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Antonio Salieri - Concertos For Piano And Orchestra (1994)

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Antonio Salieri - Concertos For Piano And Orchestra (1994)

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Concerto In B Flat Major For Piano And Orchestra 	(23:15)
1 	Allegro Moderato 	11:52
2 	Adagio 	7:15
3 	Tempo Di Minuetto 	7:42
Concerto In D Major For Piano And Orchestra 	(19:20)
4 	Allegro 	7:59
5 	Larghetto 	5:57
6 	Andantino 	5:10

Aldo Ciccolini - piano
I Solisti Veneti
Claudio Scimone - conductor


Only two unimportant works by Antonio Salieri are listed in the current Schwann Catalogue. But that does not mean the music of Salieri is entirely unobtainable on records. The enterprising music-lover can investigate import companies, such as International Book and Record Distributors.

There he will be able to purchase two disks of Salieri's music, one containing the Piano Concertos in B flat and C, played by Aldo Ciccolini and the Solisti Veneti conducted by Claudio Scimone (Italia ITL 70028) and the other containing the ''Sinfonia Veneziana,'' the Sinfonia ''Il Giorno Onomastico,'' and the ''Variazioni sull'aria La Follia di Spagna,'' with the London Symphony under Zoltan Pesko (Italia ITL 70052).

There is, of course, much current interest in Salieri, thanks to Peter Shaffer's play ''Amadeus.'' Was the Italian-born Viennese court composer as mediocre a creator as Mr. Shaffer makes him out to be? The two pieces in the American catalogues - a concerto for flute and oboe, and a short orchestral work - are not very interesting. Are those two pieces entirely characteristic of Salieri's music?

No. The two piano concertos suggest that Salieri was a more substantial composer than history has indicated. They are interesting as well-made works in the galant classic style, and even more so as anticipations of the great Mozart concertos.

Both Salieri concertos were composed in 1773 - four years before Mozart's first great piano concerto (E flat, K. 271). Listening to them, one can see the roots of Mozart almost at the topsoil. Salieri often did, in these concertos, work in the musical small change of the day. He was not a very imaginative composer.

But he did have craft. And in the slow movements, where he seems to be at his best, there is a fine fund of agreeable, and sometimes even personal, Italian melody. The slow movement of the C major Concerto is a direct anticipation of the great second movement of Mozart's A major Piano Concerto (K. 488). Could Mozart have heard it? Most likely. He was in Salzburg or on the road in those days, but he kept in close touch with musical developments everywhere, and he would have been especially interested in any new works by the great Antonio Salieri.

The performances by Mr. Ciccolini and the Solisti Veneti are splendid. The first-movement cadenza of the B flat Concerto, brilliantly played by the pianist, is by Salieri. Presumably the other cadenzas were supplied by Giovanni Carli Ballola, the editor of the scores. Mr. Ciccolini always has been a tasteful, fleet-fingered pianist, and the running scales of this kind of music were made for him. The recorded sound is tops: clear, natural, unforced, with noiseless surfaces; and the same can be said of the symphony disk. ---Harold C. Schonberg, nytimes.com

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