Alexander Krichel is a young Hamburg-based pianist who has recently gone through the round of international piano competitions. He’s had some success too: winning first prize at the Steinway international piano competition.
He writes in the programme notes that the Liszt second ballade was the piece which made him fall in love with the piano and with Liszt’s music. He has an affinity for Liszt. Like the greatest interpreters, such as Arrau and Berman, he believes in the integrity of the music and does not use it just as an opportunity to display piano gymnastics.
He opens his recital with the aforementioned second ballade which, with its rolling left-hand chromatic scales, is sometimes thought to represent the Hero and Leander
myth. The opening could have been a little faster but Krichel works himself into the piece in a very impressive way. He brings out the volatility and dramatic elements and handles the considerable technical demands with panache. Krichel also brings coherence to the sometimes diffuse dramatic narrative.
The rest of the recital is devoted to pieces from the second year of the ‘Années de Pélerinage’ beginning with the three Petrarch sonnets. Beauty of tone and excellent use of rubato is apparent in the first of the three, and weaves a magic spell with the alluring floating romantic melody. The second sonnet is the most famous of the set. Krichel once again shows his considerable abilities in setting out a dramatic narrative. I thought there could have been perhaps more urgency and passion in the great climaxes although there was notable poetry and insight. Krichel plays the last of the three with sensitivity and caressing romanticism, while the filigree passage-work at the end is played with delicious delicacy.
The trilogy entitled ‘Venezia e Napoli’ forms a garland of encores to this second book of ‘Années’ and was published much later and separately from the main set. In the opening ‘Gondoliera’, Krichel embroiders the exquisitely shaped gondolier’s song with translucent and ethereal right-hand arabesques. He brings drama and a heightened emotional charge to the central ‘canzone’ with its left hand tremolos. The final tarantella is one of the pieces where Liszt throws a huge array of technical difficulties at the pianist. Krichel snatches up the gauntlet and shows us his virtuoso firepower. He also displays a wide and very impressive range of tone colour, shading and dynamics in this most technical of pieces.
The final piece is the great ‘Dante Sonata’. Krichel again proves a consummate story-teller and technician. The octaves depicting the descent into Hell are played with drama and pathos. The piece is worked up into a heightened emotional state without ever losing control of the demanding pyrotechnics and sense of architecture. The use of tone colour and rubato to depict the cloying and amorous aspects is exemplary. This is a fine recital from such a young pianist. It shows real insight and maturity.