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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Between Light and Darkness
Après une lecture du Dante, S. 161 [17:47]
La notte, S. 112/2 [12:39]
Schlaflos! S. 203 [2:18]
La lugubre gondola No. 2, S. 200 [8:31]
Nuages gris, S. 199 [3:25]
Ballade No. 2 in B Minor, S. 171 [15:33]
R. W. – Venezia, S. 201 [4:08]
Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173: VII. Funérailles [12:53]
Unstern! – Sinistr, S. 208 [5:50]
En rêve, S. 207 [2:27]
Vincent Larderet (piano)
rec. 2019, Westvest Church, Schiedam, The Netherlands
PIANO CLASSICS PCL10201 [45:03 + 41:12]

Impressionism and late Romanticism have been the focus of Vincent Larderet’s previous albums, which have been enthusiastically reviewed in these pages, several by myself (review ~ review ~ review ~ review ~ review). He considers the intoxicating world of late Liszt constitutes a logical progression from his past studio work. He titles this latest release ‘Between Light and Darkness’. The legendary and charismatic composer, instigator of the solo recital, was a tireless innovator, whose experiments in harmony and sonority paved the way for late Romanticism and Modernism. In effect, he became the initiator of the music of the future. Larderet explores the extreme emotions found in Liszt’s music in a programme melding virtuosic blockbusters with the austere late pieces, which reveal the inner spiritual and musical world of the composer’s final years.

CD 1 opens with Après une lecture du Dante from the second volume of Années de pèlerinage. A marathon of a piece, it’s guaranteed to test the mettle of any pianist. Based on Dante’s ‘Divine Poem’, we hear the screams of the damned burning in hell at the beginning, and the unattainable Paradiso at the end. Larderet surfs the drama with passion and intensity, investing the piece with subtle poetic insights in the more lyrical sections.

Another substantial canvas ushers in CD 2. The Ballade No. 2 is inspired by Gottfried Bürger’s ballad Lenore. It was written in 1853 shortly after the completion of the B minor Sonata and explores a variety of evocative moods. Larderet’s pianistic range is fully up to the challenges of the piece, from the tempestuous cascades which are bold and audacious to the more serene moments which are eloquently sculpted. The other big-boned piece is the religiously inspired Funérailles from Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses. The funereal tread at the beginning conveys grief and desolation, whilst the central section is wistful and reflective. Larderet unleashes some powerful passion and drama in the closing pages.

Abbé Liszt ended his days in solitude and reflection, and his late piano works are both profound and visionary, forging new paths which would be taken up by Bartók and Busoni, and later moving towards atonal serial music which would come with Schoenberg. The pieces contrast strikingly with the virtuosic works that accompany them. Sadly, they’re a rare outing for many pianists, though Alfred Brendel has championed them. My particular favorite is La lugubre gondola II which depicts a funeral procession of gondolas transporting the dead. Brutal harmonies and tritons characterize Unstern! Likewise, Nuages Gris, admired by Debussy, is dissonantly crafted. In each of the works, Larderet achieves some wonderful sonorities and effects.

This is a programme that has been carefully and intelligently constructed and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed its contrasting elements. It’s been beautifully recorded and offers the listener much to enjoy.

Stephen Greenbank

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