LISZT Une divine tragédie
A combination of imaginative registration, intelligent musicianship, dazzling technique and deep stylistic intuition makes this about the best recorded performance of Liszt’s epic Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’ I have ever heard. The 27-year-old Basque organist Thomas Ospital is not just a fabulous player, he is also a brilliant musician and a compelling communicator. The choice of Paris’s Saint‑Eustache organ and a scintillating recording are just icing on a remarkably sumptuous and life-enriching cake.
There is one sour note to be struck, unfortunately. The various essays in the booklet (not to mention the stuff Hortus has thought fit to print on the outside) are so obnoxiously pretentious and oafishly obtuse that they can only safely be consumed either in a state of utter inebriation or with a large dose of aspirin to hand. Best left well alone, in my opinion; unless you have no inbuilt aversion to reams of rhetorical questions or such statements as ‘that service which partakes of choreography and liturgy’ or ‘the abysses of the oceanic weald’ (these taken from a description of the recording sessions).
The plan of Ospital’s Liszt recital is to frame Ad nos with transcriptions of orchestral and piano works, and the disc’s overall title is based on the premise that the resultant ‘mini-opera’ lays out ‘the contours of a tragedy’. Such pseudery apart, the programme works superbly. Louis Robilliard’s transcriptions of Orphée and ‘Funérailles’ are immensely effective, somehow delving into the very heart of the music and offering Ospital an opportunity to demonstrate his marvellous gift for registration and his uncannily perceptive sense of timing. As for his glittering technique, it never serves an end in itself but is always sensitively applied to the service of the music, crowning Ad nos with some moments of simply breathtaking virtuoso brilliance.
Here is a disc I would recommend wholeheartedly, despite the dreadfully self-indulgent booklet essays.