REVIEWS

SERGEJ BORTKIEWICZ ALFONSO SOLDANO, RUSSIAN PIANO MUSIC SERIES VOL.12 DIVINE ART RECORDINGS GROUP DDA25142 (2016)

 

 

CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO PIANO WORKS ALFONSO SOLDANO, DIVINE ART RECORDINGS GROUP DDA25152 (2017)

 

SERGEJ RACHMANINOV PIANO WORKS, RUSSIAN PIANO MUSIC SERIES VOL.13 DIVINE ART RECORDINGS GROUP DDA25155 (2020)

 

 

 

 

"INDESCRIVELY BEAUTIFUL .." - MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL, USA

 

 

 

".. Alfonso Soldano, who is once again participating in this Divine Art series dedicated to Russian piano music, is a young, award-winning Italian pianist, blessed with a beautiful Mediterranean appearance and a phenomenal technique, with the latter, I am sure , worked long and hard, before getting it.

This is absolutely a fantastic record. Who is not already familiar with Bortkiewicz-and I wasn't either, except for his Piano Concerto No. 1 in volume 4 of the Romantic Piano Concerto series, for

Hyperion- be prepared to be transported to a place of splendid spell.

I noticed that in addition to the concert, Stephen Coombs recorded a set of Bortkiewicz solo piano compositions that are now available in a two-disc set, but if you happen to own these CDs, there's certainly no comparison between them and this new of Divine Art [exhibited] by Soldano. If I could, I would buy every copy of this record and send it to every fanfare subscriber; this shows how much I like it. If you are as sensitive to this music as I am, you will like it too much; I bet. "-5 STARS CD*****

 

Jerry Dubins, (Fanfare) -USA

 

 

 

"Recently an album appeared that finds an ideal middle way and presents an interpretation in which the music of Bortkiewicz is played in an optimal way. This is thanks to the pianist Alfonso Soldano, who expresses this music with such devotion and profound warmth that they can enchant "Every listener. Soldano is also a pianist whose technical ability plays a sovereign role, and does not find any problem with the performance of highly virtuoso music. The touching emotionality that permeates Soldano's interpretation is simply disarming."

 

Grete Catus, The New Listener - Germany

 

 

 

 

... This is volume 12 in the Divine Art series dedicated to Russian piano music, and contains excellent recordings of this composer, whose music will immediately attract anyone who loves Rachmaninoff's music. Recently I reviewed many of the same pieces played by Nadejda Vlaeva (Hyperion 68118, July

/ August 2016). I further reviewed six of the nine CDs of Jouni Somero of the Finnish label FC label.

Soldano's work and the quality of the recording and the booklet are totally superior to the other recordings. Soldano (born in 1986), is one of the last close students of Aldo Ciccolini. He clearly has a great affinity with this music and has also written a biography of Bortkiewicz. And I listened to this [Cd] many times ... "

 

James Harrington, American Record Guide - USA

 

 

 

"... [Esquisses de Crimée, n ° 1], what comes to my mind most is that the talent of the performer succeeds in making all the evocative power of this sublime music ... Soldano has the refinement of letting each piece leak its own personality. This record is therefore an excellent introduction by a composer who deserves to draw the spotlight on his production. There is no doubt that the charm of Divine Art combined with Soldano's talent gets the favor of destiny; this is what I strongly desire. "

 

 

Guy Sauvè, Passion Musique et Culture - CANADA

 

 

 

... Alfonso Soldano sits at the piano with authority to represent the music of Sergej Bortkiewicz, for a rich program of solo works ... The performance is surprisingly fresh. Soldano imposes a convincing expression for these works, with virtuosity, drama, luminosity, brightness, nuances. I consider the Bortkiewicz here represented a real discovery, not in the sense of a historical value, but for the quality and originality expressed.Bravo!

 

Gregory Edwards, Gapplegate Classical Music - USA

 

 

"... Alfonso Soldano is a pianist I had not listened to before, but he certainly appears to be at home playing this repertoire and his evident enthusiasm for it is clearly evident. I urge every lover of romantic music to listen to this [Cd]. Others may not seem convinced but they too should try it, because they can only change their mind! "

 

 

Steve Arloff, MusicWeb International - USA

 

"... And so this recording is particularly welcome. A wide range of his [Bortkiewicz] production is delightfully performed by Alfonso Soldano ... he is also the biographer of Bortkiewicz, and offers a unique reading in the mind and spirit of this unjustly neglected composer. Lyrical, nostalgic, melodious, this meticulous and artisanal music will give satisfaction to anyone who likes Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov. "

John Pitt, New Classics - UK

 

 

 

"... Alfonso Soldano guarantees a fluid performance ... exquisitely delicate, finding every little detail ... beautifully phrased and modeled ... with Lisztian reminiscences Soldano expresses his impressive technical ability guaranteeing smoothness and clarity. This is a great addition to the beautiful series [Russian Piano Music Series] ... "

 

Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer - UK

 

"..This is an elegant introduction to the music for piano by Sergej Bortkiewicz. The execution is impressive, technically solid and simply beautiful. I look forward to listening to Alfonso Soldano again, perhaps in other explorations of Russian music! "

 

John France, MusicWeb International - USA

 

"... THIS CD, A TREASURE."

- RafaelMusicNotes - Florida (USA)

 

 

 

"From the moment of his death in 1968, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was considered a respectable and prolific composer ... The Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano has spent years researching, studying and performing the piano music of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. The results of his efforts can be enjoyed in his new album, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco Piano Works (Divine Art 25152). Well organized by Stephen Sutton, beautifully designed in sound by Christian Ugenti, intelligently annotated by Attilio Cantore and, most importantly, performed at perfection by Alfonso Soldano .. the album is a jewel, listening to each of the 16 tracks on this CD - about an hour and fifteen minutes of music - it is impossible not to be surprised by the variety of moods in this music in continuous evolution Some titles immediately give us the ideas behind the music: Notturno a Hollywood, Alt Wien Rapsodia Viennese, Vitalba and Hawthorn, Silvana fairy tale, Cielo di Se ttembre (Settembre Cielo), Sonatina Zoologica, etc ... Whatever the state of mind required, whatever technical obstacle must be satisfied, no matter how esoteric the material is, Alfonso Soldano proves himself a master interpreter of this music, managing to respect the composer's desires, giving his individuality to the music. Suffice it to note the touch of the Viennese pulsation with which it sways freely, on the second or third beat of the time of the waltz in Alt wien, the second track. Note, on the other hand, the breadth and peculiarity of judgment exhibited in the Canticle of San Bernardino, and the light touch, agility and humor that it dispenses on the Zoological Sonatina. Alfonso Soldano is a first-rate pianist, and his album on Castelnuovo-Tedesco, a treasure. "

 

Rafael de Acha - RafaelMusicNotes- Fort Lauderdale, Florida (USA)

 

 

"..The Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano performs a very exciting program [of works for piano] by Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco, for the Divine Art Records label, which includes the premiere of" Notturno in Hollywood ", and among other works, the Rhapsody Napoletana Piedigrotta, the delightful Sonatina Zoologica, Alt-Wien. The interpretations appear really spontaneous and finely balanced, highlighting in the music the charm that characterizes it! .. "

 

Remy Franck - Pizzicato, Luxembourg

 

 

".. Alfonso Soldano is the new champion for the music of Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco - Piano Works Divine Art DDA25152, the Italian pianist expressed a deep desire to understand this composer of a previous generation ... Castelnuovo-Tedesco favored the modern spirit and maintained a high respect towards the French Impressionists. Alt Wien Op.30 and Cantico, op. 19, make this aspect very clear. Soldano captures the nuances of Ravel and Debussy who filter from Castelnuovo-Tedesco, through his interpretation ... The Zoological Sonata Op. 187 is a piece of brilliant character, very difficult, and Soldano performs it with the knowledge of exactly where the composer is he intended to express ... Soldano is absolutely at home with this repertoire, revealing a connection far beyond what academic understanding alone can mean. A real pleasure to listen to this music, presented by an artist who clearly believes in his relaunch and who will perhaps teach the reputation of this composer more deeply as a national treasure .. "

 

Alex Baran (The Whole Note), Canada

 

"..The sound of Alfonso Soldano on this record is really excellent and cultured, and is presented with spontaneous enthusiasm, and total understanding of this relatively rare repertoire ... I really hope that Alfonso Soldano will produce a complete cycle of piano music for this fascinating and imaginary Italian composer .. "

 

John France MusicWeb International, USA

 

 

"..Many of the works on this album receive their first recording and are performed by the brilliant Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano, the last reputed student of Aldo Ciccolini, whose previous release (piano music by Sergei Bortkiewicz) has aroused acclaim throughout the world. He is naturally inclined to Romanticism, [which] makes him an ideal interpreter of the music of Castelnuovo- Tedesco .. "

 

John Pitt, New Classics - UK

 

 

“… And this new record release allows us to get to know one of the many compositional facets of the Florentine musician (MCT) better, the one dedicated to works for piano. To propose it is the young Apulian pianist Alfonso Soldano who, after making known in the West the figure (outlined also in an essay-novel, The border of deception, released for Florestano Edizioni) of the Russian composer and pianist Sergej Bortkiewicz, wanted ideally resume a project left unfinished by his master, the great and late Aldo Ciccolini, that of making the piano work of Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco emerge. Here, then, in an absolute world premiere, pieces such as "Notturno in Hollywood" and "Sonatina Zoologica", as well as "Alt Wien. Viennese Rhapsody "," Vitalba and Biancospino, Silvana fairy tale "," Cantico "" 2 Film Etudes ", the debutant" Cielo di Settembre "and" Piedigrotta 1924 - Neapolitan rhapsody "... It goes without saying that works like that, to be rendered at best, enhanced in their expressive concreteness, they need an interpreter capable of showing a perennial virtuosity poised with the desire to tell, without instinctively overflowing with the first at the expense of the second, with the ability to paint the refined palette with the keyboard chromatic colors, without, however, mimicking the symbolist instances of a Debussy and a Ravel from which Castelnuovo-Tedesco draws inspiration, certainly, but certainly not solutions which are ends in themselves. Thus, Alfonso Soldano's reading turns out to be ideal, probably full of that lesson, of that vision, of that interpretative dimension expressed by his master Ciccolini and exemplarily metabolized and developed by him in an exquisitely personal artistic path. On the piano Castelnuovo-Tedesco demands a tightrope walker capable of knowing how to express subtleties and flashes, discursive phrasing and timbral eruptions, even ironic descriptions ("Sonatina Zoologica") and abysmal introspective gashes: aspects and peculiarities in which the young Apulian pianist he finds a marvel, returning an introductory and coherently accomplished overall picture ... "

CD 5 STARS *****
Andrea Bedetti - Music Voice, ITALY

 


"... Alfonso Soldano gives this music an excellent and solid performance ... Soldano clearly believes in this music and gives it a persuasive dash. The sound is natural and warm ... this is a very attractive record with some really significant discoveries ... "

Henry Fogel - Fanfare, USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

".. ALFONSO SOLDANO IS BRILLIANT IN EVERY WAY .."

 



“..... For me, the highlight of this new Divine Art CD is the Piano Sonata no. 1 in D minor by Rachmaninov, op.28 (1908). Most fans of his music know the massive second sonata that has retained its popularity and importance in the repertoire. But going back to the Prima Sonata, the numbers tell a different story. One of the reasons it has been ignored is the "tremendous difficulty" and perhaps its "sprawling" duration. The composer himself wrote that "Nobody will ever dare to do this because it is too difficult, long and discontinuous on a musical level ...". Alfonso Soldano faces all the difficulties of this "epic work". Here, together with the remarkable Piano Concerto n 3, there is a compendium of "all the composer's musical and instrumental experiences." The pianist's technical and interpretative skills are pushed to the limit. The CD opens with a great performance by Études-Tableaux op.39, No. 2 in A minor. It is played with a moving and understanding hand, with Soldano brilliantly contrasting the relative drama of the central section with the soft opening and closing steps. Musicaux moments can be played individually, but I feel that they are better programmed as set ... They are superbly interpreted here by Soldano. As for the way I play, I was both impressed and amazed. I have known the Piano Sonata No. 1 in D minor for a long time, however this was the first time that made sense to me. In other words, I think I "get it". The Italian pianist Alfonso Soldano is brilliant in every way, from the presentation of a compelling technique to the visualization of an intimate relationship with some of the truly dreamy passages. RECOMMENDED "

JOHN FRANCE (MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL -USA)


“.. Soldano opens with a particularly lucid reading of Rachmaninov's vast Etude Tableau in A minor op. 39, no. 2, a fantasy that exploits the composer's charm for the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass. Ever since Liszt had composed Eine Faust-Symphonie, Rachmaninov felt compelled to write a "Faust-Sonata", his Sonata n. 1 of 1906 in D minor op. 28. In a letter to Medtner, Rachmaninov called the work "naturally wild and infinite". Again, the reminder of Dies Irae's mortality suffers the piece. Rachmaninov complained and boasted when he wrote: "Nobody will ever play this composition: it is too difficult and long" .. Soldano is magnificently prey to a swirling passion, where it is difficult to extricate himself between passion and pain.


GARY LEMCO (AUDIOPHILE EDITION - USA)


The Solo di Soldano (part of the Russian piano music series of Divine Art) is based on the brilliant lyricism of the Etude-Tableau op. 39/2 in A minor, op. 16, the musical moments, up to the towering first sonata: a clear and compelling trajectory. Soldano, who previously recorded Castelnuovo-Tedeso and Bortkiewicz, shows a great affinity for Rachmaninov's music. The long lines of the Etude-Tableau reveal an excellent interpreter; the second of the collection of the op. 16 is another highlight, meticulously pedaled flowing lines ... Soldano captures the majestic ending of the work with steel fingers.
The first Sonata boasts here a strong, stormy and full of contrasts performance. Both Leslie Howard and Howard Shelley excel in this sonata, but Soldano is holding his head high. The central slow is the center of gravity, without haste in its pain.

COLIN CLARKE (INTERNATIONAL PIANO - USA)

 

 

 

“..This is fresh and beautiful. He doesn’t sound like anyone else, and he doesn’t sound like he’s been playing these pieces all his life and refining his approach. I took out Vladimir Ashkenazy’s recording on Decca—a real con­trast to this. Ashkenazy sounds like the Moments Musicaux are effortless and famil­iar. He’s fast and smoother, well-oiled, sub­tle, natural in flow and phrasing. Soldano sweeps them away from his feet and sweeps us away from our feet with their breathless beauty

He really digs into them where Ashkenazy just tosses them off. Pianists must be in awe of Ashkenazy for his Rachmaninoff; he’s been playing it for a long time and knows every nook and cranny, every trap and splash. But Mr Solda­no seems to be discovering it as he plays it (not the case, or he couldn’t possibly play it so well!). He is thrilled and moved, and so are we.

 

 

DONALD VROON (AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE - USA)

 

 

 

 

 

“The CD opens with the most mature work on the disc, the Étude-Tableaux op.39/2 in A minor from 1916, amongst his last works written before leaving Russia for exile...Soldano has a refined touch and makes his tempo sound right and inevitable, and he is effective in increasing the unrest in the swifter middle section..The Moments Musicaux. Op.16 are often seen as the first examples of the characteristic Rachmaninov piano style. These six pieces from 1896 bring the more complex textures and greater technical difficulty that will be a hallmark thereafter...in No.4 Soldano is again splendid, not least in the poetry of the highly characteristic descending bell motif. His poetic feeling is abundant also in the rocking barcarolle rhythm of No.5, which is beautifully phrased, while in the Maestoso of the final item – one of the composer’s most challenging technically – Soldano makes an impressive close to this fine account of Op.16. Rachmaninov’s Piano Sonata No.1 in D minor from 1907 has increasingly come to seem to me his finest large-scale piano work, less well-known than the Second Sonata, and until recently much less recorded. Alfonso Soldano is clearly a master of this demanding work.. it is compelling nonetheless, wreathed in thickets of figuration which Soldano expertly controls. The dramatic shape of the whole movement too is well delineated, each of its high points making its mark. The exquisite slow movement enchants the listener here as much as Gretchen did Faust, its lyrical flow (and polyphonic texture) realised in an expansive reading which is often spellbinding. The headlong passages of the finale generate plenty of excitement in Soldano’s hands, and he recalls motifs from earlier in the sonata with fine judgement for the unfolding drama, right up to the equivocations of the work’s coda. This is a terrific performance of a tremendous work...This is a very fine disc, with a version of the Sonata that can stand alongside the several other strong accounts of recent years such as Luganski (Naïve, 2012)

 

 

ROY WESTBROOK MusicWeb International - USA

 

Alfonso Soldano is a relatively unknown quantity outside his native Italy. Lavishly praised by Adam Harasiewicz and Aldo Ciccolini, he is a young pianist audaciously and indelibly in love with ‘Romantic Agony’ – that deep-dyed violence and melancholy at the heart of Russian Romanticism. In his curtain-raiser, Rachmaninov’s A minor Étude-Tableau Op 39/2, Soldano’s intense rubato and tremulous phrasing convey all of the music’s baleful poetry. No opportunity for drama and rhetorical declaration escapes him.

Even when placed beside Lazar Berman’s legendary recording of the Moments Musicaux, Soldano’s daring and lack of compromise, his indifference to conventional procedure, are mesmeric. He gives us the revised version of No 2 (a clarification of its first, over-ornate form), and in No 4 his engulfing power and fury are the reverse of, say, Moiseiwitsch’s cool-headed, feline magic. In No 6, that massive carillon of Moscow bells, Soldano unleashes a storm of bravura while in the First Sonata (a welcome change from the overplayed and too often badly played Second Sonata) he is again inimitable, even when set beside Alexandre Kantorow’s sumptuous and richly expansive account for BIS. Whether in the bittersweet central Lento or in the finale’s churning momentum, Soldano tells you that, even if flawed, the First Sonata is a monumental masterpiece.

This is Rachmaninov ‘through a glass darkly’, leaving you awed and shaken by such an eloquent and anguished interpreter.

—Bryce Morrison