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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Sonata in B minor, S178 [29.52]
Three Petrarch Sonnets, S161 [21.23]
Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)
Goyescas (1909-12): El amor y la muerte [12.52]
Domenico Codispoti (piano)
rec. Studio Odradek, December 2011
ODRADEK 855317 003035 [62.10]

Experience Classicsonline

The world is not exactly short of superb performances and excellent recordings of the Liszt Piano Sonata. It therefore seems odd that on a label whose policy is that all profits - after the costs of production and distribution - should go to the recording artists, Domenico Codispoti should have entered such a crowded field. Most of the other issues I have seen on this label have aimed at areas where there is either a gap in the market or not such strong competition from other more established artists.
Codispoti has an excellent technique, which is an absolute requisite in this music. That said, he charges at the music rather like a bull at a gate, and even at the grand climax (track 1, 3.27) he still pushes ahead rather than expanding in the more usual manner. Then afterwards he pulls the tempo back so far that the phrases fail to hold together. In his note on the record sleeve the pianist extols the virtues of “unpredictability” and “instinct”, which is perfectly in order in such romantic music; but the performer must also have a sense of the architecture of the long single movement, not simply a response to the moment but a feeling of where the music is going. In this performance Codispoti is ten seconds faster than Horowitz, himself no slouch in this music; he is some two minutes faster than Barenboim and Pletnev. Although Brendel in his award-winning Philips performance takes about the same time, his tempi throughout are less extreme in both directions. Of the major competition only Pollini is faster - by over a minute.
The three Petrarch Sonnets from the second book of the Années de pélérinage are nowadays becoming better known in their form as song settings, but the piano versions are worthwhile pieces in their own right. Codispoti is more laid-back in his approach, although again he is half a minute faster than Earl Wild in his live 1985 recording in the Sonnet No 47 - and Wild, again, was not given to slow speeds in Liszt. Barenboim, recorded live at La Scala, shaves yet another half a minute off Codipoti’s time. Variations in speed in the other two sonnets are remarkably small. Codispoti phrases the tunes with affection and certainly does not lack feeling. The climactic statement of the tune in Sonnet No 104 (track 8, 2.50) is very fine indeed, and he is nicely veiled in the Sonnet No 123.
Surprisingly the only currently available disc which similarly couples the Sonata with the three Petrarch Sonnets is a 2004 release from Alfredo Perl on the Oehms label. I have not been able either to hear this or to find a review of it, but in any event it would seem to offer rather short measure. The new release under consideration adds a rather unexpected bonus in the shape of one movement from Granados’s piano suite Goyescas - not to be confused with his later opera of the same name. Although Codispoti again plays with plenty of feeling, comparisons with Alicia de Larrocha inevitably show a degree of greater freedom in the Spanish pianist who made so many recordings of this repertoire.
In the end one is left somewhat puzzled and unclear as to the market for which this CD is intended. The recording quality is excellent, but with so much competition from other pianists in these works comparisons are bound to be to the disadvantage of any newcomer. On the other hand, Codispoti is clearly an excellent pianist, and one would look forward to encountering him in different repertoire where his superb qualities could be enjoyed without invidious comparisons.
Paul Corfield Godfrey 

Masterwork Index: Liszt Piano sonata

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