Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Etudes d’exécution transcendante (Third version 1852)
Christopher Taylor, Hamburg Steinway D piano (Reid Schaefer, technician)
Notes in English.
Recorded at Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. September 2002
LISZT DIGITAL LD005 [74.42]

COMPARISON RECORDINGS

Lazar Berman [ADD] Melodiya 74321 25180 2
Claudio Arrau [ADD] Philips 416 458-2

AVAILABILITY

www.lisztdigital.com

I am sitting quietly at my keyboard trying to avoid flying off into hysterical superlatives. Calmly, I will tell you this is one of the three or four finest piano recordings I’ve ever heard. It ranks high among the most outstanding half dozen recorded performances of this work and is likely to retain that position for some time.

I have never heard a pianist play with such exquisite control; he knows where every note should go and places it just there. In the turbulent arpeggio passages the notes are placed in the foreground, midground, and background, and remain exactly there throughout the phrase.

Piano students practice trills and try to get them as even as possible. Piano virtuosi must learn to vary their trills, because an absolutely perfect keyboard trill sounds rather like an old fashioned telephone bell. Taylor plays some of them like that, because that is what is appropriate. But trills sometimes need to lean on the upper or lower note, or move back and forth between leaning one way and leaning the other, sometimes in a regular or irregular or changing pattern. Finally, it is often necessary to introduce a precise degree of unevenness into a trill to achieve an interesting and expressive texture. Taylor does all of these things exactly as, and when, they should be done.

If a person does not feel this is their absolute favourite performance, it would be in reference to an extremely high level of criticism. Perhaps it is too ‘American’ in feeling. Perhaps one might prefer a less precise performance with more ‘Hungarian soul.’ Perhaps one should not play middle period Liszt with quite so much informed awareness of late period Liszt. These are points which could be debated, and I expect Taylor and his musicologist wife Denise Pilmer Taylor have debated them. Whatever, if you should pick a single note from this performance and ask why it was thus and not otherwise, I am sure Taylor could tell you at as great a length as you desire.

This is wholly appropriate for a pianist who also has a summa cum laude degree in mathematics from Harvard and who writes not merely computer programs, but computer compiler programs. He is currently Assistant Professor of Piano Performance at University of Wisconsin.

The Berman recording remains a treasured document, but the technical quality of neither his piano nor his recording can match Taylor’s. There is also some variance in interpretation, but Russian versus American are probably equally distant from Hungarian, and probably equally valid. Given a level playing field, Berman could probably take Taylor, but the field is not level. The Arrau recording, once held to be the finest version available ... well, compared A/B to Taylor, Arrau sounds like Liberace. Certainly more impulse and more heaving passion, but a rather flat dynamic. In the final analysis, I’m happy to have all three, and perhaps you would be also.

Paul Shoemaker



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