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CD Review

Franz Liszt

  • Piano Concerto #1 in E Flat Major
  • Héroïde funèbre
  • Mephisto Waltz #1
Lazar Berman, piano
OrchestraSinfonica RAI di Torino/Peter Maag
Arts Archives 43041-2 1976/78 56m ADD
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I am no Lisztian, but have been a devotee of the late Peter Maag, ever since I heard him conduct Figaro at Glyndebourne in 1959. This latest release on Arts Archive caught my attention for its inclusion, after the Mephisto Waltz, of the gigantic and rarely played symphonic poem Héroïde funèbre. It is an unreservedly solemn funeral march, 25 minutes long, rhythmically static and built from relatively simple basic material, subjected to striking orchestral treatment, bringing to mind Mahler and Berlioz, and is worth listening to occasionally. Today was a peculiar apt occasion to hear it, in the week after Lazar Berman had died.

Berman gives a rip-roaring account of this more popular of Liszt's two piano concertos in 1976; a work which can only be appreciated live as here before a Turin audience. The re-mastering of these stereo originals from the '70s gives us natural sound, mostly well balanced, with a curious exception - the backwardness of the triangle in the third movement of the concerto. Hanslick dismissively dubbed it the "Triangle Concerto" in Vienna, after which it was not played in that city for another fifteen years. I have often found that triangle an irritant and tend to avoid this concerto, but here it gives a dekicate and piquant touch to the orchestral sonority, instead of asserting itself as an obbligato second soloist. That actually makes you listen to it more carefully!

To celebrate Lazar Berman's artistry ArtsMusic dedicates this recording to his memory as their CD of the month: 'he was and he will always remain a great pianist', and I am happy to add my recommendation.

Copyright © 2005, Peter Grahame Woolf