Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Franz Liszt, Leslie Howard|
Liszt: Les Préludes; Concert Etudes; Episodes from Lenau's "Faust"
Liszt the Conjurer
Hexameron | 07/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Volume 38 in the Hyperion Liszt series is an important and attractive recording, and the consistent five stars it has received from other reviewers confirms this. The Concert Etudes have been recorded well enough, but the most significant portion of this Volume is undoubtedly the solo piano version of "Les Preludes" and "Der nachtliche Zug" from Liszt's Two Episodes on Lenau's Faust, compositions that reach the level of masterworks.
The three Etudes de Concert have received some eloquent interpretations by other pianists, and "Un Sospiro" is surely one of Liszt's most famous lyrical works, one that deserves more popularity than the third Liebestraume. Howard's renditions of these excellent etudes are surprisingly good. His tempo and phrasing in "Il Lamento" is agreeable while "Un Sospiro" is given a passionate sweep of a performance. The two short cadenzas to "Un Sospiro" offer a rare look into Liszt's improvisatory fancies; these cadenzas were often added impromptu during his masterclasses. I've always loved the single etude, Ab Irato, which is Liszt's contribution to Fetis' and Moscheles' "Methode de Methodes de piano." Liszt's etude features violent outer sections that frame a tender arpeggiated central passage of stunning beauty. I don't particularly favor Howard's delivery, which is much too scherzo-ish and ends up muffling the whiff of emotion in the central passage.
The two Concert Etudes known as "Waldesrauschen" and "Gnomenreigen" seem to give Howard more trouble. The fact that pianists out there have spent years honing their interpretation down to each bar is enough to give Howard a break, though. Howard says nothing new with "Waldesrauschen," and doesn't create a shimmering effect I've heard so many others achieve. I like David Dubal's apt description of Gnomenreigen as "Mendelssohn turned diabolic" and although Howard is lacking in grace, he understands the nature of this piece quite well. He makes a most astute observation that "these gnomes are good spirits, as testified by Liszt's bringing them home in a key which he always reserves to describe the joy of the life to come."
The premiere recording of "Les Preludes" for solo piano is arguably the most magnificent specimen from this Volume. The work is in fact the only symphonic poem that has maintained itself in the repertoire, which is a pity, considering how great all his other symphonic poems are. In any case, Liszt's transcription of "Les Preludes" can be categorized among his most effective and orchestral-sounding arrangements. The transcriptions of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" and the Beethoven symphonies can be aligned with "Les Preludes" in sheer pianistic innovation and attention to detail. It goes without saying that this music is highly accessible, heroic, and surely Liszt's finest orchestral creation. I am excessively fond of Howard's tempo and his enthusiastic passion for the music.
The last work I must mention is the piano transcription of "Der nachtliche Zug" from Liszt's orchestral "Two Episodes from Lenau's Faust," which includes the First Mephisto Waltz, also recorded here. "Der nachtliche Zug" or "The Nocturnal Procession" is an extensive (14 minute) work of astonishing breadth and expressive content. Howard remarks that "this is a work of frightening solemnity, as Faust is confronted with the dark mysteries of life and death, and the outer sections are bleak and almost atonal." Indeed, these outer sections, especially the last one which suddenly bursts forth like a great bellow from Lucifer, are the most terrifying sounds from Liszt's musical divinations.
Bottom line: Once again, Howard delivers an exciting Liszt recital that features both famous pieces and undeniable rarities. The etudes may have finer champions (Bolet, Berman, Brendel, etc.), but Les Preludes and the rich transcriptions of the Episodes from Lenau's Faust deserve five stars by themselves."
An outstanding recording
John R. Blackburn Jr. | Santa Clara, CA USA | 02/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Although a longtime lover of classical music, I have only recently discovered Liszt and his remarkably melodic works and am now investing in this very large and impressive Hyperion set. Listening to Howard's sublime versions of Liszt's Preludes, one can see glimmers of the intricate, late Preludes and Etudes-Tableaux that Rachmaninov composed over fifty years later and better understand another aspect of their inspiration.
Be forewarned: these pieces are so beautifully crafted and performed that you'll find yourself unconsciously humming them to yourself and having to go back to the CD for yet another listen."
Simply put, another winner
John R. Blackburn Jr. | 09/17/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Where has Liszt been all my life? I wish I knew. Wonderful playing, again, by Leslie Howard."