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Emanuele Arciuli (born 1965) hails from Galatone, a scenic town in the ‘heel’ of the Italian ‘boot’ and surely has more incisive and passionate personality than is sometimes reflected in his controlled playing (he studied with the Neapolitan Vincenzo Vitale (1908-1984), a Cortot pupil; Paolo Bordoni; and Leon Fleisher). In these renditions of American pieces from the Miami International Piano Festival in 2007 and 2011, Arciuli chose mostly valuable works, with a minimum of minimalism. Arciuli offers a bel canto approach lacking in spiky Yankee individuality in Ives’s ‘Concord’ Sonata, despite expressing warm affection and some murky mysticism.

Tenderly charming and Chopinesque, the jazz pianist/composer Fred Hersch’s Nocturne for the Left Hand Alone from his 3 Character Studies is easy listening of the best kind. By contrast, Frederic Rzewski’s Piece No 3 and Piece No 4 are more forcefully characterful music, even in this smoothed- out rendition; Rzewski’s own performances are at once more direct and matter-of-fact. Alas, the jazz and fusion pianist Chick Corea’s Children’s Songs sound merely vacant when tiptoed through by Arciuli, especially compared to their alleged compositional model, Bartók’s Mikrokosmos.

Measuring up to historic greats can be dangerous, as when VAI trumpets on this DVD’s cover an American critic’s quote inaccurately likening Arciuli to Busoni and Michelangeli, raising unfair precedents for him to be expected to match.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing