Joris Verdin plays both the harmonium and the organ in Nancy (France) and Bergen op Zoom (Netherlands) on this unique double CD of religious music by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). From sweet intimacy through intoxicating harmonies and charming melodies to sheer grandeur: Liszt has it all. With the help of top soloists and the fine voices of Psallentes, this is more than two hours of sheer pleasure, nineteenth-century style.
Hailed by some as the third primary figure among great Russian pianists of the twentieth century's second half, Lazar Berman has occasionally lived up to that reputation, but frequently has not. Emil Gilels, the first genius-level Soviet pianist to become well-known in the West, insisted that there was one artist, yet unheard in the West, who was the greater artist. Later, after Sviatoslav Richter's arrival in Europe and America, most felt Gilels had been correct. Still later, however, Gilels maintained that yet another pianist, Lazar Berman, was the finest of the three. After the initial stir created by Berman's 1976 American tour and other appearances in the West, critical opinion held that, while he was an extraordinary if uneven artist, he was not superior to the protean Richter or to the clear-minded Gilels. Still, his art was of an order by no means common.
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.
Happy birthday, Franz Liszt! The Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under its conductor Stefan Blunier and the pianist Claudius Tanski present orchestral works and piano music by this Austro-Hungarian great, including the overture to Goethe’s Torquato Tasso and the Totentanz of 1849, on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. A finely nuanced extra comes in the form of an orchestration of La lugubre gondola by John Adams.
…I already indicated the excellent qualities of the soloists especially Franziska Hirzel and Birgit Remmert who sing with that important ethereal intensity. Kofman conducts with the ideal tonic and lets the music move along quite magically. The SACD sound comes out trumps on my Sony SACD-11 player and I really have nothing but an unqualified recommendation for this beautiful set.