Wednesday, 15 March 2017

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, March 2017)

Deutsche Grammophon 479 5529 (2 CDs) / *****

Deutsche Grammophon 479 6724 / ***

Here are two new piano recordings from the German yellow label, but the pleasures are contrasted and mixed. Young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov is the perfect exponent for Franz Liszt's multi-layered virtuosity, none better displayed than in his four important sets of piano etudes, performed complete.

The 12 Transcendental Etudes occupy the first disc, and one scrambles for superlatives when faced with the fine filigree of Feux follets or the variegated and sonorous chords of Mazeppa, Wild Jagd and Harmonies du Soir

The second disc which houses the five Concert Etudes (in two separate ets) and Paganini Etudes is just as astonishing, with performances of Un Sospiro, Waldesrauchen (Forest Murmurs), Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes) and La Campanella that rival the best on record. This album is one for keeps.

Liszt also features in a new recital recording by Argentina-born conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim, playing on a revolutionary new grand piano created by Chris Maene from Belgium, that features parallel-running rather than crossing strings. The instrument has a good balance of resonance and mellowness, sounding best in three Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti and Beethoven's Variations in C minor. 

However in Chopin's First Ballade, Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No.1 and Funerailles, Barenboim resorts to banging. This generates an uncharacteristic percussiveness that all but negates the subtlety and musicianship that had come earlier. What a pity, really.  

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