Music and Vision homepage


Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

CD Conspectus

'Grandeur without mannerism'

on the art of



The career of Naples-born Sergio Fiorentino (1927-98) commenced actively just before the 1950s, after he had been singled out as a prize winner in competitions in Monza [1947, the jury headed by Michelangeli], Geneva [1947, joint second], Naples [1948 Concorso Rossomandi, first] and Genoa [1948, first]. Following several European and American tours (his American debut was in1953), he suffered spinal damage when his plane had to make a forced landing in South America, although he eventually recovered well enough to continue his concert career. In the mid-fifties, a time when he appeared again in public, notably in England, he also began to record for a variety of companies, including Saga (discs which I later regretted not having obtained). The routine of touring, however, began to pall, and for the next decades Fiorentino spent his time teaching at [his alma mater] the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella in Naples, where he held the post of professor and from which he retired in 1993. Gradually he began performing again, especially in Germany, from which several of the radio broadcasts issued by APR emanate.

Having heard those initial 1993 recordings (APR 7036, 2 CDs) of Bach-Busoni, Beethoven's Op 110, Chopin's Second Sonata, Scriabin's Fourth, the Schumann Fantasy, and a host of encore lollipops such as the Strauss-Godowsky Fledermaus Symphonic Metamophosis, I especially anticipated encountering the pianist in person upon his New York return a couple of seasons ago, some forty years after his first New York appearance. Co-sponsored by Yamaha and the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island, that return was hardly a sellout, his name barely being known, but the audience reception at Manhattan's Alice Tully Hall was simply astonishing. Furthermore, he granted his ecstatic listeners no less than seven encores, something repeated upon his return visit a year or so later and to the same level of audience enthusiasm. The playing was technically as secure as one could wish, but the overriding impression was that of imposing sonority, tonal control, and poise, coupled with a genuinely romantic, unexaggerated interpretive style that seemed to hark back to several generations ago. He reminded me of a much younger Arrau with the ebullience and poetic impulse of a Cortot, the architectural overview of an Edwin Fischer, the tonal gradations of a Bolet, and the nobility of a Lipatti. This was grandeur without flamboyant mannerism.

 Continue >> 

Copyright © Igor Kipnis, November 5th 1999



 << Pianos and Pianists homepage          Leslie Howard plays Liszt >>