It is worth reflecting
that Verdi was born two years after Liszt, so in recycling his
operatic music for the piano he was paying tribute to a younger
man. He was also familiar with the genre as a conductor of Verdi
operas in Weimar during the 1850s. This disc is not quite a
complete collection of Liszt’s piano works inspired by Verdi
operas since only the second of the two Ernani paraphrases
is included. Liszt also re-worked the Agnus Dei from
Verdi’s Requiem and it is pity that this and the first Ernani
paraphrase weren’t included. Nevertheless, only the Rigoletto
paraphrase has been oft recorded and this collection certainly
fills a gap.
The difference between
a paraphrase and a transcription is a question of how much Liszt
developed the thematic material – a transcription being more
literal. The booklet is not very clear as to which of these
pieces is actually a transcription – perhaps I Lombardi,
this work itself having been recast as “Jerusalem” in 1847.
The rest seem to be in the paraphrase or reminiscence camp.
These pieces are not mere medleys of the best tunes but tend
to revolve around the music at key points in the action.
Apart from the Rigoletto
paraphrase, all these works were new to me in this guise. Whilst
there is no doubting that that work deserves its fame, the others
are no mere also-rans. The final duet from Aida and the
funeral march from Don Carlos are most movingly portrayed.
The Boccanegra paraphrase is almost symphonic in conception
and Ernani provides a rousing conclusion to the disc.
The demands made
by these works on Brazilian pianist Alexander Dossin are considerable.
No doubt technical virtuosity is a prerequisite but the need
to convey dramatic sweep is paramount. He more than meets these
challenges. The recorded sound is excellent and notes by Keith
Anderson provide detailed information relating to the relevant
part of each opera plot.
The Naxos Liszt
piano series continues to prove valuable and, once again, music
originally by another composer represents a high spot. This
disc is highly attractive fare and Liszt’s Beethoven
and Rossini (8.553961) await you for afters.
see also Review
by Michael Cookson RECORDING
OF THE MONTH in July