Francesco Libetta's name has been bruited about for a few years and the buzz has universally almost ecstatic. I first heard about him because he has played the Godowsky-Chopin Études in concert and recorded some of them, to great acclaim. This CD is the first I've actually heard of his playing and I would have to agree with what I've heard and read about him -- he is an extremely talented pianist with technique to spare and musicianship to match it. His playing does not so much call attention itself as command attention for the music itself. (This is in contrast to the recording I've just reviewed by another youngish phenom, Kemal Gekic, whose playing strikes me as the reverse of that.) Frankly, in this recital recorded in 2000 as part of the Miami International Piano Festival of Discovery, there is not a weak performance.
Libetta's playing is marked by extremely sensitive shaping of musical phrases, dynamic variety, natural rubato, rich sonority and understanding of harmonic tension and release. This recital contains works as disparate as Mompou's reticent (and gorgeous) Canción VI and Saint-SaŽns's knuckle-busting D Flat Étude, Op. 52, No. 6 ('Étude in forme de valse'). Each is given a magnificent performance, the latter being almost superhumanly virtuosic, the former gently melancholic and seemingly the simplest thing in the world (it's not!).
Two of the Godowsky-Chopin Études are included: one on Op. 10, No. 3 and the 'Badinage' (a combination, in blazing counterpoint of features of Op. 10, No. 5 and Op. 25, No. 9). The first is, like the Mompou, delicate and soulful, the latter full of fireworks and breathtaking simultaneous fingerwork in both hands. Another highlight is his performance of Ravel's own arrangement of 'La Valse.'
I would suggest you try the clips provided here at Amazon and hear for yourself the wondrous abilities of this rising pianist. I personally am hopeful that I will one day be able to hear Signor Libetta in person.