Italian pianist Alessandro Marangoni, a former Music Toronto recitalist, has officially completed a long journey through Gradus ad Parnassum by piano pioneer Muzio Clementi (1752-1832) with the release of Vol. 3 on the Naxos label.
Marangoni is a fine, sensitive pianist with a subtle flair for the dramatic. But not even his most adroit musicianship can hide the fact that what may be good for a pianist’s technique is not necessarily rewarding for a bystander’s ears.
The four CDs (Vol. 2 contained two) recorded for Naxos represent all 100 sets of studies or finger exercises compiled by the single most significant technical and performance pioneer in the history of the modern piano.
Gradus ad Parnassum translates as The Climb Up Parnassus. Clementi, carefully assessing and laying out his legacy toward the end of his remarkably successful life as a performer and entrepreneur, laid out the exercises to show off his craft while also promising that anyone who works all the way through will emerge an accomplished piano player.
The very nature of this sort of collection means that the last pieces will be the most complex and, hopefully, the most interesting.
Fortunately through all of the repetition of musical figures there are a few treats to be found in this third volume.
Clementi organised his exercises into little five- and six-piece suites. Most of them contain a fugue or at least fugal piece in the middle where Clementi gets to show off his way with what sometimes are very complex subjects and counter-subjects.
Marangoni lays everything out in clearly articulated, deeply committed performances. But, unfortunately, this very deliberate trudge up Parnassus is best savoured by students, not listeners.
For all the details on Vol. 3, click here.
The last eight pieces each feature something a bit unusual to wrap around the repetitive nature of a technical exercise. Here is veteran French pianist and Paris Conservatoire professor Danielle Laval to show them off with a special dash of elegance: