Michael Roll plays Liszt and Beethoven
The back cover of this disc states that, since his victory in the first-ever Leeds International Piano Competition in 1963 at the age of 17, ‘Michael Roll has enjoyed a hugely successful career on the concert platform … His recorded legacy, however, is surprisingly small.’ This CD, which juxtaposes an unreleased 1978 recording of the Liszt Sonata with a live 2008 account of the Beethoven Appassionata, hardly backs up the first claim; nor does it suggest that the second is likely to be rectified.
Roll is evidently a musical poet, and he has a sure sense of lyricism and musical drama. But these qualities are not enough to save the disc. In the Liszt there is some delightful jeu perlé rippling in the pianissimo passagework; but the overall drama is too fragmented to be convincing and Roll’s fortissimo has a persistent thudding quality. Perhaps the recording conditions did him no favours. In the Beethoven, despite an undeniable sense of excitement and some perceptive voicings, there are simply too many approximations and mis hits. Particularly in the finale, exhilaration is displaced by struggle, and the ovation at the end brings more a sense of relief than of satisfaction, as if for a long-distance runner who has just completed the course against all the odds.