Craig Sheppard's recording of Books I and II of Années
was made, as so often for him, at the Meany
Theater in Seattle, over two days in October 2011. He played on his
own Hamburg Steinway.
This is certainly not the first time that Sheppard has recorded Liszt
but it looks as if it might be the most comprehensive look at the
composer on disc that he has yet undertaken. To suggest a generality,
his view of much of the first two books is quite linear and direct.
He eschews grandiloquence and also, to a degree, spacious unfolding.
Thus La Chapelle de Guillaume Tell
is strikingly fast, as if
Sheppard needs to establish, from the first that questions of monumentality,
strong rubati and over-use of the pedal have no place in his own Lisztian
scheme of things. It is striking, too, how reserved he is with the
pedal here. Le Lac de Wallenstadt
is suffused with refined
tone, the Pastorale
He is more reflective than the more determinedly inflected Horowitz
in Au bord d'une source
. He takes a decidedly dramatic and
forward moving tempo for Vallée d'Obermann
. It doesn't
share Lazar Berman's sculptural grandeur, but it does share something
of the vitality of Mordecai Shehori and Aldo Ciccolini. Dynamics aren't
as graphic Mal du Pays
as they are by Berman. In Book II he
builds to the climax of Sposalizio
very adeptly, ensuring plenty
of textual detail is audible but managing also to convey the music's
character. It's a quality that informs the Canzonetta del Salvador
, where humour is constantly pointed. The three Petrarch
provide interesting interpretations. No.47 slightly lacks
energy at the start, certainly in comparison with Jorge Bolet's old
Baldwin LP performance and Earl Wild's live traversal on Piano Classics.
In No.104, Sheppard conveys the initial agitation with considerable
power; his reading is more unsettled than those of Horowitz and Bolet,
but also (deliberately, I think) evinces less overt nobility. He takes
a taut and arresting, Wild-like tempo for 103. His Dante Sonata
performance is excellent throughout, technically, expressively, structurally.
Sometimes I've found the recording in this Roméo series just
that bit too close, so that it catches elements of the Steinway's
action, but here I don't find any such problem.
The two discs are offered at what is described as a 'special price'.
They can be warmly commended to Sheppard’s many admirers.
see also review by Christopher