Liszt: Soirées de Vienne (Valses-caprices after Schubert)

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LABELS: Connoisseur Society
WORKS: Soirées de Vienne (Valses-caprices after Schubert)
PERFORMER: Gabriela Imreh (piano)
Combining the sensibilities of Liszt and Schubert is a challenge to any pianist, and a delight to many. Liszt’s high Romanticism and virtuoso flair oddly complement the intimacy and restraint of Schubert, drawing to the surface the latent Romanticism of this composer who hovered so characteristically on the cusp at the end of the Classical era. Without abandoning Schubert’s restraint altogether, Liszt adds much in the way of pianistic texture and range of expression to these very Viennese waltzes. Gabriela Imreh is an elegant pianist with a lovely sense of pacing and a good feel for rubato (try the central section of No. 6). She also catches the balance between the Lisztian moments and the Schubertian extremely well; the more introverted passages are finely and thoughtfully shaded, but extrovert virtuosity is equally relished. Overall, the disc is slightly marred by the sound of the piano itself, however. The ratio between initial attack and subsequent sustained singing tone in the treble is not pleasing – too much of the first, too little of the second – and I don’t think that this is Imreh’s fault as she does not otherwise come across as heavy-handed. Perhaps a more resonant acoustic would have helped; or perhaps the instrument is to blame, which seems possible since the bass tone is rather richer than the treble. Jessica Duchen