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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat S124 (1854 version)
Spanish Rhapsody S254 (arranged Busoni for Piano and Orchestra) (c.1863)
Totentanz (arranged Liszt for solo piano, revised Ozan Marsh) S525 rev. from S126 (c.1860-65)
Ozan Marsh (piano)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul Freeman
Recorded All Saints Church, Tooting, August 1985
CONCERT ARTIST CACD 9049-2 [52.53]




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Ozan Marsh studied, amongst others, with Emil von Sauer whose recording of the Liszt Concerto with Weingartner (both were Liszt pupils) is so prized a memento of his august discography. In 1985 Marsh went into the studios to record an early version of the E flat Concerto with the LPO and Paul Freeman. Marsh’s variants are from the 1854 manuscript and centre on the addition of sixteen bars after the trill at the end of the second movement fitting as a section before the triangle that leads onto the third.

Marsh takes an elegant and patrician view of the Concerto. His voicings in the allegro maestoso are frequently of exceptional delicacy, his trills graded with precision, his playing informed by an almost chamber intimacy (listen to his playing beneath the brief clarinet solo at 2.30 where his dynamics are of real sensitivity). These exchanges (clarinet, violin) are part of a patina of exchange and flourish that informs Marsh’s playing. The thematic flux of the opening’s material is reflected by his exactingly romantic response to it. The sense of time’s vista opening in the Quasi adagio is palpable and indeed part of Marsh’s own conception of the work as a whole which, not unlike but even more than Sauer’s own recording, unfolds in an unhurried way. The 1854 edition, by the way, has a delightfully well played clarinet solo, the piano musingly supportive beneath it, then expounding on the theme, solo, in a kind of quasi-cadenza section of intimate projection and nicely contrastive with and anticipatory of the more voluptuous skittishness of the ensuing Allegretto vivace section announced by the triangle. Even here however Marsh maintains a triumphant finesse – though he’s not short on technique, as one can hear, but prefers to keep it in reserve and not paraded. Orchestra and soloist are commanding in the animato section and in chordal flourish his tone remains even and round. Marsh’s refined but highly plastic phrasing allow the music time wittily to breathe in the Allegro marziale section and when it comes to the Presto there’s no little drama and flourish and leonine power.

No less enjoyable is the Busoni arrangement for piano and orchestra of the Spanish Rhapsody. Concert Artist’s notes remind us – I certainly didn’t know – that it was Bartók who gave the first performance of it in 1904 (it was also recorded by Petri, another of Marsh’s teachers, with Mitropoulos). There is once more much distinguished playing here and none to the gallery. The brass is burnished in the opening section, the strings exultant and almost smeary in their romantic leaps. The La Folia quotation is full of sinuously dark and unnerving undercurrents in Marsh’s hands – hints of things unknown and unknowable maybe – and elsewhere he is a romantic tonalist of distinction, left hand never submerged. Even at his most relaxed he is capable of spinning a resonant and compelling line and these elasticities of phrasing find their analogue in his rhythmically precise and drivingly exciting peroration at the work’s conclusion.

The Totentanz performance requires a little explanation. This is Marsh’s performing version, which has involved expansion of the sound of the tuttis and has used Liszt’s notebooks as a source for adding extra material to the existing cadenzas. The coda would in the old days be written up as Busoni-Marsh as it is essentially Busoni’s with Marsh adding some amendments. It’s certainly a staggering tour de force, Marsh doing some breathtakingly saturnine things, roulades of right hand runs thrown up the keyboard, the bass throbbing to his power. Yet insistence is but one part of the work’s austere and fearsome drama – the Dies Irae that courses through it inspires Marsh to introspective, almost Bachian moments of reflection and timelessness.

I believe that this has been out on CD before – on a 1988 Vox Turnabout PVT 7191. Concert Artist made a number of recordings with Marsh and they have added this to their catalogue. I’m delighted that they have done so.

Jonathan Woolf
Note from Concert Artists

One small point in the interest of accuracy. This CD has never been available in this country on the Turnabout Label (not even imports were allowed under the licence) but was released on Concert Artist Cassette FED4-TC-049 and is still available in our catalogue. It was released in the USA on CD by Turnabout as stated by Jonathan Woolf. Concert Artist/Fidelio

 

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