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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  
Founder Len Mullenger   



Franz LISZT (1811 - 1886)
Hungarian rhapsody #12 (1853) [10.57]
La Vallée d’Obermann (1854) [17.54]
Légende: St. François de Paule marchant sur les flots (1863) [10.32]
Après une lecture du Dante (Fantasia quasi Sonata) (1849) [19.56]
Martin Berkofsky, Bechstein piano
Recorded Sudwest Tonstudio, Stuttgart, Germany, December 1984 ADD
Notes in English.
CHRISTOFORI CF 881 [75.44]

Comparison recordings:
St. Francis; Ervin Nyiregyhazi Telefunken LP AW 6.42626
Dante Sonata, Vallee d’Obermann; Lazar Berman DG 437 206-2

Mr. Berkofsky’s story is an interesting one. He was crippled in a motorcycle accident and recovered his pianistic skill against all medical odds. He felt that the recovery of his abilities was a gift he was obligated to share and has since dedicated his career to benefit performances for charities. This is in the image of Liszt who generally performed half of his concerts for charity during the height of his popularity and thereafter came out of retirement regularly for no other reason than to help various worthy causes.

I am delighted to be able to tell you that Mr. Berkofsky is a fine Liszt pianist bringing to his music the same aggression and daring he likely used while riding his motorcycle. The only slight disappointment is that the massive piano sound tends to overwhelm the recording apparatus resulting in a jarring thunder rather than a deep, warm, resonant, engulfing bass sound.

Berkofsky attacked the St. Francis with tremendous courage and daring; if the music had had any sense it would have succumbed, but instead resisted heroically until the last chord. The Nyiregyhazi recording of the St. Francis piece is one of the most astonishing, overwhelming keyboard recordings ever made, but of course here it is Berkofsky who has the better sound.

Berkofsky mastered the Dante Sonata — possibly Liszt’s single greatest work and hence the greatest keyboard work of the mid Nineteenth Century — but there was some struggle along the way. Lazar Berman attains that particular summit with less apparent effort and better recorded sound in one of the greatest keyboard recordings of the Twentieth — or any — Century.

A live Berkofsky recital must be one of the most exciting events of any concert year, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And, the added benefit is that it’s all for charity. Hopefully, Mr. Berkofsky’s next recital will be better recorded.

Paul Shoemaker

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