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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Années de Pèlerinage II, Deuxieme Année “Italie”, S161/R10b (1849)
(Sposalizio [8:23]; Il penseroso [6:01]; Canzonetta
del Salvator Rosa [2:32]; Sonetto 47 del Petrarca [5:34];
Sonetto 104 del Petrarca [5:58]; Sonetto 123 del Petrarca
[6:55]; Apres une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi una sonata
Wiegenlied, S198/R58 (1881) [3:43]
Mosonyi's Grabgeleit, S194/R110 (1870) [6:53]
Am Grabe Richard Wagners, S267/R387 (1883) [3:11]
La lugubre gondola No. 2, S200/R81 (1885) [8:49]
Trauervorspiel und Trauermarsch, S206/R83-84 (1885) [6:24]
Michael Korstick (piano)
rec. August 2009; Congress Centrum, Pforzheim, Germany
CPO 777 585-2 [79:56]
Michael Korstick, best known on recordings for his Beethoven
sonata cycle, began a Liszt cycle on cpo in 2009 with the first
book of the Années de Pèlerinage, Suisse, and the B minor Sonata.
I have not heard that disc, but if it is as splendidly played
as this one, which features Italie, the second of the three
books comprising Années de Pèlerinage, and several late Liszt
pieces, it would certainly be a worthwhile acquisition. To give
you an idea of Korstick’s style and temperament here, I would
say he has a straightforward side like Brendel, a fiery side
like Argerich but with a greater sense of control, and a velvety
touch like Cliburn. He can seem like all these pianists in the
same piece even.
In Sonetto 104 di Petrarca, Korstick begins stormily, and then
lowers the temperature to allow the poetry and lyricism of the
main theme to simmer to an outpouring of great emotional release.
The music then recedes in pitch and melts to a lovely ending.
In the leadoff piece, Sposalizio, Korstick’s velvety dynamics
work wonders in the rolling right-hand accompaniment near the
beginning that eventually grows restless. Also, later on he
plays the main theme in deftly hushed tones that so serenely
capture its mesmerizingly lonely grandeur.
Italie’s closing piece is the Dante Sonata, a fifteen-minute
work mixing diabolical Liszt with lyrical Liszt, flashy Liszt
with lovely Liszt. Korstick catches all the moods and when the
big octave passages come, the notes dart out at you in a sort
of aural 3D, their buzz-saw precision evoking a deliciously
appropriate demonic sense.
Wiegenlied usually draws a fine performance from almost any
pianist, but here Korstick delivers an account of exceptional
gossamer beauty. His Trauervorspiel and Trauermarsch is powerful
in its sense of the morbid, with sinister mystery at the outset
and an onrush of hysteria later on when the march theme builds
overtop an insistent ostinato figure to bring on a crash of
epic power. Korstick is consistently engaging in all the other
pieces as well.
Other pianists of note in Années de Pèlerinage are Alfred Brendel/Philips,
Jerome Rose/Medici Classics and Lazar Berman/DG. All are good
but, if I can judge from this single disc, I would prefer Korstick
over them owing to his more chameleonic and dynamic manner,
which impart more color and a bit more drama to the music. In
the late Liszt pieces Leslie Howard, on Hyperion, delivers riveting,
if sometimes overheated performances. Korstick probably has
the edge here too, although selected late pieces offered by
Alfred Brendel on Philips and Arnaldo Cohen on Naxos are also
worthy of consideration.
The sound on Korstick’s disc is vivid and the album notes by
Charles K. Tomicik are enlightening. Texts for the Petrarc sonnets
are included, as well as photographs of the paintings that inspired
Liszt in the various Italie pieces. All in all, this is an excellent
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