CATALOGUE NO: BIS-2085 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Liszt’s output involving solo violin was quite substantial; and while much of it consists of his arrangements of existing works, he resembled Stravinsky in that this process often amounted to the creation of something effectively new. La lugubre gondola, that tragic and wonderful pianistic vision of Liszt’s old age, is subtly transformed in his violin and piano arrangement – partly by the sombre loveliness of the added violin line, and partly by an extended ending which, vanishing into silence at the end of this programme, haunts the memory long afterwards.
The only sizeable original creation here is the early Grand Duo concertant, a swaggering virtuoso showpiece. Another jewel among the transcriptions is the song ‘Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth’, originally composed while Liszt was on holiday on an island in the Rhine; the long musical perspective of the ageing and lonely master-composer’s arrangement has a mesmerising poignancy. Ulf Wallin’s Hungarian-style, gypsy-vibrato delivery here is a miscue – the music itself is simply not about that aspect of Liszt’s style. Without exception, the other performances by this Swedish duo are superlative: Wallin offers a stream of full-throated, gloss-free tone, brilliant in the Grand Duo, and searchingly expressive elsewhere, with beautifully alert and supportive accompaniments from Pöntinen. The recorded sound offers an ideal blend of clarity and warmth. Malcolm Hayes