Piano gems (1): Nicolosi and Thalberg

The Knife has an irresistible attraction to operatic paraphrases and transcriptions on the piano.

"Old Arpeggio"

If you’re still reading, after that less than enthralling opening , this brief post is to highlight the fabulous work of Francesco Nicolosi, who is the devotee, and tireless publicist for the works of Sigismond Thalberg, primarily in this genre. There are 3 discs in particular related to the operas of  Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini.

They’re all terrific, but for me the highlights are on the Rossini and Bellini discs, particularly La Sonnambula and La Donna del Lago, both quite incredible.

Tiresome comparisons are often drawn with Liszt, a master of transcription, but  they are really two different animals. Thalberg is simpler and more linear,  often achingly beautiful. Liszt is typically more complex and bombastic, albeit such generalisations are pretty crude. There’s no shortage of Liszt on disc though, and to have Thalberg, at such bargain prices, constitutes very rich pickings.


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