Schubert/Liszt/Ernst

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COMPOSERS: Schubert/Liszt/Ernst
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Variations on ‘Trockne Blumen’; Grand duo concertant; La lugubre gondola; Valse-Caprice No. 6; Erlkönig (transcr. for piano); Der Erlkönig
PERFORMER: Gidon Kremer (violin), Oleg Maisenberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 445 820-2 DDD
Comprising transcriptions, reworkings, or alternative versions of music by Schubert and Liszt for violin and piano – together and separately – this disc is a display of astonishing virtuosity. Two versions of Schubert’s ‘Erlkönig’ provide a frame – Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s 1854 version for solo violin and Liszt’s for solo piano of 1837/8. Both are transcriptions providing preposterous vehicles, perhaps, for technical display, but Gidon Kremer and Oleg Maisenberg rise to the challenge with relish. Ernst’s transcription, in the hands of Kremer, becomes a frantic tour de force where the agony of the original is piled on through ferocious double-, triple- and quadruple-stoppings, maintaining the continuous triplet accompaniment while changing the colour of sound to suggest the different characters in the song. Only an artist of exceptional imagination and technique could bring this off. Kremer does breathtakingly.

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Kremer and Maisenberg are well matched technically, but it’s Kremer’s quixotic imagination that consistently holds the attention. It’s hard to believe that any flautist (specified in the original version of Schubert’s Variations on ‘Trockne Blumen’) could find a vocabulary to match Kremer’s vision. In Liszt’s sombre and startlingly chromatic La lugubre gondola, Kremer, by concentrating on the lower strings, draws out sounds of extraordinary intensity.