Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Sonata in B minor (1854) [29.46]
Waldesrauschen (1862-63) [4.12]
Concert paraphrase of Rigoletto (1859) [6.58]
Vallée d’Obermann from Années de Pčlerinage (1848-55) [12.35]
Elsa’s Bridal Procession from Lohengrin (1854) [8.07]
Isolde’s Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (1875) [6.40]
Liebestraum No. 3 in A-Flat Major (1850) [4.35]
Andrew von Oeyen (piano)
rec. Beethovensaal, Hanover, Germany, 4-6 September 2009
DELOS DE 3412 [72.56]

Andrew von Oeyen is probably best known for being Sarah Chang’s partner in recital but is increasingly also performing as a concert soloist. This is the first solo disc which I have seen from him. He has elected to focus on the music of Liszt as part of the bi-centenary celebrations. With his dazzling virtuoso technique Liszt’s music is evidently a good choice.

Von Oeyen begins his recital with that great pinnacle of the piano repertoire, Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor. He is best at handling the turbo-charged virtuoso passage-work which he plays with exceptional clarity and panache. There’s real bravura display in the double octave passage in the opening movement. At some points von Oeyen’s tone was slightly harsh and I thought he could have improved his performance in general by focusing more on beauty of sound and production of a wider range of colour. The slow movement was played well but lacked the sultry beauty and range of orchestral colours that one hears in the greatest performances. The opening fugato of the last movement was played extremely well – light and crisp with clear voicing. However, the final coda was thrown away and seemed to lack the mystical intensity that Liszt requires.

Waldesrauschen was published as one of two concert studies with Gnomenreigen. Von Oeyen handled the considerable technical difficulties with ease and did a good job differentiating the light and airy opening from the more emotionally volatile passages. However, he was not able to match the exceptional clarity of texture and tonal beauty of Nelson Freire in this work.

Vallée d’Obermann is one of Liszt’s large scale works from Années de Pčlerinage. Von Oeyen conveyed the sense of bleak desperation in the opening melody and his performance had real emotional weight and pathos. The build-up in tension was well judged and the stormy central episode played with dramatic flair.

The best performance for my money was of Liszt’s paraphrase from Rigoletto. He captured its delicious lightness and delicacy and tossed off the brilliant virtuoso figurations with insouciance and charm. Elsa’s bridal procession from Lohengrin was also very good conjuring some luminous tone colours from the piano. The transcription of Isolde’s liebestod was something of a mixed bag: The playing was exceptionally clear and Von Oeyen brought out some interesting detail in the inner parts but the performance lacked that necessary sense of transcendence and sustained tonal beauty; compare Lise de la Salle’s recent superior recording.

Von Oeyen concludes his recital with the perennially popular Liebestraum No. 3. He made the piano sing with full-blooded romantic tone. The central climax was full of thrilling passion and the cadenzas are played with flair and brilliance.

Robert Beattie

Turbo-charged virtuoso passage-work is played with exceptional clarity, panache and real bravura display.