Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Franz LISZT (1811-86)
Piano Sonata in B minor. Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année: Sonetto 27 del Petrarca; Sonetto 104 del Petrarca; Sonetto 123 del Petrarca; Après une lecture du Dante, 'Dante Sonata'.
Alfredo Perl (piano).
Arte Nova 74321 71767-2 [DDD] [68'59]

The Chilean pianist Alfredo Perl has recorded the complete Beethoven Sonatas for Arte Nova, and here he turns his attention to one of the greatest compositions for piano of all time, Liszt's B minor Sonata. It is a work that continues to defy most interpreters, combining manic virtuosity and effusive lyrical outpourings over an extended time span. Perl does not rank with the greats by any stretch of the imagination, and for a modern performance both Zimmerman and Pollini (both on DG) leave one with a sense of Liszt's achievement. Perl is best in the lyrical sections, but even there the requisite fantasy is just out of his grasp. The recording lacks body in the mid-range: an unfortunate fault, especially in this repertoire.

Technically, Perl has the measure of the Lisztian eruptions and on this level at least it is difficult not to get involved with Perl's performance. Plumb for deeper levels, though, and you will be disappointed.

The coupling is an imaginative one. The 'Dante' Sonata (which brings to an end the Second Year of Travel) is not diabolical (in the true sense of the world). A pianist who tackles this piece must, but must, throw caution to the wind to gain the full sense of exhilaration. Perl is unfortunately not that sort of pianist (admittedly being in a studio can't help) and the whole experience remains earthbound.

The sonatas are separated by the Petrarch Sonnets. Within the context of this CD they act as an interlude, which seems somewhat demeaning to their true stature. For the Second Year of the Années de Pèlerinage, Alfred Brendel's traversal on Philips 420 169-2 remains a front-runner.

Even for a fiver, it is hard to muster up much enthusiasm for Perl's rather routine brand of Liszt.


Colin Clarke



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