Liszt: Mazurka brillante; Polonaise mélancolique in C minor; Polonaise No. 2 in E; Ballade No. 1 in D flat; Berceuse (first version); Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Liebestraum No. 3; Hohe Liebe etc
Guillaume Vincent (piano)
Naïve V 5450 73:00 mins
Now, why would anyone call a recording Black Liszt, when Liszt was, obviously, not black, and nothing about the chosen repertoire – attractive salon dances, mainly – is particularly ‘black’ either? The interview with Vincent in the liner notes fails to illuminate this.
This gaffe aside, the recital offers some rarely-heard works. The opening Mazurka brillante is delivered attractively but the piece is a touch ho-hum compared with Chopin’s mazurkas. The two Polonaises mélancolique (which sandwich the three central Liebesträume) are more substantial and worthwhile. Vincent renders them imaginatively, although Liszt’s expansive approach to form makes me long for a live performance which would enable its visual theatricality to be fully appreciated. Some of the passagework is too metronomically strict, although Vincent’s touch is suitably sparkling.
No one could call the Liebesträume unknown, but Vincent offers an enjoyable reading, especially when he frees the music from the tyranny of the bar line and allows its improvisatory qualities to take over. The famous third ‘Liebestraum’ is played with both tenderness and urgency. In the two Ballades, Vincent successfully evokes a grand, magical world of storytelling. The Berceuse cannot compare with Chopin’s much-loved essay in the genre, but it is sweetly soothing.
The recording quality is a little cold, with some odd unevenness in the volume. And why include a blacked-up arm on the CD cover? ‘Naïve’ the label may be, but this crass design decision is entirely alien to the world of the astute, cosmopolitan Liszt.