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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Works

CD 1
Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage)
Première Année: La Suisse (First year: Switzerland) S160 (1836-54)
1. La chapelle de Guillaume Tell (1848-54) [6:33]
2. Au lac de Wallenstadt (1848-54) [2:39]
3. Pastorale (1848-54) [1:35]
4. Au bord d'une source (1848-54) [3:10]
5. Orage (1848-54) [3:54]
6. Vallée d'Obermann (1848-54) [12:41]
7. Eglogue (1836) [3:32]
8. Le Mal du pays (1848-54) [5:41]
9. Les Cloches de Genève (1848-54) [5:20]
Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage)
Deuxième Année: L’Italie (Second year: Italy) S161 (1838-49)
1. Sposalizio (1838-39) [7:10]
2. Il penseroso (1838-39) [3:28]
3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa (1849) [3:07]
4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca (after 1846) [5:40]
5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca (after 1846) [6:06]
6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca (after 1846) [6:11]
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, France. November, December 1962.
CD 2
Deuxième Année: L’Italie (Second year: Italy) S161 (cont.)
7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi sonata (1837, rev. 1849) [13:46]
Venezia e Napoli S162 (Supplement to Années de Pèlerinage: Second year) (1859)
1. Gondoliera (1859) [5:10]
2. Canzone (1859) [3:48]
3. Tarantella (1859) [8:21]
Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage)
Troisième Année: L’Italie (Third year: Italy) S163 (1867-77)
1. Angelus! (Prière aux anges gardiens) (1877) [6:03]
2. Aux cyprès de la Villa d'Este I: Thrénodie (1877) [5:53]
3. Aux cyprès de La Villa d'Este II: Thrénodie (1877) [8:41]
4. Les Jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este (1877) [7:29]
5. Sunt lacrymae rerum (en mode hongrois) (1872) [5:10]
6. Marche funèbre (In magnis et voluisse sat est) (1867) [6:16]
7. Sursum corda (1877) [3:02]
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, France. November, December 1962, except S162 September 1969.
CD 3
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (Poetic and religious harmonies) S173 (1845-52)
1. Invocation (1847-52) [7:11]
2. Ave Maria (1847-52) [6:49]
3. Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (1845) [16:51]
4. Pensée des morts (1847-52) [12:55]
5. Pater noster (1847-52) [2:59]
6. Hymne de l’enfant à son réveil (1847-52) [5:25]
7. Funèrailles (‘October 1849’) (1849) [11:49]
8. Miserere, d’après Palestrina (1847-52) [3:46]
9. Andante lagrimoso (1847-52) [6:06]
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, France. 9-10 April 1990.
CD 4
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (Poetic and religious harmonies) S173 (cont.)
10. Cantique d’amour (1847-52) [6:54]
Liebesträume (Dreams of Love) Three Nocturnes, S541 (c. 1850)
2. Nocturne No. 1 in A flat [6:29]
3. Nocturne No. 2 in E [4:38]
4. Nocturne No. 3 in A flat [4:17]
Consolations S172 (1849-50)
5. Andante con moto [1:06]
6. Un poco più mosso [2:46]
7. Lento placido [4:10]
8. Quasi adagio [2:22]
9. Andantino [1:58]
10. Allegretto cantabile [2:29]
Deux Légendes S175 (c. 1863)
11. Saint François d'Assise prêchant aux oiseaux [8:41]
12. Saint François de Paule marchant sur les flots [8:42]
Deux Ballades
13. Ballade No. 1 in D flat S170 (1845-48) [7:18]
14. Ballade No. 2 in B minor S171 (1853) [13:35]
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, France. March, November 1970, June 1971, except S173 9-10 April 1990.
CD 5
Opera paraphrases:
1. Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde after Wagner (arr. Liszt 1867) S447 [7:28]
2. Valse de l'opéra Faust after Gounod (arr. Liszt 1861) S407 [9:25]
3. Valse à capriccio sur deux motifs de Lucia et Parisina after Donizetti (arr. Liszt 1842) S401 [9:17]
4. Paraphrase de concert sur Rigoletto after Verdi (arr. Liszt 1859) S434 [6:33]
5. Réminiscences de Simon Boccanegra after Verdi (arr. Liszt 1882) S438 [11:35]
6. Miserere du Trovatore after Verdi (arr. Liszt 1859) S433 [7:20]
7. Danza sacra et duetto finale d’Aïda after Verdi (arr. Liszt 1871-79) S436 [12:43]
Aldo Ciccolini (piano)
rec. Salle Wagram, Paris, France. 15-17 March 1982, except S436 9-10 April 1990.
ADD/DDD; Digital remastering 2006
EMI CLASSICS 3 67906 2 [5 CDs: 76:47 + 73:39 + 73:51 + 75:25 + 64:21]


Although best known as a virtuoso pianist Liszt was also a major influence as a progressive composer who, according to Cecil Gray, created, “some of the greatest and most original masterpieces of the nineteenth century.” A prolific and versatile composer Liszt produced over seven hundred scores covering most genres of which over half were for piano.

The content of this budget-priced EMI box of five remastered discs was recorded by Aldo Ciccolini at the Salle Wagram in Paris over an eighteen year period between 1962-90. Naples-born in 1925, the French based Ciccolini become a French citizen in 1969 and taught at the Paris Conservatoire from 1970 to 1983. A renowned performer of French music and also celebrated by pianophiles as a Liszt specialist, he has over the years been prolific in the recording studio.

The first two discs feature Liszt’s colossal musical odyssey the Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage). Liszt wrote the three books of the set intermittently over a forty year period based on his experiences from his extensive European travels. Ciccolini demonstrates a remarkable level of achievement throughout a cycle that aptly showcases his gifts for sensitivity, poetry and drama. I was left spellbound by the confidence and power that Ciccolini displays in both the La chapelle de Guillaume Tell and the extensive and highly romantic Vallée d'Obermann.

The third disc manages to accommodate all but one of the important set of ten Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (Poetic and religious harmonies) works written at various times between 1847 and 1852. I especially enjoyed Ciccolini’s Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, a score that expresses sacred contemplation, not unlike that found in Beethoven’s later string quartets. It is regarded as one of Liszt’s greatest and most original works. Another tremendous performance from Ciccolini comes in the Funérailles, one of Liszt’s finest piano scores. Biographer and composer Humphrey Searle called it a, “heroic elegy”. Composed in 1849 in response to victims of the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 Funérailles ranks as one of the more difficult works in solo piano repertoire. Here Ciccolini is imperious, providing high drama and controlled sensitivity throughout the exacting challenges arising from the varying weight and tempi of this score.

On disc four the highly popular Nocturne No. 3 in A flat from the attractive set of Liebesträume (Dreams of Love) is performed with a glorious flow of melody. Other highlights are the Deux Légendes: Saint François d'Assise prêchant aux oiseaux and the remarkable Saint François de Paule marchant sur les flots scores that Humphrey Searle considered to be, “of great beauty and interest”. These are astonishing performances amd Ciccolini imparts the perfect combination of delicacy and drama with episodes of visionary awareness. 

The fifth and final disc consists of seven Opera Paraphrases, a genre that was Liszt’s vehicle for bringing popular operatic works to a wider audience. Often dismissed as mere trifles these Paraphrases are substantial scores to be taken seriously and will provide delight after delight. The high-point for me is the magnificent 1867 arrangement of Isolde's Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde - a work of the utmost artistic merit. I love the way Ciccolini initially focuses on the beauty of the music and confidently develops the score with a fiery ardour.

With recordings of Liszt’s piano works it is hard to look further than the ‘Complete Piano Music of Liszt’ that Leslie Howard recorded for Hyperion between 1985 and 1998. Howard's monumental achievement is spread across fifty-seven volumes comprising ninety-five discs, with a supplementary volume of ‘New Liszt Discoveries’ recorded in 2001. Other renowned Liszt interpreters with collections deserving of attention are Georges Cziffra on a five disc mono/stereo set, recorded in the 1950s and 1980s on EMI Classics 5 74512-2 and Jorge Bolet with a superb set on Double Decca 444 851-2.

For complete sets of the Années de Pèlerinage one might wish to explore the well regarded recordings by Lazar Berman from 1977 on Deutsche Grammophon 471 447-2 and from Jenő Jandó on Naxos 8.550548/49/50.

The remastered EMI sound is first class being especially vivid and well balanced. Considering the large number of works here the booklet notes by comparison seem rather concise. I thoroughly enjoyed these performances that aptly demonstrate the art of Aldo Ciccolini. This five disc set should satisfy anyone looking for a broad selection of Liszt piano scores.

Michael Cookson


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