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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Mephisto Waltz No. 1 S.514 (1859-60)
Sonata in B minor S.178 (1852-53)
Funeral Ode La Notte S.699 (1864-66)
Rapsodie espagnole S.254 (c1863)
Joyce Hatto (piano)
Recorded Concert Artist Studios, 1989 and 1999
CONCERT ARTIST/FIDELIO CACD 9067-2 [66.11]

MusicWeb has suspended the sale of Concert Artists discs until it can be resolved which were actually recorded by Joyce Hatto

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Joyce Hatto, pianist extraordinaire, has committed a huge slice of her central repertoire to disc for Concert Artist over the last decade. Of the discs that I have heard her Russian music has proved quite outstanding and her Chopin has an idiomatic beauty that demonstrates unequivocally that she is a master of the repertoire. Here, in the first volume of a series devoted to her Liszt recordings, she turns to the Sonata in B minor, the Mephisto Waltz, La Notte Funeral Ode and to the Rhapsodie espagnole. The way she builds to the climaxes of the Allegro energico section of the sonata with such power and such precision and passion immediately announce this as a performance of thrilling engagement. There is no hardening or forcing but instead great depth of tone and a concomitant technical security. Her control over structure seems absolute; drive and reflectiveness are held in balance, and the delicate traceries of the right hand are matched by the pointed rhythmic drive of the left, with enviable weight and remarkable acuity in matters of tonal variance. Her Andante sostenuto is one of great limpidity and beauty of tone without ever sacrificing momentum or direction and equally the Allegro moderato develops a sometimes elemental drive. Above all there is the admixture of clarity and ardour; she is not out to emphasise virtuosity for its own sake in this of all works (though she has it in profusion) but to explore the full complexity of the work and this she does with remarkable insight.

The Funeral Ode La Notte is shaped with notable understanding; listen, from 9’00 onwards, for example to the tolling bells. In Hatto’s hands these are conveyed with an almost tragic malevolence, shot through with a depth of interior implications. She lightens the texture after this with lyrical abstraction, becalmed but strangely static before the bells return once more. Incredible to think that this work was not performed until 1912 but not so incredible that Liszt wanted – but was denied – this work to be played at his own funeral. In this performance it takes on the grimmest, most compelling and immeasurably human force. The Rapsodie espagnole opens with driving cascades but there is also huge grace in this performance – the virtuosity is unremitting but so is the poetry – and the octave ascent toward the end is consumed with drama and adrenalin. Finally to the Mephisto Waltz No 1 with which this recital actually begins. It’s a warhorse of course but Hatto nevertheless catches something else about it; the veiled quality of it, the imprecision that lies behind its adamantine virtuosity.

Joyce Hatto’s Concert Artist series is proving to be a consistently revelatory one. Her Liszt series couldn’t have got off to a better, more subtle or invigorating start.

Jonathan Woolf

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