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Love & Death: Piano Transcriptions of Wagner and Verdi Operas
Abdiel VÁZQUEZ (b. 1984)
Rhapsody on Themes from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger [10:16]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegmund’s Love Song (arr. Tausig) [4:28]
The Ride of the Valkyries (arr. Tausig) [5:58]
Love Scene and Transfiguration from Tristan und Isolde (arr. Tausig) [18:21]
Giuseppe MARTUCCI (1856-1909)
Concert Fantasy over La Forza del Destino [8:54]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Concert Paraphrases over Rigoletto [6:47]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Sacred Dance and Final Duet from Aida (arr. Liszt) [10:29]
Gyorgy CZIFFRA (1921-1994)
Concert Paraphrase on Themes from Il Trovatore [9:20]
Abdiel Vázquez (piano)
rec. February 2014, Greenfield Hall, Manhattan School of Music, New York City, USA

Abdiel Vázquez, a young but very accomplished Mexican pianist, here makes his international recording debut. Vázquez has already pieced together an impressive résumé: he gave the Mexican premiere of Samuel Barber’s piano concerto and the world premiere of a concerto by Juan Pablo Contreras, and he founded a youth orchestra in the city of Monterrey. (For UK readers: by population, Monterrey is the size of Glasgow.) Now Vázquez is expanding into conducting as well.

Judging from this album, he’s an artist to watch. He has put together an eclectic program of opera transcriptions and fantasies, including a world premiere of Martucci’s fantasy on La Forza del Destino, and a work of his own, based on Die Meistersinger. The booklet says his piece is based on four previous transcriptions by the likes of Liszt and Wolf, which might explain its somewhat loose organization.

All of this music requires extraordinary technical prowess, not least Carl Tausig’s rendering of the “Ride of the Valkyries.” And technical skill is something Vázquez has in spades: his playing here is dazzling, and when it’s not dazzling, it’s because he makes the work sound almost too easy. As the saying goes, he hardly breaks a sweat.

The music is fun, too. Tausig’s arrangement of Isolde’s death from Tristan is an emotional and musical high point, and Martucci’s fantasy on La Forza is surprisingly fun and well-constructed. Why hasn’t it been recorded before? No, “Ride of the Valkyries” is just not the same on piano as it is with full orchestra and a squadron of attack helicopters, but I was impressed by Vázquez’s thunderous commitment.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable hour-plus “at the opera.” The CD is produced by the pianist himself. Recorded sound is very good, but I do wonder if it gives a complete picture of his dynamic range. Just about everything is mezzo-forte, and I suspect the microphone placement is to blame. It’s not a major concern. The recital is still plenty of fun.

Brian Reinhart


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