Boris Berezovsky plays Liszt

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LABELS: Mirare
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor; Venezia e Napoli; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Harmonies du soir; Chopin: Waltz in A flat, Op. 42
PERFORMER: Boris Berezovsky (piano)

The demands of Liszt’s music are so extreme and mercurial that, even when graced with Boris Berezovsky’s phenomenal skills, mixed results are no more than par for the course. The B minor Sonata’s musical riches present a near-impossible conundrum to a performer. Give those riches the space they seem to require, and the one-movement form risks sprawling.
Take a more tight-reined approach, as Berezovsky reasonably does, and other problems arise: the opening Allegro energico section is taken at a pace so fast that it never has time to set up the whole structure. Berezovsky is far from a compulsive speed-merchant: in the outer sections of Mephisto Waltz No. 1 he finds a remarkable balance between driving velocity and allowing the notes to speak. But the languorous central section and its extension just don’t sound languorous enough.
Venezia e Napoli’s three pieces are here a happy experience, with Berezovsky’s wonderful dexterity allowing the music to flow with the improvisatory suppleness that it needs: it’s hard to imagine ‘Gondoliera’ more appealingly done. Harmonies du soir, too, builds to a grand and memorable climax among all the evocative, pre-Debussy sonorities around it. Neither live recording excels: that of the Sonata in the Royal Festival Hall sounds a touch brittle, while the acoustic at Grange de Meslay Festival in France is rather too cramped for comfort. And the short (edited?) bursts of applause after each work irritate in a CD context. Malcolm Hayes