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Paul Wee, who has previously impressed in Alkan, turns his attention to the virtuoso Sigismond Thalberg (1812-71). In doing, he so presents what is effectively Thalberg’s most substantive release in the catalogue.

Opera was of central importance to Thalberg: the four ‘series’ of L’art du chant present a sequence of operatic numbers in which he explores the thorny problem of how to translate cantabile vocal music to what is fundamentally a percussion instrument. Wee shows us how it can be done.

Discoveries abound: pieces transcribed range from the incredibly familiar (Mozart’s Figaro, Don Giovanni) to a magnificent ‘Perché mi guardi’ from Rossini’s Zelmira. Other little- known gems come from Weber (Preciosa), Donizetti (Gianni di Calais) and a deliciously articulated excerpt from Grétry’s L’amant jaloux.

Wee’s performances are consistently excellent. Perhaps a finer ‘Casta diva’ can be heard on Vanessa Benelli Mosell’s new album (see page 60), but no pianist, or student of cantabile, should be without Wee’s superbly recorded and annotated BIS release. Each piece is shaped beautifully, its mood captured instantaneously.

On one level this is an immersive listening experience; on another it is a vital musicological endeavour. On both, it succeeds beyond all expectation.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica


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