Liszt Works for Piano & Orchestra

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Liszt Works for Piano & Orchestra

  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2
  • Totentanz
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2
  • Totentanz

This is playing in the grand manner. I have associated Krystian Zimerman in the past with refinement rather than bravura, while of course saluting his technique, but from the start of the E flat major Concerto I note a consciously leonine approach. This is no bad thing either; for the music really calls for it. I even felt he was deliber ately taking risks in a few technically perilous places where some of his colleagues, at least in the studio, play safe; and indeed his octaves in the opening cadenza are an example. The result sounds spontaneous and, yes, even brave. Ozawa and the orchestra are behind the soloist in all this and the deciso element is fully realized. But don't let me imply a lack of finesse; not only do lyrical sections sing with subtlety, the big passages also are shapely. There is plenty of drive in this Concerto. In the A major Zimerman adopts a different approach, he evidently considers it a more poetic piece and the playing style, strong though it is, is to match. Finely though he handles the gentler music, there are odd sniffs and hums in the molto espressivo passage following the D flat major cello solo, and also in the last of the work's quiet sections. In the gorgeously grisly Totentanz, both music and playing should make your hair stand on end. The sound has a depth that suits the music and the piano is especially impressive, and though in a few passages I wondered whether there was too much bass, I find it attractive.
Among alternatives in the concertos, Richter with Kondrashin and the LSO on Philips remains in a class by himself for sheer effortless command; but the 1961 recording is not striking and 39 minutes is short even for this magisterial playing; it would be more competitive at medium price. That price tag attracts on Berman's DG version, as do some subtleties, but he often seems contrived in this direct music, while the piano sound is not very attractive. Duchable (Erato / RCA) too is rather lugubrious in places such as the start of No. 2, which is (I think mistakenly) played first. He is a thoughtful artist with a fine technique, and the Hungarian Fantasia is good. But I prefer Zimerman's freshness (he reminds us that this is a young man's music), and his coupling of the Totentanz.

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