LISZT Complete Piano Music: Dances (Filipec)
The more I continued listening to this recital, the more I felt that it was one of the finest all-Liszt discs I had heard for a very long time. Produced by the pianist himself, it is also very well recorded (at Campus Fichtenhain, Krefeld, Germany) by engineer Matteo Costa.
This is Vol 49 of Naxos’s Liszt Complete Piano Music and must count among the most successful of the series, not merely because of Filipec but because of the felicitous programme. It provides a dance sequence that is both consistently varied in metre (waltzes followed by csárdás, polka, mazurka, more waltzes and two galops) and has some of the brilliant virtuoso works of the late 1830s rubbing shoulders with their experimental near-namesakes of half a century later: compare, for instance, the four Valses oubliées (1881 84, tracks 1 4), played with immense charm, and the four earlier waltzes (tracks 10 13) that prompt Filipec’s most ardent, unfettered displays of virtuosity, exploiting the full sonority of his Kawai grand. The final two tracks feature the rarely heard simplified version of the Grand galop chromatique succeeded by the celebrated original, a crowd-pleaser with which Liszt often ended his recitals. To put Filipec’s bravura performance of this in perspective, both Ogdon and Lang Lang are a full 27 seconds slower; only Fiorentino and Cziffra (who owned the piece) are faster and – hush! – I think I prefer the Croatian.
Filipec has three of the most important attributes that make a great pianist: artist, architect and acrobat. Indeed, the only thing that lets down this impressive release is the frightful painting of Liszt on the cover, based, presumably, on one of Franz Hanfstaengl’s 1857 series of photographic portraits. Would not one of the hundreds of photos of Liszt have been preferable? At least, something a little more classy to compliment the contents.