Zeynep Ucbasaran is Turkish, began her studies at the Istanbul Conservatoire
at the age of four, then studied in Budapest, Freiburg and Los Angeles.
She has a secure technique and a sound sense of structure which produce
satisfying performances of the BACH Fantasy and Fugue and the Spanish
Rhapsody, and she writes her own unfussy but informative notes. She
also has the benefit of a rich-toned recording (though I noticed a shift
in perspective as the Spanish Rhapsody started) and a piano which is
better in tune than many for Liszt’s ascents and descents to the extreme
ends of the keyboard.
If I have a reservation, it is that in the more poetic
moments she seems not quite able to float a singing tone or to fine
down accompanying quavers into an impressionistic mist. This is particularly
noticeable in Les cloches de Genève which remains rather
too firmly present. Brendel’s performance, at a more flowing tempo,
speaks of the intangible as much as the tangible. His Vox recording
of Funérailles attains blistering heights that leave Ucbasaran
sounding merely dogged.
As these are the first two works on the disc I began
to prepare in my head a review which would have been more damning than
actually proved necessary. However, I must point out that the problem
of the singing tone, and of the separation of the differing strands
of the texture generally, raise their heads again in the Schubert transcriptions.
Not so much Aufenthalt where Liszt’s monstrous inflation of the
original song could never be made to sound Schubertian, but in Erstarrung
the melody hardly comes through at times, and the accompaniment to the
Ave Maria, warmly as the piece is played, could have taken on
a more filigree nature.
I wish I could have been more than mildly complimentary
over a gifted young artist, but if you hear Liszt for the first time
through this disc you will get a more limited idea of his range than
you would from the likes of Brendel, Richter, Horowitz and others. I
very much hope Ucbasaran will now refine her range of keyboard colours
and work a lot over texture, and maybe let us hear the results in some
Schumann or Debussy.