Salvatore Moltisanti,



Weill Recital Hall

at Carnegie Hall


December 17, 1993

Salvatore Moltisanti, who from appearance would seem to be in his late twenties, is indeed, "one of the foremost ... Italian pianists of his generation." He has already won several national competitions, worked with some of the world's leading pedagogues (e.g. Carla Giudici; Nikita Magaloff; Eric Larsen and Victor Bunin), and himself given master classes and served as a competition juror. In 1992, he was appointed Artistic Director of the Christopher Columbus Festival 1492-1992, and the IBLA Grand Prize International Piano Competition.

And, yes, from the very considerable evidence of his unusual and challenging program, he is in every way a superior artist: He began with seven sonatas of Domenico Cimarosa, one of the last stylistic disciples of Domenico Scarlatti (who was his senior by 63 years, but by far, the more "modern" creator). Still, as with Galuppi and Padre Soler, Cimarosa's spirited essays are well worth investigating and all the more so when polished with the lapidarian finesse that Michelangeli brought to Galuppi, Alicia de Larrocha, to Soler and, now, Moltisanti to Cimarosa. Articulation was elegant; ornaments were sharply, but play fully-etched; and there was an almost champagne-like effervescence to Moltisanti's brightly hued sonority.

The remainder of his program was intentionally more "spiritual" but the light shed nevertheless remained bright: Scriabin Seventh Sonata (so-called "White Mass") suffers, as so much of his music does, from his own excessive chromaticism. Indeed, many composers around that time (the early years of this century) seem to have lost their harmonic bearings, and it is only now, after a belated rejection of Arnold Schonberg's "Final Solution" (the rejection of tonality), that younger creators have resurrected Scriabin's eroticism from the limbo to which it had been banished. One or two staunch believers, such as Olivier Messiaen had, it is true, kept his flame alive and had even added to it.

It thus made perfect sense that Signor Moltisanti followed his lucrid, intense version of the Scriabin with four of the Messiaen Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jesus (Regard du Pere; Regard de l'Etoile; Premiere Communion de la Vierge; Regard des Anges) and then turned his attention to George Crumb's A Little Suite For Christmas A.D. 1979 (after Ciotto's Nativity frescoes in the Arena Chapel at Padua, Italy).

Crumb, born in 1929, is an American who found a sympathetic resonance in the Scriabin/Messiaen spiritualism, but he more overtly acknowledges the influences of Bartok, Mahler and Debussy. The performer is required to play the piano conventionally, but in addition, sometimes has to strum its strings or "mute" the action of the hammers. Moltisanti's clarity of musical gesture was equaled at all times by his control of timing, knowledge of how to keep disparate musical events autonomous, and dedication to the spirit of what he was communicating.

I particularly liked his Messiaen because (like Peter Serkin's memorable interpretations) it was self-effacing and more concerned with architecture than with the usual flamboyant technicolor pianistic display.

There were two encores: A prelude by the earlier, more tonal Scriabin; and a Bartok etude, both were wonderfully propulsive and uncluttered. This was, all told, an exhilarating evening, and I trust that S. Moltisanti will be returning soon and often.

- Harris Goldsmith