WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor; Two Legends S175; Scherzo and March S177
PERFORMER: Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66616 DDD
When he had given the first public performance of Liszt’s B minor Sonata, Hans von Bülow claimed that the work had completely ‘dumbfounded’ the ‘cretinous scoundrels’ of the audience. Cretinous scoundrels or not, their reaction seems entirely appropriate to this most remarkable piece of high Romanticism, in which Liszt married his formidable technique with an audacious and searching treatment of sonata forms. Here, happily, Nikolai Demidenko exhibits all the intelligence and conviction he showed in his recent acclaimed account of Medtner’s piano concertos.
This is a more passionate and emotional reading than some, but never crudely or indulgently so. Demidenko manages to keep sight of the work’s organic structure without underplaying its potential volatility. For all its visionary lyricism, we are made to feel that this is still a dangerous work. The disc also contains the Scherzo and March, which compared to the Sonata has a bombastic air, although here played with great panache. In the Two Legends Demidenko renders the birdsong of St Francis of Assisi as delicately as if it had been by Ravel. William Humphreys-Jones