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  • Thalberg: Fantasies on Operas by Bellini, Vol. 1
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Thalberg: Fantasies on Operas by Bellini, Vol. 1 CD

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Thalberg: Fantasies on Operas by Bellini, Vol. 1 + Thalberg-Variations on Operas by Rossini
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Product details

  • Composer: Francesco Nicolosi
  • Audio CD (18 Jun. 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00005K3P8
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 207,644 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

Fantaisies sur des opéras de Bellini / Francesco Nicolosi, piano

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Captain Cuttle on 9 Sept. 2011
Format: Audio CD
It was only in recent days that I even knew of Thalberg's existence and that was from reading a biography of Liszt. I have to confess not knowing much about Bellini either but he obviously wrote some "good tunes"! Thalberg has captured some of these "hits" of the day and masterfully turned them into pieces that would set any audience alight that he played in front of. My personal favourite from this album is the final track; the Grande caprice sur des motifs de La Sonnambula, Op. 46. This piece alone is worth the purchase price!
Superb playing from the performer. I have since purchased a number of other Thalberg albums, such is the impression he has made on me.
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Format: Audio CD
These operatic Fantasies on Bellini operas are more in the classical style than the overblown Romantic style favoured by Liszt. They are beautifully written, excellently played and very well recorded [in Bratislava, 1990]. Of the pianist, the booklet note tells us that after winning a prize at the 1980 Santander festival, he played the Mozart d minor concerto in Geneva, winning 'the praise of Clara Haskil'. As Clara Haskil had died twenty years earlier in 1960, when Francesco Nicolosi was just 6 years old, this seems unlikely, to say the least! Perhaps it is a mistranslation: he could have won a prize in the Clara Haskil competition. Whatever the case, the record itself is most enjoyable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"More perfect as a real virtuoso" 26 Jun. 2006
By Hexameron - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Sigismond Thalberg's name in today's view of music history is almost exclusively linked with the great pianistic rivalry he shared with Franz Liszt. But Thalberg's life, influence on the composers around him, and the popularity of his music during his lifetime reveals that he had a far more substantial role in music history. Thalberg's peculiar mannerism of sitting at the piano with a firm and motionless composure while playing heavily demanding virtuosic passages led Mendelssohn to believe that Thalberg, "within his more restricted sphere, is more perfect as a real virtuoso." Thalberg's style of performance, however, seems totally incongruous with his own compositions, especially his operatic fantasias, which effuse not only brilliant pianistic effects, but also emotionally expressive music. Apparently, Thalberg studied singing for five years, and it shows in the vocal qualities of his own piano-writing. This Naxos release is a reissue from the Marco Polo label, and I feel it deserves five stars for the special first-recorded content and the excellent interpretations given. The performances by the stupendous Francesco Nicolosi, the president of the Thalberg International Study Center, are marvelous and without defects.

Thalberg's Grande Fantaisie on Bellini's Norma Op. 12 is an exceptional work, and Robert Schumann gave it a positive review in his New Journal of Music. Being familiar with Liszt's Norma Fantasy, I found a lot in common between the two. But while Liszt's dramatic mood far exceeds Thalberg's, the virtuosic thrill and beautiful thematic material makes Thalberg's Fantasy as equally memorable as Liszt's. In his insightful book, From Paris to Peoria: How European Piano Virtuosos Brought Classical Music to the American Heartland, R. Allen Lott observes that in Thalberg's fantasia writing "Instead of merely assembling a string of mechanical variations, Thalberg [molds] the work into a dramatic unity, gradually building toward a grand climax through various restatements of the unchanging theme while the accompaniment [shifts] kaleidoscopically." I concur, especially after relistening to the two Fantaisies on Bellini's I Capuletti and Beatrice di Tenda. These majestic fantasies exude enough emotional ideas from their inherent operatic themes, but Thalberg's cantabile writing and electrifying embellishments somehow enhances the sensationalism of the music.

R. Allen Lott also believes "Thalberg's emphasis on a singing tone and brilliant virtuosic display [coalesces] in his opera fantasias, in which a lyrical melody from an operatic source is surrounded by the most severe technical demands." The Fantaisie on Bellini's La Straniera is a perfect example. Thalberg's innate sense of vocality and aria-like melodic line comes across in his pianistic treatment. Needless to say, Thalberg also works in dazzling embellishments and virtuosic fanfares. It is with the Grande caprice on Bellini's La Sonnambula that I am most taken with, though. The Introduction is full of incredible angst and orchestral sonorities and the subsequent themes from Bellini's opera gush with beauty. Thalberg uses all of his tricks of textured trills, sequenced chords, trickling arpeggios and other decorations. Yet somehow the emotional strength of Bellini's themes is never compromised. With typical Romantic bravura, the piece climaxes with fortissimo restatements and whirling energetic ornamentations. The whole fantasy is a lovely tour-de-force and a strong case for Thalberg's compositions.

Bottom line: The American critic John Sullivan Dwight didn't think there was much profundity in Thalberg's music but made the point that these fantasies "illustrate the possibilities of the piano, in a way to strike and astonish, but above all to please the general ear of music lovers." I think Thalberg's music deserves more credit than this and I believe Francesco Nicolosi proves there is more to this music than mere pianistic display. Nicolosi's robust virtuosity enables him to focus on interpretation, and I think his performances shed new light on Thalberg.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A worthwhile trip into the past 4 Jun. 2008
By Phillip J. Rodgers - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Sigismond Thalberg was Franz Liszt's only serious rival in the early 19th century. Many of the best musical minds of the time (i.e. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann) actually seemed to have preferred Thalberg as a performer to Liszt. Thalberg was also one of the first major musical stars to tour the younf United States. This CD is of Thalberg's fantasies on operas of Vincenzo Bellini. Bellini was one of the great tunesmiths in music so you know that the raw melodic material will be superior. Thalberg's great failing as a musician seems to have been that he stopped growing. He brought one of the final elements of modern piano technique to the instrument and was then content to rest on his laurels. The fantasies on this album, played superbly by Francesco Nicolosi, date from when Thalberg was on the cutting edge. The "Norma" fantasy was actually in Liszt's repertoire until he wrote his own. It is interesting to note that Liszt follows Thalberg's choice of thematic material very closely, though Thalberg's treatment of the themes occasionally has a raucous, music hall type brio that you do not find in Liszt. If you were looking for one example of the sort of musical fireworks that were once the norm in concerts this CD is an excellent choice. The music is delightful, the performances dazzling and the price excellent. It falls short of the highest rating only because Thalberg was more of a very gifted arranger than a composer. Nevertheless this is worth your time.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
At last : The old arpeggio rebirths 12 Aug. 2010
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on
Format: Audio CD
The Thalberg revival has brought the light many brilliant and virtuosi pages of the extended piano literature.

I just have to celebrate the great interest aroused since the seventies (where Michael Ponti (1937-)and Earl Wild (1915-2010) were his most indomitable and encumbered interpreters).

This album is part of the huge legacy of operatic transcriptions of this genial composer, who never had the chance to shine with own light due the radiant and incandescent presence of Franz Liszt.

But at last, the time has brought a well deserved act of justice for this new generation. Thanks to the great explosion of new and daring pianists who have bet for new possibilities in the wide pianist repertoire.

Francesco Nicolosi is one of the youngest and gifted pianists of his generation. His demoniacal technique and thundering fingering fits as ring to finger to assume the challenge of playing this composer whose difficult is well known for most of instrumentalists.

Absolutely recommended.
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