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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Études d'exécution transcendante, S. 139 (1851)
No. 1 in C Major, "Preludio" [0:57]
No. 2 in A Minor, "Fusees" [2:23]
No. 3 in F Major, "Paysage" [4:58]
No. 4 in D Minor, "Mazeppa" [7:42]
No. 5 in B-Flat Major, "Feux follets" [3:40]
No. 6 in G Minor, "Vision" [5:29]
No. 7 in E-Flat Major, "Eroica" [4:49]
No. 8 in C Minor, "Wilde Jagd" [5:41]
No. 9 in A-Flat Major, "Ricordanza" [11:14]
No. 10 in F Minor, "Appassionata" [4:57]
No. 11 in D-Flat Major, "Harmonies du soir" [9:26]
No. 12 in B Minor, "Chasse-neige" [5:5]
Dinara Klinton (piano)
rec. 2-4 June 2015, Mendelssohn-Saal, Gewandhaus, Leipzig, Germany

Dinara Klinton is a 26-year-old pianist from the Ukraine, who recently completed a year (2014-15) at the Royal College of Music as the very first RCM Benjamin Britten Piano Fellow, supported by the Philip Loubser Foundation. In the booklet she lists many acknowledgements to those and other supporters of her apprenticeship. Yet this recording is far more than ’prentice work, or a calling card to launch a new career. It is a valuable addition to the catalogue of modern recordings of Liszt’s great work.

We almost take it for granted nowadays that young artists performing this set of truly transcendental studies are technically well up to what are still formidable demands, even in this final version with many of the most extreme demands excised. And so it is here. Klinton’s overall timing is middling, a bit slower than Berman or Berezovsky, a bit swifter than Arrau or Bolet, and virtually the same as Leslie Howard. Klinton concedes little in technique to any of those great Lisztians. Her swift passages are quite dazzling enough, but are never of the superficial or self-regarding manner that once made the composer shout at one of his pupils “Do you think I care how fast you can play octaves?” Right from the opening phrases of the Preludio, a master of the keyboard announces herself, making it rather more than a warm-up exercise. In the untitled second piece the alternating hands passages and wide leaps are thrown off with aplomb. The crazy Presto furioso of the Wilde Jagd (wild hunt) requires the soloist take even more risks, but again all such tests are taken, passed, and turned from exercises into real music, and dramatic music at that.

But it is in the poetic Liszt – easily overlooked among the firestorm of virtuoso keyboard exploits in the set - that Klinton is particularly impressive. Busoni famously described the last four pieces as resembling “a packet of yellowing love-letters”, a description which especially suits the melodic sentiment of Ricordanza, beguilingly played here. In the greatest single number of the twelve, Harmonies du soir, she summons up all the grandeur implied in the wide keyboard range Liszt deploys, in a potent evocation of God in nature. Perhaps one piece or another in the set will be found even more fully realized by one of those masters mentioned earlier, or by a Richter or Horowitz among those who recorded only individual studies – one thinks especially of Richter in Feux-follets and Harmonies du soir - but relatively few accounts of the complete Transcendental Studies are as consistently satisfying as this.

The recording is excellent, the full range of a grandly sonorous Steinway D convincingly caught in an acoustic that does justice to the atmosphere of the music without being too reverberant. The booklet has rather brief notes on the music by the pianist herself, as well as a revealing interview with her – in which she actually says rather more about some of the music. She also tells us that she had played the whole work a number of times in concert before undertaking the recording, which “provided me with the necessary security”. It certainly sounds as if that concert experience gave not only security, but a great deal besides.

Roy Westbrook



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