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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Zwei Konzert-Etuden, S. 145/R6: a) Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes); b) Waldesrauchen (Forest Murmurs)
Trois éudes de concert, S. 144/R5: a) Il lamento; b) La leggierezza; a) Un sospiro
Etude en douze exercices, S. 136/R1
Morceau de salon, étude de perfectionnement, S. 142/R4a
Ab irato, grande étude de perfectionnement, S. 142/R4b
Mazeppa, S. 136/R2c
William Wolfram (piano)
Rec. Performing Arts Centre, Country Day School, King, Ontario, Canada, 30 Jan - 2 Feb 2003 DDD
NAXOS 8.557014 [63:06]


American William Wolfram is the soloist on volume twenty of this continuing Naxos survey of the complete piano music of Franz Liszt. I have no recollection of having heard of Wolfram previously but on this showing I hope it is not the last.

The most extensive works on this release are the twelve studies Etude en douze exercises which Liszt composed at the prodigious age of thirteen. In these twelve studies Wolfram is bold and expressive in a stimulating and thought-provoking performance. The concert studies Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes) and Waldesrauchen (Forest Murmurs) are especially fine works and Wolfram gives a most convincing and erudite interpretation. The Dance of the Gnomes requires the pianist to rapidly alternate the hands in a swift scherzo. Forest Murmurs, which is an evocative work, has the melody accompanied by gently rippling figuration. The Trois études de concert have been given the descriptive titles Il lamento, La leggierezza and Un sospiro and give the performer plenty of opportunity for virtuoso display. It is hard not to be impressed by Wolfram’s imperious sense of rhythm.

The three works which conclude this recital are the two short Morceau de salon, étude de perfectionnement and the Ab irato, grande étude de perfectionnement and the magnificent Mazeppa which is derived from material used in the Allegro grazioso the fourth of the above Etudes en douze exercises. Liszt was inspired by the story of the hero Mazeppa from a book of the same name by Victor Hugo and in 1851 developed Mazeppa into a large-scale orchestral tone poem. Wolfram is a pianist in command of his technique and with a total belief in his interpretation. He has a calm, stylish and controlled attitude to these virtuoso works; flashy and crudity are not words in his vocabulary. The soloist’s presence and amazing lightness of touch when required is outstanding and made an immediate impact on me.

The clean recorded sound is very truthful. At times Wolfram’s admirable playing made me sit up in a performance that would put some recitals from certain glittering top international names to shame. Top-drawer playing from William Wolfram who is an inspired choice in this repertoire.

Michael Cookson

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