Liszt: Opera transcriptions

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WORKS: Opera transcriptions
PERFORMER: Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)
Operatic transcriptions formed one of the staples of the Romantic pianist’s repertory. Many of these were simply vehicles to show off the player’s virtuosity, a popular melody, often from a bel canto opera, tortured into a salon show turn. By contrast, even at his most gaudy (and that gaudiness could be considerable), Liszt was rarely less than dazzlingly inventive in his treatments. His Concert Waltz based on themes from Donizetti, included on this collection from Jean-Yves Thibaudet, is a case in point, taking contrasting themes from Lucia di Lammermoor (‘Verranno a te’) and Parisina, and gradually melding them into an almost seamless and dramatically effective climax. In a similar vein are the Rigoletto Concert Paraphrase (based on the famous quartet from Act III) and the Fantasia on themes from The Marriage of Figaro (‘Non più andrai’ and ‘Voi che sapete’). Neither Thibaudet’s enthusiasm nor his technical prowess flags in these pieces, though the clarity and wit of Liszt’s musical argument are sometimes obscured. Thibaudet is more impressive in the Wagner transcriptions, which are less showy: the Tristan und Isolde Liebestod is a straightforward arrangement, but in many ways its fidelity to the original is the most striking example of Liszt’s pianistic genius on this enjoyable disc. William Humphreys-Jones