Franz Liszt composed little chamber music, though the handful of pieces he wrote or arranged for violin and piano represent his enduring interest in that combination, from the Grand Duo concertant (1835/49) to La lugubre gondola (1882-83). This program by violinist Ulf Wallin and pianist Roland Pöntinen offers those pieces and five more selections that demonstrate Liszt's fondness for passionate, long-breathed melodies in the Magyar vein and turbulent accompaniments that allowed for virtuosity. The standout track of this hybrid SACD is the arrangement of the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 (ca. 1850), which gives a full treatment to those characteristics, and provides Wallin and Pöntinen their most dazzling displays. While the moods of the surrounding pieces are for the most part lyrical and subdued, the performances are compelling and the sound of the recording is close-up and focused, with the presence and clarity of a recital.
Not all of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies are flat-out showpieces like the best-known ones, so this disc makes for a better listening program than you might expect. And Jénö Jandó, who must be the hardest-working pianist in the recording business, has a real flair for this music. He plays with the combination of free rhythms and virtuosity that the music demands, and he even indulges in a bit of improvisation when the spirit moves him. This was probably something Liszt did himself, and other great Liszt interpreters such as Rachmaninov and Cziffra have done the same thing. Jandó doesn't quite have Cziffra's overwhelming virtuosity, but he plays musically and the result is a highly entertaining disc.
This well recorded disc from 1987 delivers truly exciting performances of all three works in typically crisp manner by Zimerman. Ozawa and the Boston orchestra give excellent support. The emphasis here is on excitement largely created by fast speeds delivered with clarity. The more gentler parts of all three works are played with due regard to sensitivity but there is no denying that in these recordings these works are seen as primarily as virtuoso display works and that is what we are given.
Here is another recording of Liszt s Sonata displaying absolute mastery, complete insight. With Bolet one is aware of Liszt the transcendental virtuoso who discovered whole new areas of expression within the piano. -Gramophone.
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony. Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.