Reviews | RH-017 | 4CD | PIETRO SCARPINI - Bach

23 March 2021 | Luca Ciammarughi | Radio Classica - podcast | IL PIANISTA | Pietro Scarpini - BACH discovered tapes    Al Bach di Pietro Scarpini, uno dei più grandi pianisti italiani del Novecento, è dedicato oggi “Il pianista”. Presenta Luca Ciammarughi. (Rhine Classics RH-017)
March 2021 | Rob Cowan | GRAMOPHONE (pg. 88) | REPLAY Some Legendary Pianists    « Rob Cowan's monthly survey of historic reissues and archive recordings --  [...]  Another significant Rhine Classics release features the pianist Pietro Scarpini, a pupil of Casella and Respighi who performed Beethoven under Furtwängler and championed Schöenberg post-war.  Here he plays Bach - both books of The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of Fugue. Despite Scarpini's reputation as a fearless promoter of new music, the general manner of his Bach-playing reminds me, in its breadth and romantic rubato, of the great pianist/harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, specifically in the '48', the fugues in Book 1 especially, where he bends the line as the music unfolds. Some of his chosen tempos are extremely broad (the E minor Fugue from Book 2). On the other hand, note how sensitively he balances voices at the start of the E major Prelude from the same book, meandering ecstatically thereafter. Then there's the closing fugue from Book 1, 9'54'' to compare with Landowska's 6'48, and building inexorably in austere grandeur as it progresses. [...] »
January 2021 | Jonathan Woolf | Music Web International | Pietro Scarpini - Discovered Tapes - BACH  « [...] In this new 6-CD set, everything is by Bach; both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art of Fugue.
Book I was recorded by RAI, Rome over three successive days in January 1961, in good mono sound. RAI’s original master tapes are lost and it was fortunate that the pianist retained his own set in his archive and it’s these that Rhine has used for its remastering. You will search in vain for signs of quixotic caprice in Scarpini’s performance. There is instead a tremendous sense of concentration and clarity, the music propelled where appropriate by animated left-hand voicings that ensure buoyancy but never overbalance the music making. [...] He is lively and robust but it’s always controlled. He uses the pedal with discretion but always with purpose and ensures that in the Fugue of No.21 the music swells with due amplitude. The concluding Fugue, the complex B minor, is given time to weave its spell. [...] He turned to the second book in the mid-70s, this time in his home studio. Whilst the majority of Book II is in mono, seven Preludes and Fugues are in stereo. His ability to phrase with unselfconscious naturalness and to balance the demands of both hands is here undimmed. The playing is again refined without becoming academic, rhythmically alive without becoming aggressive. [...] The following year, at his home studio but this time in St Moritz, he recorded himself performing The Art of Fugue ending precisely where Bach stopped. Scarpini was not quite 65 when he set down, in the course of one day, the whole work. That his technique was so formidable can’t be doubted and there are, throughout the six and a half hours of this set, very few smudges or imperfections and such as exist are largely immaterial. So it is in The Art of Fugue. Scarpini’s touch is refined, his imagination alert, his intellectual equipment attuned to the complex tapestries to be conveyed. It is a measure of his success that one listens in one uninterrupted span to his imaginative but stoically focused playing. »
4 December 2020 | Stephen Greenbank | Music Web International | Pietro Scarpini plays Bach «In The Well-Tempered Clavier, we find a piece to suit "every mood and every occasion". Scarpini’s are deeply thought out interpretations, and he digs deep into the fathomless riches on offer. He’s never self-conscious or contrived. Shunning waywardness and extremes, personal mannerisms have no place in these clean cut readings. The intellectual and technical challenges are firmly within his grasp. [...] The recording of The Art of Fugue has a warm, intimate aura about it. [...] Scarpini’s gifts lie in his ability to make every line speak. It’s not all seriousness either. There is serious formality, but he’s able to infuse humour and high spirits where warranted. The more complex contrapuntal thickets are rescued from congestion by his teasing away the inner contrapuntal lines to reveal the jewels that lie therein, at the same time attaining potent cumulative power. I love the balance he strikes between the voices, never allowing one to dominate. His exquisite touch and sensitive use of pedal, where appropriate, facilitates the achievement of some luminous sonorities. This is certainly a performance that plumbs the depths of this elusive masterpiece. [...] Restorations and remasterings are in 24bit 96kHz sound, and Emilio Pessina has done a sterling job. In the ’from Baroque to Contemporary’ box I reviewed, I recall being beguiled by the Scarpini’s Bach, in transcriptions by the pianist himself and Ferruccio Busoni, and commented on the freshness and vitality of the playing, remarking that they sounded ‘fresh off the press’. I’m now firmly convinced that Pietro Scarpini a Bach player to be reckoned with.»
16 January 2021 | Mark Ainley | The Piano Files | Favourite Releases of 2020«Rhine Classics delivers two more releases in their Fiorentino and Scarpini series, one new set of each artist. [...] Pietro Scarpini is featured in a 6-CD set of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and Die Kunst de Fuge, salvaged from tapes of both radio broadcasts and home sessions recorded for the pianist’s own documentation. The playing is less consistent than we hear in previous releases of Scarpini’s broadcast performances on this label (some ear- and eye-opening performances that I adore), and he can go from rather mundane phrasing to utterly sublime nuancing from one second to the next. He tends to eschew the pedal and employs some expansive ritardandi that are definitely arresting and insightful, and his overall approach reminds me of Alexander Borowsky’s account: earthy, almost rustic in its directness (he doesn’t emphasize burnished tonal colours), with a less-than-ideal instrument that almost sounds historical – a fascinating take that will be of particular interest to Scarpini fans and those exploring unconventional takes of these magnum opera. »

NMZ BEST OF 2020 | nmz Neue Musikzeitung | December 2020 - January 2021 | nmz 12/20 - 1/21 (page 14) | Christoph Schlüren | « Und unbedingt muss das wagemutige Unternehmen des italienischen Tonmeisters und Violinpapsts Emilio Pessina genannt werden, der seine Anthologien bei Rhine Classics in Taiwan herausgibt. Da sind ganz neu umfassende Schatzkisten erschienen von Gabriella Lengyel, der letzten Schülerin Hubays, überwiegend mit ihrem Bruder, dem vorzüglichen Pianisten Atty Lengyel, von wunderbarem Schubert und Mendelssohn zu Entlegenem vor allem ungarischer Meister wie Harsányi, Veress oder Arma; fast nur Live-Aufnahmen von Jean Ter-Merguerian, in den Augen von Kollegen wie Rostropowitsch, Szeryng, Francescatti und Ferras einer der großartigsten Geiger überhaupt (einen schöneren, edleren Ton gibt es nicht!), ganz groß in Beethoven, Brahms und Khachaturian; späte Konzertmitschnitte (1996–98) des Meisterpianisten Sergio Fiorentino aus den USA, darunter auch hinreißend musizierte Kammermusik wie Francks Quintett oder Beet­hovens Quintett mit Bläsern; und vom legendären Pietro Scarpini zu Hause gemachte Aufnahmen des kompletten Wohltemperierten Klaviers und der Kunst der Fuge in kristalliner Klarheit (alles bei Rhine Classics, erstaunlich preiswert direkt von der Website zu beziehen). »

COURAGEOUS ENTERPRISES « Also worth mentioning is the daring venture of Italian sound engineer and "Violin-expert" Emilio Pessina, who publishes anthologies under the Rhine Classics label in Taiwan. [...] and recordings of the complete Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" and "The Art of Fugue" in crystal clear clarity made by the legendary Pietro Scarpini, made in his home studio (all available from Rhine Classics, and surprisingly inexpensive, directly from their website). »