaustible series of historic recordings, it tells of Carlo Zecchi (1903- 1984), an artist both blessed and at times cursed with an astonishing facility. Though you are sometimes aware that the action of his piano was far lighter than today’s heavier alternatives, there is no doubting his legerdemain. His Scarlatti, given with a delicate bell-like sonority, is a marvel of fleetness, his selection of familiar and unfamiliar numbers spun off with exhilarating brilliance and vivacity. There is a champagne sparkle, too, to his Bach Brandenburg Concerto No 5, and in three Liszt etudes, notably in ‘La Leggierezza’, where an enviable dexterity is complemented by an innate sense of elegance and caprice. Most remarkable of all is Chopin’s Berceuse given with a surprisingly technical and musical restraint, in contrast to an essentially salon view of Chopin elsewhere – for example in the darting, unmarked accelerations in the A minor Mazurka. Much of the Barcarolle, too, is flurried so that even when you admire a slow climb in the sublime final bars, an insipid alternative to Chopin’s assertive ending is less acceptable. There is much stop-go rubato in the Op 22 Polonaise, and Zecchi’s excessive speeding makes you almost hear Myra Hess’ sardonic cry, ‘Vivre la sport!’. Cecchi’s let-it-all-hang-out approach to Debussy and Ravel harks back to an old-fashioned and mercifully far distant time.

Overall there is much food for thought in these two admirably presented transfers. And if there is more for the listener to discard than to accept, that hardly dims Carlo Zecchi’s often scintillating presence.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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