WORKS: Seven Brilliant Variations on a theme by Rossini; Apparitions; Impromptu brillant on themes by Rossini and Spontini; Eight Variations, Op. 1
PERFORMER: Leslie Howard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA66771/2 DDD
Leslie Howard’s excellent Liszt series continues apace. The Canticle of the Sun contains transcriptions of Liszt’s own works, but, as Howard points out, the term ‘transcription’ is misleading: for Liszt, composition was a more organic process, with a fruitful dialogue between the possibilities of the orchestra and the piano. The symphonic poem From the Cradle to the Grave, for example, was originally drafted for the piano, yet Liszt clearly rethought the work through the process of orchestration, and incorporated the alterations into the solo version. Liszt – through the capable offices of Howard – manages to make the piano sing and shimmer, especially in the meditative opening Berceuse.
The disc also contains shorter Romances and Motets – Liszt in the salon and the church – and the title piece is a joyful devotional work, based partly on the carol In dulci jubilo.
The Young Liszt contains all the surviving piano music written by Liszt up to the age of 16. Here we see the young prodigy eager to impress with his bravura Rossini Variations and ambitious scheme of Etudes, but we also witness his nascent interest in Hungarian music. Any callowness is more than compensated for by an infectious exuberance on the part of both composer and performer. William Humphreys-Jones