Liszt: Études d’exécution trancendante

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Cascavelle
WORKS: Études d’exécution trancendante
PERFORMER: Nelson Goerner (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VEL 3029 (distr. One for You)
The applause at the end of this CD came as a surprise, because I hadn’t read the documentation details on the back of the case before listening. It is a live performance, recorded at a studio recital in Geneva in December 1999, yet there isn’t the slightest noise from the audience. The playing is not only clean, but also spontaneous. Hard though it is to get the notes right in these epoch-making pieces, their spirit, too, is elusive. They have, even today, a palpable sense of straining at the limits of what’s possible with ten fingers, yet they also have specific poetic character, hard to describe in words. Goerner achieves a natural sense of freedom, and he saves Liszt’s more grandiose passages from bombast. But he is well prepared for every hurdle, as his spirited, sweeping account of the ‘Preludio’ promises. Unlike Boris Berezovsky, whose studio recording has, unfortunately, vanished after only five years, Goerner doesn’t purr like a cat or roar like a lion; his contrasts are more temperate and the acoustic of his recording cooler, more spacious. But if Berezovsky’s, and Liszt’s, sexiness is lacking, Goerner doesn’t leave much else to be desired. ‘Feux follets’ is light, elegant and capricious, and I enjoyed the drama of the heavier pieces without feeling either bludgeoned or bored, or, for that matter, sensing undue strain. The dark, wintry chromatic flurries of ‘Chasse neige’, the final study, linger in the mind. At present, Goerner’s release is pretty well unbeatable. A pity there is so little in the way of programme notes: just Goerner’s statement of intent and brief biography. Adrian Jack

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