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CD Review

Franz Liszt

Années de pèlerinage

  • Années de pèlerinage – Première Année – Suisse S. 160
  • Gounod Paraphrases:
  • Valse de l'opéra Faust S. 407
  • Les Sabéennes – Berceuse de l'opéra La Reine de Saba S. 408
  • Les Adieux – Rêverie sur un motif de Roméo et Juliette S. 409
Stephen Hough, piano
Hyperion CDA67424 75m DDD
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After Leslie Howard's 15-year journey (also for Hyperion) of the complete survey of all the known surviving piano solo compositions by the Hungarian genius, one might surmise that all that could be said about Liszt's unique keyboard output has been said. This is not the fact. Liszt's piano works are so emotionally varied that trying to find a definitive interpretative language is well nigh impossible. So this Stephen Hough recital is most welcome. The fusion of art and nature was one of the central ideals of the 19th century Romantic movement and Liszt was very much caught up in it, particularly in his three books of 'Annees'.

Book I has nine pieces, each with a descriptive title that aims to capture the emotion of the scene in perspective. The 'Suisse' composition was mainly written in the 1830's when Liszt was in Switzerland in the company of his mistress Marie d'Agoult. It reached its final form in 1855 and contains such tone paintings as "Au bord d'une source" "Vallee' d'Obermann" and "Les cloches de Geneve'. This is music of great sophistication, delicacy and also grandeur, brilliantly brought to life by Hough's superlative pianism full of evocative shades and technical assuredness.

This CD is completed by Liszt's three transcriptions from Gounod operas. The 1861 'Faust' Waltz is a spectacular virtuoso piece full of that demonic power which was inherent in both the composer and the opera protagonist. The 'Roméo et Juliette' and 'La Reined u Saba', works from 1867 and 1865 respectively are in contrast, two very reflective and lyrical pieces, magically performed by the soloist, who is fast becoming one of Liszt's leading exponents. Recording and annotations are first rate.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech