As a virtuoso pianist
Franz Liszt toured Europe extensively
from Dublin to St. Petersburg and from
Seville to Istanbul; turning down offers
of trips to the USA. From these expansive
travels between 1836 to 1877 Liszt drew
inspiration for his epic cycle of tone-pictures
in three ‘books’ (also known as ‘years’
or ‘sets’) entitled ‘Years of Pilgrimage’.
The first book of the
Années de Pélerinage,
completed between 1835 and 1836,
was inspired by travels in Switzerland.
The second book, written between 1838
and 1839, is the Italian set. The third
book, from 1867 to 1877, consists of
random works first published separately.
Soloist Stephanie McCallum
is Australian-born and studied in England
as well as in her home country. She
is building an impressive mix of recordings
of nineteenth century composers such
as Alkan and Liszt together with those
of contemporary figures such as Boulez
and Xenakis. This is not white-hot or
dazzling pianism but principally a fine
recital from a talented soloist bringing
out the many and varying contrasts from
expressive intensity to intimacy and
From the calm and crispness
of the Swiss valleys in the first book
McCallum shows a fine understanding
of the emotional temperature of the
substantial and complex work Vallée
d'Obermann (The valley of Obermann).
Undoubtedly the most imposing work
in the whole of the Années
de Pélerinage is the Après
une lecture du Dante. Fantasia quasi
sonata. From the second book, full
of the sun-drenched atmosphere of Italy,
I just love the way the soloist expertly
harnesses the full power and range of
Liszt’s keyboard with ardour and commitment.
In the final work of the recital McCallum
brings a marvellous sense of rhythm
and phrasing together with brilliant
and spirited playing in the Tarantella
from Venezia e Napoli.
is a disciplined blend of heart and
mind. On this showing I look forward
to hearing more from this gifted soloist
who must be one of the finest pianists
in the Southern hemisphere. A glowing
Liszt recital expertly recorded. I will
return to this release very soon.