LISZT (1811-1886) Années de pèlerinage
– Suisse: Première Année
– Suisse S160 (1855)
Chapelle de Guillaume Tell [6:18]
Au lac de Wallenstadt [3:06]
Au bord d’une source [3:48]
Vallée d’Obermann [14:07]
Le mal du pays [5:50]
Les cloches de Geneve [6:20]
Scherzo and March S177 (1851) [12:42]
Joyce Hatto (piano)
rec. Concert Artist Studios, Cambridge,
April 2003 (Années de pèlerinage);
June 2003 (Scherzo and March)
CONCERT ARTIST CACD 91622 [62:35]
Joyce Hatto was a Lisztian
of long standing and a superb exponent
of even the most coruscatingly difficult
thickets of his virtuoso writing. Années
de pèlerinage – Suisse sees
a renewal of Liszt releases from Concert
Artist and serves only to make clear,
once more, how vital and all-embracing
her playing remained.
She characterises each
movement with vivid finesse and imagination.
The chordal flourishes of La Chapelle
de Guillaume Tell ring out like
canon fire, the rolled chords emerging
with refined glory. The playing is touching
as well as majestic. Leslie Howard [Hyperion
CDA67026] in his complete edition is
attractive but somewhat reserved here;
Brendel, to take another example, is
metrical and tersely uncommunicative.
Hatto’s waters lap with gentleness and
gauzy momentum in Au lac de Wallenstadt;
she brings out middle voicings with
great naturalness. In the faster movements
her rhythm is powerful and bracing.
And in even so well known a piece as
Au bord d’une source we find
that her clarity and control of rhythm
eclipses by some considerable distance
even so good a player as Brendel. Orage
profits from the more immediate
Concert Artist set-up. There’s no glare
or blast or splinter to Hatto’s visceral
sound – she plays with technical brilliance
but also a commanding surety of the
structure; Howard brings an edgy, almost
hysterical moment or two. Brendel doesn’t
seem to believe in it at all; half-hearted
playing of no assurance at all.
Vallee d’Obermann is the big, beating heart of the
cycle and to it Hatto brings a full
range of moods, reflections and feelings
- all conveyed at a sure tempo. This
is playing of a most superior and poetic
kind and unfortunately makes players
such as Brendel sound profoundly one-dimensional.
She brings a more explicit and clear
spirit to bear on the Eclogue.
Howard plays beautifully here, sculpting
phrases and colour with tangible warmth;
but some may find it just a touch too
manicured, a little mired in the kind
of artifice that Hatto would never countenance.
Les cloches de Genève reinforces the point. Howard
is a good minute slower than Hatto and plays with
a limpid and sophisticated burnish;
Hatto is quicker and less inflected,
taking a nobly fulsome approach. It
rounds off a cycle of great immediacy
and passion, real beauty of tone and
a complete understanding of Liszt’s
As a bonus - "a
rare indulgence" – she plays the Scherzo and March. There’s no
call for her apology. Whilst the 1851
opus may be chronologically close to
the Sonata it’s something of a jeux
d’esprit in comparison. But Hatto clearly
loves it and the powerful effect it
has on an audience. She plays it with
real brio and engagement and sweeps
one up in its drive.
The notes are principally
those of Humphrey Searle, who certainly
didn’t like the Scherzo and March.
The 2003 recordings sound forthright
and capture the piano spectrum with
immediacy. The performances are all
one could hope for – and more.
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