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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music Vol. 24
Mephisto Waltz no.1 S514/R181 (1856-61) [12:05]
Mephisto Waltz no.2 S515/R182 (1878/9-1881) [11:12]
Mephisto Waltz no.3 S216/R38 (1883) [09:48]
Mephisto Waltz no.4 S696/R661 (1885) [02:59]
Elegy no.1 S196/R76 (1874) [05:45]
Elegy no.2 S197/R77 (1878) [05:13]
Grosses Konzertsolo S176/R18 [23:08]
rec. 8-9 March 2005, Potton Hall, Westleton, Suffolk, UK
NAXOS 8.557814 [70:10]
Volume 24 of the complete Naxos Liszt edition opens with the
ubiquitous Mephisto Waltz No.1, followed by its lesser-known
No.4 is actually a brief fragment, complete only in the sense
that it does not break off in mid-phrase. A contrasting Andantino section
had been sketched for it. The two Elegies were written four
years apart and are not intended as a pair. The Grosses
Konzertsolo is a sort of single-movement sonata; it was
later arranged for piano and orchestra and for two pianos
as the Concerto Pathétique. It is probably best known
in this latter guise.
Gratitude for an opportunity to hear the later Mephisto Waltzes
must be tempered by the fact that they don’t stay in the mind
as the first does. The second, in particular, could well
be programmed by pianists as an alternative to the first,
yet it is understandable that a pianist who has not actually
been commissioned to perform or record it might baulk at
learning so many notes when no.1 is more effective anyway.
Liszt always holds the attention, yet when the storm and
thunder is over, the pieces that remain in the mind tend
to be those that are regularly played. I am very far from
the persuasion that, if a piece is neglected, it probably
deserves it. However, in the case of Liszt, pianists and
the public do seem to have it about right. In the same way
the two Elegies, agreeable as they are, lack the mesmerizing
force of the best quiet pieces in the Années de Pèlerinage.
The Grosses Konzertsolo, the “empty virtuosity” of
which caused Clara Schumann to refuse to play it, ought to
make a recital alternative to the Sonata. But it is not involving
in the same way. Still, now that Andaloro has taken the trouble
to learn all these notes, I hope he will keep the pieces
in his recital repertoire. The music is never less than effective.
Do the performances do everything possible for it?
Yes and no. Andaloro, a pupil of Fiorentino and the winner
of the 2005 Busoni Competition in Bolzano, has a commanding
His tone remains rich and rounded in the heaviest passages.
Nor does he neglect the more poetic aspects of the music.
My only very slight complaint is that he fractionally but
regularly delays chords which are preceded by an upward leap.
Whether this is a technical matter or whether he intends
to “place” the chords expressively, I can’t say. I would
just rather he didn’t do it. But I don’t want to make too
much of this. It is fine playing, without doubt.
And yet I have to say that even that isn’t enough. If you
go to the account of the First Mephisto Waltz on Minoru
Nojima’s wonderful Liszt
disc, you’ll find a sense of detachment, a feeling that the
performer is fully engaged but still with time for an overview.
He’s a conjuror who makes us gasp at every new trick. At
10:54 he is over a minute quicker than Andaloro even while
taking a slower basic tempo. This is because he does not
get becalmed in the gentler passages. In the last resort,
Andaloro seems to alternate between impulsive passion and
poetic lingering. A whole disc based on just two modes of
playing gets to have its limitations.
But you won’t find performances of most of this music by
the likes of Horowitz, Petri and so on. Time was when minor
if at all, from pianists who could barely cope with it at
half-speed. Andaloro is infinitely better than that. This
is, I repeat, fine playing.
Fully informative notes by Keith Anderson and excellent recording.
see also review by Michael Cookson
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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