Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

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About Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli

One of music’s elusive enigmas, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli was an obsessive perfectionist, with perhaps the smallest active repertoire of any great pianist. Born in Brescia, Italy, in 1920, his career was interrupted by the Second World War, and then intermittently affected by ill health. Unlike, say, Argerich or Horowitz, Michelangeli was not a pianist who lived in the moment, responding to the audience, venue, or instrument. Whereas they never played the same way twice, Michelangeli constantly strived for a single, perhaps unobtainable ideal. His honing of detail could occasionally become an end in itself, but such was his faultless pianistic mechanism and uncommonly refined ear and touch—he once said that no piano was good enough for Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit (1908)—that the results were sublime more often than they were emotionally detached. Among his finest recordings are his 1948 account of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne (1892), where his liquid sonority and magisterial grandeur are unsurpassed, and his 1957 traversal of concertos by Ravel (G major, 1931) and Rachmaninoff (No. 4, 1941), where his crystalline perfection is matched by his innate poetry. The day before making that concerto recording, Michelangeli gave a solo recital at London’s Royal Festival Hall that was taped but unissued by EMI. It was finally released by Testament in 1996, the year after he died. The fastidious beauty and immaculate poise in works by Schumann and Debussy find him at his transcendent best.

Brescia, Italy
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