A worthwhile trip into the past
Phillip J. Rodgers | West Central GA USA | 06/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sigismond Thalberg was Franz Liszt's only serious rival in the early 19th century. Many of the best musical minds of the time (i.e. Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann) actually seemed to have preferred Thalberg as a performer to Liszt. Thalberg was also one of the first major musical stars to tour the younf United States. This CD is of Thalberg's fantasies on operas of Vincenzo Bellini. Bellini was one of the great tunesmiths in music so you know that the raw melodic material will be superior. Thalberg's great failing as a musician seems to have been that he stopped growing. He brought one of the final elements of modern piano technique to the instrument and was then content to rest on his laurels. The fantasies on this album, played superbly by Francesco Nicolosi, date from when Thalberg was on the cutting edge. The "Norma" fantasy was actually in Liszt's repertoire until he wrote his own. It is interesting to note that Liszt follows Thalberg's choice of thematic material very closely, though Thalberg's treatment of the themes occasionally has a raucous, music hall type brio that you do not find in Liszt. If you were looking for one example of the sort of musical fireworks that were once the norm in concerts this CD is an excellent choice. The music is delightful, the performances dazzling and the price excellent. It falls short of the highest rating only because Thalberg was more of a very gifted arranger than a composer. Nevertheless this is worth your time."