Friday, 7 October 2011

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, October 2011)

LISZT Wild and Crazy
Deutsche Grammophon 477 952 6 (2 CDs)
Rating ****1/2

The Hungarian-born super-virtuoso Franz Liszt (1811-1886), whose bicentenary the world is celebrating this year, was definitely wild but certainly not crazy. This two-and-a-half-hour long anthology covers only his piano music, excluding much more that could have made The Essential Liszt. There are however some gems: Vladimir Ashkenazy’s unusually diabolical Mephisto Waltz No.1 and Martha Argerich’s peerless Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 are must-haves. Vladimir Horowitz applies his matchless touch to transcriptions of Schubert’s waltzes (Valse Caprice No.6) while his own unpublished edition of the Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 gets hair-raising treatment from fellow showman Lang Lang.

The concertante works are limited to just Totentanz (Dance of Death), variations on the medieval chant Dies Irae with the aged Jorge Bolet, and the coruscating Hungarian Fantasy with irrepressible Shura Cherkassy, the latter partnered no less by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. The late Liszt is represented by the bleak Nuages Gris (Grey Clouds) and La Lugubre Gondola No.1, appropriately from the pianist turned Trappist monk Jean-Rudolph Kars. There are two previously unreleased tracks from Dutch master Egon Petri; his takes on transcriptions of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro are worth the price of entry.

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