Liszt: Selected Piano Works, Vol. 1: Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude; Sposalizio; Unstern!; En rêve; Schaflos! Frage und Antwort

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Selected Piano Works, Vol. 1: Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude; Sposalizio; Unstern!; En rêve; Schaflos! Frage und Antwort
PERFORMER: Alfredo Perl (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 67525 2
This first in a three-disc series of Liszt piano music from Alfredo Perl juxtaposes the familiar and the relatively little known, in a thoughtfully planned programme. The longest piece here is the Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude – a paean to religious ecstasy, and perhaps the greatest example of sustained serenity in Liszt’s music. Much more unsettled are the very late pieces included here. Schlaflos! (‘Sleepless’), with its ironic subtitle of ‘Nocturne’, is an impassioned rhapsody which finally dissolves in unresolved silence; and Unstern: sinistre, disastro is one of those pieces in which Liszt seems to be peering far into the future, with the ‘unlucky star’ of its title conjured up with the aid of an astonishing agglomeration of dissonances.

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Perl plays all these pieces with admirable insight, and he is particularly impressive in the Bénédiction de Dieu, and in ‘Sposalizio’ from the second of the Années de pèlerinage. There are times elsewhere, though, where one feels that Perl errs a little on the side of caution – in the first Mephisto Waltz, for instance, or the B minor Ballade, both of which lack that final ounce of intensity and excitement. The piano sound on these Radio Bremen recordings is rather harsh. Misha Donat