Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Totentanz (1865) [14:24]
Petrarch Sonnet 47 (1858) [6:51]
Petrarch Sonnet 104 [5:57]
Petrarch Sonnet 123 [6:11]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23(1865) [33:43]
Sergio Tiempo (piano)
Orchestra delle Svizzera Italiana/Alexandre Rabinovich-Barakovsky
rec. Palazzo dei Congressi, Lugano, 18 June 2004 (Liszt Totentanz); Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, 26 July 2011 (Liszt Petrarch Sonnets); 29 June 2009 (Tchaikovsky)
AVANTI CLASSIC 10382 [66:21]
Sergio Tiempo is one of the leading pianists of our time, and this interesting disc of Liszt and Tchaikovsky finds him on good form in repertoire that suits him admirably. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 may be one of the best loved of all his compositions, and of all piano concertos too, but it is also one of the most Lisztian of Tchaikovsky’s works. He admired the earlier master and frequently turned towards him as an example, so to couple the concerto as here with music by Liszt is an eminently suitable choice.
Tiempo galvanises the performance with a thrilling opening phrase, and though the relationship with the orchestra doesn’t sustain this kind of frisson throughout, the performance always sounds well. The vivacity of the finale and above all, the charm of the central movement, bring many moments to savour.
Liszt’s Totentanz, first performed by Hans von Bülow at The Hague in 1865, is the master’s greatest work for piano and orchestra, despite the two concertos. It takes the form of a powerful set of variations on the Medieval plainchant the Dies Irae, which Liszt first encountered in the finale of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, of which he made a notable piano transcription. Tiempo’s live performance has real electricity, with slightly faster tempi than the benchmark recording by Krystian Zimerman (DG 423 571-2) but rather less rhythmic bite. This may be down to the relative lack of depth in the recorded sound, but either way Tiempo’s performance is highly rewarding, with a good piano-orchestra balance and a satisfying collaboration of intent.
Perhaps the highlight of the disc comes in the three Petrarch Sonnets from the second book of Années de Pèlerinage, a collection inspired by literary sources. The piano sound does full justice to Tiempo’s control of dynamic shadings, while his command of line and keyboard texture is no less impressive.
Terry Barfoot 

Sergio Tiempo is one of the leading pianists of our time.