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CD Review

The Essential Liszt

Piano Works From The Complete Cycle

Leslie Howard, piano
Hyperion Liszt1 159m DDD
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This two-disc set brings together some of the best and mostly memorable parts of the monumental Leslie Howard piano cycle. There are six different sections, which can be said to correspond to various phases in the composer's life. 'The Poet' section includes the famous Die Lorelei and the beautiful 5th Consolation, both wonderfully played. My favourite section is definitely 'The Patriot' where the evergreen Hungarian Rhapsody #2 makes its appearance alongside a host of other memorable Hungarian pieces. 'Liszt the Magician' has some of those famous operatic paraphrases including the awesome 'Rigoletto' excerpt. As we move on to the second CD we encounter the 'Abbe' phase with some of those religious works that are so inspiring especially the daunting, 'St. Francis de Paule walking on water'. The romantic Liszt is represented, amongst others by the famous 'Liebesträume #3' and the famous 'O Lieb' piece, one of the highlights of Howard's cycle. The final section is entitled 'Liszt the Prophet', some unplayable works here culminating in the legendary 'Totentanz', with the Budapest Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karl Anton Rickenbacker. The album offers a tantalizingly well chosen series of pieces and is an ideal introduction to one of the greatest projects ever undertaken in the history of music.

Copyright © 2001, Gerald Fenech