01 Tristano On Early MusicOn Early Music
Francesco Tristano
Sony Classical G0100045975984 (sonyclassical.com/releases/releases-details/on-early-music)

Francisco Tristano studied at four conservatories before graduating from the Juilliard School. Here he turns every last facet of his immense talent as a pianist and composer to interpreting eight pieces of early music juxtaposed with as many of his own creations. 

Breathtaking does not begin to describe Tristano’s talents. After his own highly spirited Toccata we are treated to his version of a John Bull Galliard which combines the pianist’s exceptional skills with the taxing sequences one associates with Bull. Other tracks are as complex; what is more, it is difficult to remember that we are listening to a pianist when so much of this CD sounds as if it is being played on a harpsichord.  

Then there are the slower pieces, notably the surprisingly restrained Aria la folia and Pavan. Tristano also has a keen interest in the works of Orlando Gibbons, selecting four pieces, each with its own stately Elizabethan character. Above all, there is the longest track on the CD, Girolamo Frescobaldi’s Cento partite sopra passacaglie, with an intensity highly appropriate for Tristano’s vigorous technique. 

Which leaves us with Tristano’s surely unique pieces. Ritornello offers no respite to its composer/player, what with its inspiring opening and ever more intense later rhythms. Neither does the breathless Ciacona seconda. It is a brave pianist who would seek to emulate him.

Standing ovations have graced many of Tristano’s performances. This reviewer adds one virtually.

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