Press reviews of “Masters of High Romanticism”

Chopin

‘There are only a few pianists who for example can play in live concert the intricate works based on Chopin written by the Polish composer and pianist Leopold Godowsky. The Italian Carlo Grante… belongs to this [group] of fine-motor super-virtuosos.

The sound… was the really the [aspect] of Grante’s playing that was most noteworthy. Such fullness and warmth, that nevertheless remains full of movement and is not overly rich, such a soft and gradation-rich forte in [playing] Chopin, [a playing that is] without any hardnesses or peaks, but full of power – such [playing has] rarely been heard since Nikita Magaloff.

Grante played the 4 Ballades and the 4 Scherzi with a beautiful preference for [creating] shrouded atmospheres of haze and fog and for intimate dialogues in the middle registers.

Grante liked [his Chopin] rather pensive and with a constant shimmer of mother of pearl. This too was beautiful! And rather noble.’

Jan Brachmann, Berliner Zeitung – 16 January 2015

‘The great pianist Alfred Cortot said of the Chopin Etudes that “they are as inaccessible to the technician without poetry as they are to the poet without technique.” The same could apply equally to all of Chopin’s works. Carlo Grante possesses both technique and poetry in formidable degrees. His daunting program consisted of two giant blocks of the repertoire, the four Ballades and the four Scherzi of Chopin. These works are so well-known that their themes have become part of the musical subconscious, so to speak. They are also routinely massacred by well-meaning pianists, both professional and amateur.

From the opening stark low C of the first Ballade, the audience sensed it was in the presence of total mastery and a personal vision for each phrase and each work as a whole. Color variety was abundant, reflecting the deep and dramatic emotional shifts that frequently turn from brooding to exultant in these lyrical narratives. At times, a daring and personal sense of rubato was applied, but always with a structural view, never distorting the total architecture. He didn’t play these works “the way you’ve always heard them,” thank goodness. After all, if you can’t be individual in works from the Romantic period, you are in the wrong business.

There are two more evening planned by Mr. Grante in his series “Masters of High Romanticism,” Schumann sonatas, and Brahms variations. I advise lovers of the piano to go.’

Schumann

‘Italian pianist Carlo Grante is a musician of superabundant gifts. Possessing a discography of over fifty CD recordings, he is much more than a recording artist, demonstrating such thorough pianistic mastery onstage that, if his concerts were recorded straight to disc, one would be hard pressed to think of a single spot to edit. He is unflappable in the face of tremendous technical, musical, and intellectual challenges, reminding this reviewer in many ways of Marc-André Hamelin, but with a mellower persona. While Mr. Grante’s weighty program of Schumann Piano Sonatas at Alice Tully Hall perhaps precluded glimpses of the lighter showmanship aspect of Mr. Hamelin, Mr. Grante’s prodigious skills are certainly comparable, and that says a lot… One eagerly awaits his Brahms on the basis of his tremendous control, effortless technique, and keen musical mind.’

Rorianne Schrade, New York Concert Review – December 2014

‘However, Grante proved the impossible, and not just because of a nearly full house. If I admittedly walked a reluctant “pathway” to my seat, I was completely absorbed by Grante’s “architecture”. The pianist’s interpretations have deepened and darkened since his 2007 Music and Arts CD release of all three sonatas. Grante constantly sublimated his frighteningly proficient technique toward musical ends.

A master of subtle pedal effects, Grante is not afraid to blur a chord or slightly overlap connecting notes in order to create the illusion of sliding between pitches. This allowed for Grante’s softest legato lines and disembodied diminuendos in all of the sonatas’ slow movements to truly sing and shimmer. The First Sonata’s brief second-movement Aria was particularly beautiful in this way, and even more beautiful when Grante offered it as his only encore.’

Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com – December 2014

Brahms

‘The Italian pianist Carlo Grante completed his “Masters of High Romanticism” series in at the Chamber Music Hall of the Berlin Philharmonic with 3 sets of Variations by Johannes Brahms. After the complete Ballades and Scherzos of Frederic Chopin we heard the 3 seldom-played piano sonatas of Robert Schumann: in all, an unprecedented feat involving mastery of the scores, stylistic adaptiveness, and an ability to clarify the musical processes – not to speak of the hair-raising technical difficulties of these programmes.

It is to the artist’s credit that he did not seek to dazzle with excessive, superficial effects but to communicate what was substantial. The Paganini Variations however require an element of the spectacular and of the circus. The final variation of the first book nearly touched the realm of Rachmaninov and not for nothing called forth a round of spontaneous applause. The exhausting tour de force through intricacies of the most virtuosic kind, in the compact but at the same time tricky Brahms writing for piano, Grante managed commandingly but also with a little risk-aversion, often lyrically withdrawn into introspection. In the Handel Variations, Grante provided a continuous, electrifying arc of tension, full of contrasts and built up with lucid clarity. Magnificently, with well-judged intensifications and rich colour registers, the Fugue unfolded. Not only in the trill-embellished, relaxedly swinging Siciliano did one think of Scarlatti, of whom Grante played two sonatas as encores, after enthusiastic applause.’

Isabel Herzfeld, Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin) – April 2015
(Translation by Helen Heslop)

 

‘As evidenced by the detailed analysis in Grante’s program notes, the pianist has applied a strong intellect and deep theoretical understanding to his study of these complex works, which by their very nature as variations depart from many of the patterns of theme, development and recapitulation that characterize most of classical music’s other forms. The flip side of that coin is an attitude of humility before the greatness of the art, manifested in the pianist’s apparently explorative approach.’

Jon Sobol, Blogcritics – February 2015