MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing from

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Fantasy on Hungarian Folk-tunes, S123 [14:06]
Piano Concerto No 1 in E-flat major, S124 [17:52]
Piano Concerto No 2 in A major, S125 [20:50]
Totentanz, S126 for piano & orchestra [15:22]
Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano), Montreal Symphony Orchestra/Charles Dutoit
Rec. 1990, L'Eglise de St. Eustache, Montreal, Canada
Presto CD
DECCA 433 075-2 [68:32]

The Hungarian Fantasy is a piano and orchestra version of the composer’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 14, extended by about two minutes. The “folk-tunes” of the full title are ones that Liszt heard from Gypsy bands (some were composed popular music rather than the real thing of the sort that Bartok and Kodaly later collected in the field). The controversy over those origins matters little now, and the Rhapsodies were the most popular of his music in his lifetime, and the most derided by snobbish critics since.

The opening, using a folk theme called “Mohac’s Field”, is an Allegro eroico and marked ff which the orchestra plays stirringly. Once the soloist joins in, which is quite early in each of these four one-movement concertante works, we have a true partnership, not a piano solo with occasional orchestral summary as in stretches of the Chopin concertos. In the middle section Allegretto alla Zingarese (“in Gypsy style”) at 6:55 Thibaudet and Dutoit become plausible Gypsy fiddlers, deploying rubato and phrasing wittily like the travelling Gypsy bands Liszt heard. There is delicacy too, such as that at 10:00, before the coda returns us to “Mohac’s Field”.

The First Piano Concerto’s opening orchestral gesture is a striking call-to-arms from the Montreal players, and Thibaudet takes up the gauntlet in the same fashion, with powerful octaves. His playing is always in scale with the musical content, never too extrovert. The chamber musical approach to texture for the second subject is very intimate, with an accomplished clarinet solo from the Montreal player. The second “movement” marked Quasi adagio – the music plays continuously but the separate sections (or movements) have separate tracks – becomes an operatic aria, with some fine wind playing (especially from the flute) over birdlike piano trills. In the third section the notorious part for the triangle – for which the composer was ridiculed at the time – is discreetly balanced. This matters, as Liszt wrote of the triangle part “I do not deny it may offend, especially if struck too strongly and not precisely.” At the other end of the sonic scale there are some imposing brass utterances before the close.

In the Concerto No 2, a more poetic if slightly less spectacular piece, the same qualities prevail. Thibaudet is alert in the many interchanges with the orchestra, whether of the dreamy or the driven variety. The horn entry (track 6, 2:15) is actually marked “dreaming” and has the most filigree piano accompaniment, as does the cello solo in the slow section (track 7, 0:57). The ensuing scherzo section has very fierce exchanges between the brass and the piano’s defiant octave ripostes (track 8 1:33), while at 2:53 the work’s main theme blazes out, the apotheosis of its various guises and of Liszt’s process of thematic transformation. The performance of Totentanz brings all the same virtues to the most taut and remarkable of each of these four pieces, Thibaudet’s virtuoso flair completely at the service of the music.

There are famous versions of the two concertos and Totentanz from Brendel on Philips and from Zimmerman on DG, but neither adds the Hungarian Fantasy, which is a loss. For a good modern version of exactly this programme and in SACD format, there is Nareh Arghamanyan and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alain Altinoglu on Pentatone (2012). There is also the mighty Georges Cziffra and the Orchestre de Paris, conducted by György Cziffra Jr on Warner in an inexpensive download.

But this Thibaudet recording from 1990 still sounds very well indeed, with the presence and attractive ambience associated with Decca’s work in Montreal and a realistic concert hall balance, with the piano set in perspective, not made larger than life. There is a useful booklet note by Bryce Morrison.

The same recording might still be found in its Decca Eloquence reissue at a lower price. But at least the appearance of this Presto disc gives us another opportunity to celebrate one of the great pianists. For Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who turned sixty in 2021, has long been a very fine Liszt player, and it is good to be reminded of what he brought to the composer’s concertos thirty years ago.

Roy Westbrook

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount