LABELS: Landor Records
WORKS: Années de pèlerinage – première année (Suisse); Consolations
PERFORMER: Libor Novacek (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: LAN 290
Libor Novacek already has a reputation as a fine and sensitive artist. He makes a lovely sound – rounded, mellow, powerful where needed, and never for a moment ugly.
This recording of the first book of Années de pèlerinage begins with a superb account of ‘Chapelle de Guillaume Tell’, the long, slow final crescendo is wonderfully sustained, followed by some ear-bewitching pedalling in ‘Au lac de Wallenstadt’. And Novacek has no problem commanding the great spans of ‘Vallée d’Obermann’, which unfolds with brooding grandeur.
Other moments pass him by, though. ‘Orage’ finds him seemingly so concerned to avoid sounding unmusical that, until the final page or two, he holds back too much on what needs to be a storm of Byronic fury.
He is reluctant to let ‘Eglogue’ sing with the natural freshness that it wants to; and the same over-deliberate approach mars No. 3 of the six Consolations, turning this into a portentously drawn out Adagio that doesn’t convince.
Leslie Howard’s recording of these pieces has an improvisatory naturalness that takes us much closer to them, and to their composer. But if you like your Liszt-playing on the thoughtful side, then Novacek’s Années de pèlerinage is worth consideration. Malcolm Hayes