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CD Review

Franz Liszt

Complete Music for Solo Piano, Volume 16

  • Capriccio all turca (on themes from Beethoven's The Ruins of Athens), S. 388
  • Song Transcriptions:
  • Six Lieder on Goethe Texts, S. 468
  • Adelaide, S. 466
  • Six Spiritual Lieder, S. 467
  • An die ferne Geliebte, S. 469
Yung Wook Yoo, piano
Naxos 8.554839 61:31
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Before getting to the performances at hand, I'd like to clear up a matter regarding different versions of the music here. Keith Anderson's notes identify this account of Adelaide as dating from 1839. Well, yes and #The original version was written in that year, but subsequent ones followed in 1841 and 1847, and this one is the final version, the 1847. Liszt, of course, transcribed many works by Beethoven, including all the symphonies – some also with more than one version – and other non-vocal works, like the leadoff piece, the Capriccio alla turca, which is really a paraphrase or fantasy based on the Turkish March and on the Chorus of Dervishes from The Ruins of Athens. It's a perky piece to be sure, but the song transcriptions are, on the whole, better music.

There are many people who do not find the transcription genre attractive in any way. That's understandable, but to those who do, Liszt will generally have appeal, mainly because he always adds something of interest or conveys a new dimension to the work, even in his most literal adaptations. He was especially good with Beethoven's songs, though much of his personal attraction to them, at least in the case of the Six Goethe Songs, had to do with the text by the great German poet. But Liszt's inspiration remains high in the other sets and in Adelaide, as well.

The young pianist, Korean-born, Juilliard-trained Yung Wook Yoo (b. 1977) plays with feeling and intelligence throughout, capturing both the Beethovenian and Lisztian elements in each song transcription and Capriccio in the right proportions. He has plenty of technique, as well as the interpretive smarts to make this music sound fully convincing. Adelaide is a most impressive rendering, full of fire and passion, color and grace. His account of the Capriccio all turca is also impressive, even if it is a virtuoso tour-de-force drenched in glitter and grandstanding.

Naxos provides good notes and excellent sound. The Leslie Howard cycle on Hyperion is certainly a strong rival in this repertory, but Naxos at least beats them in price. I haven't heard Howard's rendition of these, but from other entries in his somewhat inconsistent series, I would say Yoo tackles the music with the same kind of flair and insight, and yields little to his more renowned rival.

Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings