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5 Stars on BBC Music Magazine

Liszt: Études d’exécution transcendante d’après Paganini (6), S.140 (original version); Concert Studies, S144 & S145
Elisa Tomellini (piano)

Dynamic CDS7815 (57:23 mins)

“…Liszt dedicated both the 1838 version of these studies recorded here and the simplified one he published in 1851 to Clara Schumann, of whose playing he said that ‘everything concerned with her art is noble and without pettiness’. I’m happy to say the same of the pianist here, and indeed much more.
It is a rare delight these days to hear a pianist who dares to play pianissimo – rather on the lines of Leslie Howard’s recent observation in these pages that what was lacking in much piano playing today was charm. There is charm here in abundance, together with staggering virtuosity…..
…… Finally, not the least of Tomellini’s abilities is her grasp of form. The near 10 minutes of ‘Il lamento’ can seem self-indulgent, but here everything unfolds naturally and meaningfully. And the piano sound is superb…”.

BBC Music Magazine, Roger Nichols, 2019 February

..”Tomellini shows an uncanny ability to separate the strands of the music, which, combined with her supple lyricism (more in demand here than in the Paganini Études) and her coloristic nuance, gives the music a welcome glow.”… 

Fanfare, Peter J Rabinowitz, 2019 March

Though not explicitly intended as such, Piano Classics’ comprehensive Rachmaninov set is a brilliant showcase of what the label has done so successfully over the last five years – identifying and recording some of brightest talents among today’s exceptional generation of young pianists. With six different musicians involved on these discs there are unevennesses, but none of the playing is less than very good, and some is breathtaking.
Most of the recordings were made during the past five years. Some have been released by Piano Classics as single discs, while some, such as Elisa Tomellini’s busy roundup of Rachmaninov’s early piano pieces, are new.

The Guardian, Andrew Clements, 2016 October 26th

“Elisa Tomellini without any doubt, shows what the real meaning of playing “piano” is: she keeps notes clear and delicate, perfectly intelligible but at the same time elusive…Her phrasing turns out to be rugged as a lived in landscape, not a merely painted and contemplated one. ..In the imaginative world of the artist, the listener can find full consonance with the plasticity of those sounds that seems to permeate her performances through fresh and impalpable atmospheres, safe anchors, solids and voids, peaceful paths and steep passages, harmonies among different textures and volumes”

Roberta Pedrotti, 2017 April 19th

“…. Tomellini shows her core strengths in this repertoire at the outset: The opening beautifully strong but not banged, the turbulence visceral yet not over-sentimentalized… It is in the Lento that she shines, though, embarking with a gorgeous sense of stasis, complete with a sense of foreboding in the left hand as it underpins a mournful melody. This builds this to a simply wonderful climax, all the more powerful through Tomellini’s careful pacing of the movement. She is charming in the Menuetto before doing her best with the finale.. ..her vision penetrates to the core of the piece, . As the listening experience goes on it becomes increasingly clear that Tomellini’s heart and soul are being poured into this project, her script clearly being to raise the profile of these pieces…Tomellini delineating the various strata to perfection….This Prelude bristles with energy under Tomellini’s fingers before a “Mélodie” flows, easily and inevitably. Tomellini’s projection of her left hand under turbulent waters is blissfully judged; the later arrival of peace, depicted by the composer almost in a musical evocation of waves lapping gently at a seashore, is a delight. The more festive Gavotte that closes the set is very much of the salon but, it has to be said, hugely enjoyably so. As a side note, Tomellini manages to deliver the frequently complex textures clearly. The three Nocturnes are glorious youthful outpourings. The first effectively opens out into sunshine, the cascading figures imbued with unstoppable youthful verve by Tomellini. The second Nocturne (in F♯ Minor) is impassioned with an unsettled, thrusting central panel that reveals Tomellini’s superb finger strength. The C-Minor Nocturne is a remarkable mini-edifice, strongly and compellingly given here. If the E-Minor Canon was a composition exercise (it was), it is a remarkably charming one. The F-Major Prelude of 1891  is a perfumed offering, fluent and engaging in this performance. Finally, the Morceaux de salon seems imbued with the Russian soul in Tomellini’s performance… the Valse  rises to a bright, glistening conclusion perfectly rendered both by Tomellini and by the engineers. Infinitely more magical, though, are the Barcarolle and “Mélodie. …..Tomellini’s love for the musical surface shines … She finds wonder in Rachmaninoff’s imagination in the Humoresque, the virtuoso writing towards the end positively brilliant before she locates the still interior of the Romance. The set ends with an effusive Mazurka, impressively dispatched here with great character. Urgently recommended. The recording itself is top-notch; Tomellini’s next release is eagerly awaited.”

Fanfare, Colin Clarke

“…As a lifetime Rachmaninoff aficionado, I really appreciate this record…and I can’t recall enjoying these pieces more.”

American Record Guide, James Harrington, Summer 2017

“… Saluons le travail de la jeune pianiste Elisa Tomellini. Très à son aise dans la passion romantique, elle se montre toujours attentive à la ligne mélodique, même lorsque la musique se complexifie … Une artiste à suivre de près.”

Thomas Herreng

“The Ligurian pianist finally made us understand Schumann’s musical intention of his opera ,reviewed by the artist himself , saying that those pages should have been played in a playful way, sounding like a puppet show. A playful atmosphere was given to the Secondo Studio (on Capriccio n 17) thanks to the excellent rubato and the admirable executive calm that gave it a theatrical effect, reminding the opera buffa, instead of the puppets show.

The expressive mood was fully shown in the Quinto Studio(La Chasse,dal Capriccio n. 9), admirable for the musical articulation on different expressive and dynamic plans, really evocative, and in the second part of the Sesto , magically free and rich of different timbral atmospheres: see the seventh variation that amazingly suggested the colors of the wood requested by Liszt.

The same imagination characterized the second of the Studi da Concerto put at the beginning of the concert, Ridda di gnomi, subtracted from the grotesque by the softness play.

After the awful and seamless Lisztian section, the insidious Momenti Musicali di Rachmaninov.

The initial B-flat minor Andatino was amazing,absorbed and poignant where Tomellini could alternate delicacy, nostalgia and vigor. Here and in the next two Momenti, the pianist could highlight the Tristanian temptation that emerges from some harmonic delays, fully catching the “modernity” of the structure expressed in the Andante Cantabile, taking the peculiar internal dialectic of the opera to a double-response-to-the-first-four-tracks end : the peace of the Quinto and the affermative Sesto, a spontaneous and deep play that will be remembered for such a long time from listeners , I think. “

Roberto Brusotti

“The young Tomellini is talented and smart…. enthusiast, technically and expressively on point…and from now on what will she do? Actually, she won’t stop! ”

Amadeus, Piero Mioli, 2017 September

“Interprétation suavement expressive d’Elisa Tomellini”

Diapason, 2017 June

“Her Rachmaninov appears thoughtful, sophisticated in technical solutions, mastered wonderfully in technically challenging passages, capable of airy phrasing, deeply feminine in yield, reduced to charming miniatures …”…”It is impossible not to be enchanted in front of her compassionate, heartfelt performance of Astor Piazzolla operas. In them the ‘alternation of relentless rhythmic chants at oasis of Iberian melancholy, are enhanced by the arrangements of the pianist, who never betrays the spirit of this music for exterior digital exhibitions or inopportune saccharinity… You really should take the opportunity to listen to her!”

Musica, 2016 April

“…she has endured with quintessential vigor, no yielding nor imperfections. On the contrary, a crescendo of energy, dynamism and concentration supported by  such an incredible clarity and expertise so as to afford a persistent agogic evolution… a deeply captivating and touching Rachmaninov interpretation constantly fluctuating between spectacular and decadence, between gestural and color rendering, between passion and fury. This duality has reached its climax in the two concluding pieces addressed hand in hand with her sensual lyricism and juvenile  feeling…”

Piano Time, Claudio Bolzan

“…many in the public have been touched by this pianist whose interpretations of Scriabin and Rachmaninov are fiery…”

La Stampa, 2010 April

“…her approach to these concert études represents indeed a sort of musical “ascension”, capable of exorcising the aura of almost “inexecutable” that surrounds this piece…

…A supreme clarity is distinguished by Elisa Tomellini, through which she has managed to discipline and to master the matter…

…Elisa Tomellini was able to overcome to the inexecutable nature of this work: seconding the unapproachable wall of virtuosity (to say it in Zen terms, true virtuosity is being expressed through non-virtuosity) with a phrasing which exactly exalts its mystical-spiritual dimension…

…while creating a sound, that can become sometimes  almost ‘imagined’ through ‘analogical’ reading the score, in a continuous, irresistible ‘sonorous ascension’, in a timbric procession which is spoiled at the end from the exterior armor of the virtuosity to show finally the pure and firm beauty of the whole work in itself, dismantled from any difficulty and from its own inexecutability…

… the interpretative skill of the Genoese pianist {stays} in rendering the esthetical dimension of the sound, its incontrovertible natural beauty through mastery and discipline…”

MusicVoic, Andrea Bedetti, 2018 December

…”Elisa Tomellini is so talented, so technically capable as to be willing to play the paganinian Liszt, already tremendous in itself, in a first version challenging the limits of the possible… …then five concert études follow… …the two S 145 end like a breeze in Tomellini’s hands, who tinkers with the transcendental and vertiginous to the point where loving the piano seems like loving the mountains (or vice versa).”

Amadeus Magazine, Piero Mioli, 2019 September

Now, in this fantastic recording as issued by this true piano virtuoso, Elisa Tomellini, one now has the great opportunity in hearing them as they were originally conceived for the instrument. Her technique is flawless, exciting nuance, phrasing and certainly understands the flair for the dramatic and the element of great panache is evident throughout this recital; nevertheless, in the Three Concert Etudes and the other Two Etudes, one hears the beauty of her subtle, warmth, and beauty of tone which expresses the talent in utilizing the piano as a tonal instrument in its egisters from the bass into the warm treble areas especially in “Il lamento,” “La leggierezza,” “Un sospiro,” and “In the Woods,” and the “Gnome Dance.”
The concert instrument, not mentioned by name, is a wonderful regulated and balanced tonally instrument throughout its entire registers. Excellent program notes in Italian and English by Danilo Prefumo add so much to the history and background concerning Liszt, Paganini, and information regarding the information and background concerning these Transcendental Etudes.
This is a “MUST HAVE” for any serious pianist, musician, music lover or piano aficionado

Dennis E. Ferrara, 2019 October

Tomellini is every bit as impressive as Daniil Trifonov … she is more flexible and engaging than Jorge Bolet … The recorded sound is excellent.

Tomellini looks us straight in the eye with an expression of confidence and daring. This lady is a force to be reckoned with, and I am eager to hear her again. 

American Record Guide, Bruno Repp, 2019 March