Leonardo Pierdomenico: Liszt
This is the stunning debut recording of Leonardo Pierdomenico, a 25-year-old native of Pescara in the Abbruzzo region of Italy and a graduate of the Santa Cecilia Academy in Rome. A semi-finalist at the 2016 Queen Elisabeth competition, he won the jury’s discretionary prize at the Cliburn last summer. His interesting programme spans Liszt’s career, with the early La romanesca composed in Paris, the Scherzo and March and two Ballades from the Weimar years, the St Francis Legends from 1860s Rome and the late Csárdás macabre from Budapest. Would that half the seasoned Lisztians I know had Pierdomenico’s keen ear for stylistic differentiation within this half-century of repertory. His highly developed technique and cultivated sound, both adaptable to a variety of affects, are wedded to those twin essentials for artistic Liszt-playing: imagination combined with thoroughgoing, scrupulous musicality.
His prodigious prestissimo leggiero, the ability to play extremely fast yet lightly, lends his Scherzo and March and Csárdás macabre quicksilver speed and tremendous power that never devolves into banging. His fioritura, that delicate filigree enhancement of melody used by Liszt and Chopin, envelops the D flat Ballade (No 1) with sensual charm and imbues ‘St Francis’s Sermon to the Birds’ with shimmering colours. La romanesca speaks with the chasteness of a Bartók folk-song transcription, maintaining its rustic simplicity through successive elaborations and embellishment. The exalted sound-painting of ‘St Francis Walking on the Waves’ is realised by Pierdomenico’s mastery of the ‘crescendo within crescendo’ effect, the scarcely perceptible pulling back at critical moments in an ostensibly seamless sound trajectory, unleashing huge volumes of sound that never exceed the resources of the piano. The B minor Ballade (No 2) occupies a vast canvas, though Pierdomenico avoids the overstated or melodramatic, opting instead for a heartfelt earnestness that creates a perfect symbiosis of the heroic and lyrical.
On the basis of his Liszt alone – and one may hear him in other repertoire on YouTube – I don’t hesitate to suggest that Pierdomenico is a musician of rare sensitivity and vision, and that following his further development will be a pleasure.