Tuesday, 4 October 2011

PIANOMANIA POLL: Who do you regard as the greatest Liszt player of our time?

In the recently concluded Pianomania Poll, we had asked "Who do you regard as the greatest Liszt player of our time?" In the three months which we ran the poll, a respectable 159 votes were cast. Thank you for your support in the Bicentenary Year of Frenz Liszt (1811-1886), and here are the results:

There was an early run for the late Georges (or György) Cziffra, but it was Vladimir Horowitz and Martha Argerich who went neck and neck to the very end. While it wasn't as close as the Singapore Presidential Election, there were several changes in leads before Volodya crossed the finish line ahead of Martha.

#1: VLADIMIR HOROWITZ - 52 votes (32%)

#2: MARTHA ARGERICH - 46 votes (28%)

#3: GYÖRGY CZIFFRA - 29 votes (18%)

Of the above, Cziffra recorded the most Liszt, including the complete Transcendental Études, 15 Hungarian Rhapsodies, the concertos and many transcriptions. Horowitz's complete Liszt recordings on RCA/Sony Classical (dating from the 1930s to his last week in 1989) have just been reissued on 4 CDs. Argerich's fame as a Lisztian lies on a handful of recordings - the Sonata in B minor, Piano Concerto No.1 and Hungarian Rhapsody No.6. Not bad for a highly selective Lisztian.

#4: CLAUDIO ARRAU - 25 votes (15%)

#5: JORGE BOLET - 20 votes (12%)

#6: ALFRED BRENDEL - 17 votes (10%)

Three undoubtedly great Lisztians who recorded Liszt extensively amongst other things, which may be found in boxsets reissued on the Decca/Philips labels.


Bunched up in 7th place are four pianists who have made their name in high virtuosity on the keyboard. Earl Wild was performing and recording Liszt at a time when it was unfashionable to do so. Leslie Howard has recorded the complete piano works of Liszt, amounting to some 100 CDs on the Hyperion label. Marc-André Hamelin and Stephen Hough have both recorded substantial Liszt recitals for various labels, most recently also on Hyperion.

#8: LAZAR BERMAN - 8 votes (5%)
#9: LOUIS LORTIE - 4 votes (2%)

Bringing up the rear are the Russian Lazar Berman, who has great recordings of Années de Pelerinage and the piano concertos on Deutsche Grammophon, and the Canadian Louis Lortie, probably the most underrated Lisztian of them all. Do check his complete works for piano and orchestra and his stunning Années de Pelerinage on the Chandos label.

Thank you, and watch out for the next Pianomania Poll: Which do you regard to be the best label for piano recordings?

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