Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Vallée d’Obermann; Nuages gris; Isoldes Liebestod; Präludium: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: EMI Debut
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor; Vallée d’Obermann; Nuages gris; Isoldes Liebestod; Präludium: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
PERFORMER: Mathieu Papadiamandis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDZ 5 74233 2
This is one powerfully impressive pianist, and a powerfully serious one, too. Liszt, on this scale, would hardly be Liszt without some dazzling bravura, and the Sonata doesn’t disappoint. But nowhere here is there bravura for its own sake. In this work above all, Liszt’s integrity as a composer is absolute. So is Papadiamandis’s as a performer. Everything he does is directly in the service of the music, though his technique easily transcends the most fearsome challenges. What he gives us is what Liszt gives us: not an exercise in razzmatazz but a symphony for piano. Nothing in Papadiamandis’s performance is more impressive than his powers of integration. Despite its many cellular motifs, there are no true fragments here, and nothing episodic in the playing. Its organic development, its breadth of vision and its pianistic discipline set this apart from many, maybe even most interpretations by pianists of Papadiamandis’s relative youth. He also has the gift of building up enormous waves of sound without a hint of banging. Nor is he any less impressive in the shorter pieces. Indeed, his playing of Isoldes Liebestod ranks with the best I’ve heard. The layering of sound, the cumulative risings and fallings of the big ‘tune’, if one can call it that, the artful pacing and the epic reach, are exemplary at the very least. This is a musician in the Brendel mode, who succeeds in sounding uniquely his own man without the slightest recourse to idiosyncrasy. In sheer intensity, Brendel may just have the edge, his Lisztian psychology is perhaps more complex, but this is nevertheless one of the most impressive debut discs to come my way in a long time. Jeremy Siepmann

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