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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Invocation (1847) [2'57]; Hymne à la nuit, S173a No. 1 (1847) [6'39]; Wiegenlied Chant du berceau, S198 (1881). Schlaflos! Frage und Antwort, S203 (1883) [2'37]; Grosses Konzertsolo, S176 (?1849) [17'08]; Bagatelle ohne Tonart (Mephisto Waltz No. 4), S216a (1885). La Notte, S516a (1883) [11'37]; Trauervorspiel und Trauermarsch, S206 (1885) [6'42]; Hymne du matin., S173a No. 2 (1847) [3'43]; En rêve, S207 (1885) [2'26]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tristan und Isolde (1865) Prelude (arr. Kocsis) [8'08]; Isoldens Liebestod (arr. Liszt 1867, S447) [6'10].
Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano)
rec. Fürstliche Reitbahn Bad Arolsen, 23-25 November 2005. DDD

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays these interpretatively difficult works with a huge amount of assurance. Late Liszt is notoriously tricky not for the notes themselves, but for what lies beneath them. Bavouzet takes a selection of works from the late period, mixing in some of the more nocturnal earlier ones as well as weaving in some Tristan, a stroke that makes the Wagner-Liszt connection explicit. Night, death and love-in-death interact to make for a memorable listening experience. How refreshing it is to have a disc that forces one to think, to reflect and, above all, to make an effort in the listening process. For all of this, Bavouzt is to be congratulated.

His pianism is fine, too. His Harmonic Classic disc of solo works by Schumann is a fine one (Opp. 14-16). Now here on Dabringhaus he brings his fine technique and intellect to Liszt. The title, 'Hymn to the night', is taken from the second work in the programme. Bavouzet explores Liszt's various reactions to the concept of night, from Cradle Song to insomnia (Schlaflos), from Funeral March to the nocturne, En rêve.

The recital begins with the short Invocation. Yet within its three minutes it contains a huge amount of power, and Bavouzet is Bolet-like in his depth of tone. Based on the eternal voice of the soul, Bavouzet's depth of interpretative response sets the tone for the rest of the disc. We hear both of the S173a Hymns, but separated by six other works. The Hymne à la nuit depicts the close of day shorouded in the Divine. Bavouzet exhibits a wonderful pianissimo and great delicacy (a joy to hear chordal work so together). The Wiegenlied's hyper-delicacy represents one aspect of sleep Schlaflos, of course, another, with its characteristic late-Lisztian single lines so full of meaing and its disturbing, restless harmonies.

In complete contrast comes the extended Grosses Konzertsolo. This work also exists in a two piano version as Concerto pathéique (interestingly, Mark and Michal Hambourg's 1934 version of this has recently become available on CD on APR7040, an intensely involving experience). Bavouzet creates an exciting experience, enjoying the double-octaves and later suggesting recitative with his left hand lines. Most impressive though are the fantasy he displays in the slower section and the way he refuses to break his tone even in the most vehement fortissimo.

The brief but sugnificant Bagatelle without tonality separates this from another extended item, La notte.

In the Bagatelle, Bavouzet somehow projects the waltz element, the diabolical element and the essence of late Liszt in less than three minutes. La notte, a work that derives from Il penseroso (inspired by Michelangelo's sculpture) is Lisztian darkness exemplified. Bavouzet paces the slower sections perfectly, bringing an impressive tread to the bass ostinato soon before the work's conclusion. The Trauervorspiel und Trauermarsch represents a deconstructed march (and includes some very telling single lines around five minutes in); the rustlings (almost watery!) of the Hymne du matin provide telling contrast.

The Tristan Prelude and Transfiguration is interesting in juxtaposing Kocsis and Liszt's responses to Wagner's orchestral score. Kocsis had a hard job the long lines are going to be difficult to sustain on a piano, yet Bavouzet's carefully-chosen tempo and his full-on concentration enable the spirit of the original to shine through. It is true that Kocsis' transcription does not rise to Liszt's heights in the Transfiguration and it is here that Bavouzet is at his best, rising naturally to a full-blown (but not over-blown) climax.
Finalle, En rêve, an exercise in pianistic stasis. This is a real jewel of a piece, and suffice it to say that Bavouzet treats it with the reverence it deserves.

A superb recital, excellently recorded and delivered by a pianist of real stature.


Colin Clarke




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