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.
In commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt's birth, Deutsche Grammophon has assembled a limited-edition, 34-CD collection, housed in a sturdy cubic package that many collectors will covet for its impressive appearance. But this comprehensive set is really aimed at serious Liszt aficionados who appreciate the diverse ways of playing this arch-Romantic's passionate music.
The piano is squarely at the center of these 5 CDs of masterworks by the famed 19th-century Hungarian composer, whose breathtaking keyboard skills became the stuff of legend across Europe and around the world. Claudio Arrau and Sir Colin Davis are among the celebrated performers here as you hear Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat; Piano Concerto No. 2 in A; 3 Etudes De Concert; Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 1-6; A Faust Symphony; Symphonic Poem No. 5 "Prometheus"; Piano Sonata in B Minor; Liebestraum No. 3 in A Flat; Berceuse; Gnomenreigen; Valse Oubliée No. 1 in F Sharp , and more!
Perhaps this album will be more of a remembrance of the conclusion of this mammoth liszt piano music series than a colourful alternative for the Rhapsodies per se. I am happy to state that it fulfills both credentials admirably, indeed the sense of elation and triumph is palpably present throughout the whole interpretations. As usual, the detailed notes make for some fascinating reading and Hyperion have also graciously included a beautifully presented catalogue to the whole series as an addendum. Howard's speeds in the First are occasionally too ponderous but the warmth and eloquence of the music are indeed well served.
“One must defend the Hungarian Rhapsodies on two fronts: First against musicians of the ‘serious’ brand who look down on them as showpieces, and secondly, against the piano maniacs who abuse them as showpieces.” By these words, great pianist Alfred Brendel characterizes the Hungarian Rhapsodies S 244 by Franz Liszt, which have now been recorded for Gramola by the young Bulgarian pianist Martin Ivanov. The thin line between overwhelming virtuosity on one hand and poetic finesse on the other seems to be tailor-made for Ivanov, who already showed great success with his recordings of Chopin, Schumann and lately with his recording of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor.