Boris Berezovsky plays Liszt

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt
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)
CATALOGUE NO: MIR 099

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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