Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Impromptu in F sharp major S191 (1872) [3:57]
Au Bord d’une source - with extended ending composed in 1863 for Giovanni Sgambati Années de pèlerinage, première annèe: Suisse S160 (1848-54 rev 1863) [4:35]
Vallée d’Obermann - from Années de pèlerinage, première annèe: Suisse (1848-54) [13:01]
Les jeux d’eau á la Villa d’Este - fromAnnées de pèlerinage, troisième annèe: Italie S161 (1837-49)[8:07]
Canzone ‘Nessùn maggior dolore’ after Rossini’s opera Otello, from Venezia e Napoli [3:54]
Funérailles from Harmonies poétiques et réligieuses S173 (1845-52) [11:38]
Three Petrarch Sonnets from Années de pèlerinage, deuxième annèe: Italie S161 (1837-49): Sonnetto No.47 [6:42]: Sonnetto No.104 [6:14]: Sonnetto No.123 [7:01]
‘Faust Waltz’ after Gounod S407 (1861) [11:24]
Mordecai Shehori (piano)
rec. [2011]
CEMBAL D’AMOUR CD162 [76:37]
The second volume of Mordecai Shehori’s Liszt series bears the subtitle ‘On Nature’s Beauty and Man’s Torment’. I wonder if Shehori has derived the phrase from the writings of Chaim Nachman Bialik, the eminent poet whose writing is still hugely admired in Shehori’s native Israel. Irrespective of this, its suggestive and poetic power dominates the programme that Shehori has constructed.
There is the subtly shaded, dynamics-conscious performance of the Impromptu in F sharp minor with which to start. Its narrative urgency, frequently relinquished and then reasserted, proves malleable in Shehori’s hands - his crystalline trills equally so. The recorded sound throughout this undated - but I presume 2011 recital - is quite close. This in no way limits admiration for Au Bord d’une source, which proves even more archivally intriguing given that he plays the extended ending composed in 1863 for Liszt’s pupil Giovanni Sgambati.
If, when one thinks of Vallée d’Obermann one thinks, on disc, of Horowitz or Lazar Berman, I think you would find that Shehori’s aesthetic alignment is more the former than the later. There’s a tauter, kinetic quality to his reading, though this is no simulacrum; Shehori is neither as fatalistic nor as detonatory. Instead he builds wisely, and incrementally, yielding great tonal colour, warm lyricism and passionate declamation. Similarly Shehori veers away from the kind of galvanic model posited by Cziffra in Les jeux d’eau á la Villa d’Este and doesn’t replicate the kind of tonal extremes cultivated by Cziffra either - less drive and less dapple therefore.
We hear a really lovely performance of Canzone ‘Nessùn maggior dolore after Rossini’s opera Otello with gaunt bass and huge technical facility to the fore. The demands of Funérailles are met with adroit technical and expressive assurance. The melancholy and infernal elements are delineated very sagely but without awkward tempo adjustments; there’s a real sense of spatial narrative throughout. His digital precision too, and astute pedalling (never over pedalling) are laudable too. He takes on the Petrarch Sonnets perceptively. The ‘swinging’ rhythm of No.47, and the perfectly realised tempos of Nos.104 and 123 attest to Shehori’s natural sounding affinity for the composer. Appropriately there is a vibrant and vital Faust Waltz to finish, replete with acres of legerdemain.
This finely argued disc whets the appetite for volume 3. My only small reservation is the rather chilly acoustic, but there’s certainly no arguing with this calibre of musicianship.
Jonathan Woolf
A finely argued disc … there’s no arguing with this calibre of musicianship.