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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
From The Years Of Pilgrimage - Années de Pélerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) - Selections

Troisième année (Third Year) (publ. 1883)
No. 4 Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este (Fountains at the Villa d'Este)
Première année: Suisse (First Year: Switzerland) (publ. 1855)
No. 9 Les cloches de Genève: Nocturne (The Bells of Geneva: Nocturne)
No. 2 Au lac de Wallenstadt (At the lake of Wallenstadt)
No. 6 Vallée d'Obermann (The valley of Obermann)
Deuxième année: Italie (Second Year: Italy) (publ. 1858)
No. 5 Sonetto 104 del Petrarca (Petrarch's Sonnet No. 104)
No. 7 Après une lecture du Dante. Fantasia quasi sonata
(After reading Dante. A fantasy, almost a sonata)
No. 1 Sposalizio (Marriage [of the Virgin: after a painting by Raphael])
Venezia e Napoli (Venice and Naples, suppl. to the Second Year) (publ. 1861)
No. 1 Gondoliera (Gondolier's Song)
No. 2 Canzone (Song)
No. 3 Tarantella
Stephanie McCallum (piano)
Recorded 8 February, 19 May, 15 August, 7 September 2003, Eugene Goossens Hall, Australia Broadcasting Corporation Ultimo Centre. DDD
ABC CLASSICS ABC 476 124-8 [77:53]

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 serenity.

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.

McCallum’s recital 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.

Michael Cookson

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