Picks of a piano aficionado

April 23, 1995|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

The true piano aficionado always knows with certitude which recordings are best. But not all aficionados like the same performances. That caveat aside, here's one aficionado's guide to the best of Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli and Martha Argerich.

Gould: Gould nuts and piano nuts always argue about the pianist's two recordings of Bach's "Goldberg Variations." Gould nuts generally prefer the 1981 recording (CBS MK 37779); the piano nuts the 1955 recording (Sony Classical SMK 5294), in which the 23-year-old pianist flies and dances with the wind and turns somersaults with the spirit of Bach himself. Gould, at least in his early days, played fabulous Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn, and a wonderful sampling is to be found on CBS 3-M3k 39036.

Horowitz: This is easy -- all you need is money. The virtuoso's commercial recordings for RCA are collected in the 22-volume "The Complete RCA Recordings" (RCA 22 09026-61655-2); his CBS recordings of 1962-1973 can be found on the 13-volume "The Complete Masterworks Recordings" (Sony Classical 13 sx13K 53456); and his Deutsche Grammophon recordings on "The Solo Recordings" (DG 3-427269-2). His great EMI recordings, which include his historic Liszt Sonata, are temporarily out of print. Make sure you also acquire "Horowitz: The Private Collection" (RCA 09026-62-643-2) and "The Last Recording" (Sony Classical SK 45818).

Richter: Richter fans number among the world's wealthiest people -- how else could they afford the hundreds of pirates that have been circulating since the late 1960s? By all means, acquire Philips' gigantic Richter collection: "The Authorized Recordings." But make sure you do not miss his peerless performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 (DG 415119-2), his mad-dog commercial release of Beethoven's "Appassionata" (RCA 0783-56518-2), his even more transcendentally crazy 1959 "pirate" from Prague (Praga PR254021) and some of his divinely inspired Scriabin (Arkadia 910).

Michelangeli: Were it not that his repertory is so much smaller, Michelangeli's pirates would be an even bigger headache than Richter's. His ghoulish "Gaspard de la Nuit" -- in which he performs "Scarbo" with the glee of Count Dracula at liberty in a blood bank -- and awesome Brahms, "Paginini Variations," can be acquired on a Music and Arts Collection (CD-817-2). Collections of his early studio recordings are on Teldec 9031-76439-2 and 4509-936671-2 and EMI Classics CDH 64490.

Argerich: Most of Argerich's studio recordings are on DG, and all are superb. But don't miss her "Fantasiestucke" -- it's Schumann playing that nearly goes off the (Sviatoslav) Richter scale -- on Angel CDM 63576. And make sure you acquire her pirate of Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7 (Exclusive EXL 65), in which she takes a torrential tempo in the final movement that even she cannot sustain.

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