LISZT Etudes d’exécution transcendante
Liszt’s cycle of 12 studies (his original idea was to write 24 in each of the major and minor keys) remains a formidable challenge both musically and technically. While their difficulties are exceeded by Alkan’s Etudes, Op 39 (published some six years later in 1857) and the even more digitally demanding 60 Grandes études, Op 63, by the forgotten Amédée Méreaux (1802 74), they have always largely been the preserve of male pianists. This may have as much to do with physical strength and stamina as it does with hand size (though in his final version Liszt removed all stretches greater than a tenth). Whatever the reason, of nearly 30 different versions currently available only four are by women.
So it is an added pleasure to be able to say that this account by the 26-year-old Ukrainian Dinara Klinton holds its own against all comers. True, her tempi are somewhat more relaxed than those of Lazar Berman, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, Georges Cziffra and Boris Berezovsky (my personal front-runners), whose overall timings are between 62'24" and 64'00"; Klinton’s is 67'21", Jorge Bolet’s 70'30". There is, though, no lack of drama and physicality in her playing: when Liszt requests il più forte possibile in ‘Mazeppa’, for instance, Klinton is happy to oblige and thunders with the best of them (beautifully recorded throughout, by the way). And if deft fingerwork were the only attribute needed for these wonderful tone-poems, then the leggiero triplets in the untitled Etude No 2 and the exacting passagework of ‘Feux follets’ will sure surely satisfy all but the most picky of Lisztians.
Others have brought more menace to ‘Chasse-neige’ and I think she does not articulate the second major theme of ‘Wilde Jagd’ – espressivo and a capriccio with the left hand marked quasi timpani – quite clearly enough. There are other minor quibbles, none of them sufficiently important to detract from the overall achievement of a most musical account of Liszt’s masterpiece.