Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Petrarch Sonnets 47, 104 & 123; Two Legends, G173

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LABELS: Collins Classics
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor; Petrarch Sonnets 47, 104 & 123; Two Legends, G173
PERFORMER: Artur Pizarro (piano)
It is Liszt the visionary thinker who emerges triumphant here in Pizarro’s powerful and profoundly cohesive playing of the Sonata. In return for the music’s demands on his technique – which he fulfils without needing to show off or distort – he proves that the more demands you place on the music, the more it reveals. From its gigantic, severe announcement of the two germinal themes, it runs here like a half-hour slow movement that moves on in tempo out of musical necessity, and finally heads for just the one, overwhelming build-up of excitement. Even then the true climax is in the gradual release of the culminating chord, the long silence afterwards, and the breadth of the final phrases.


The crude fact that Alexeyev is nearly four minutes faster parallels the contrast with his more immediate and straightforward view – an animated sonata with calm episodes. Recorded 15 years ago, his performance is musically satisfying but seems to miss a dimension. Pizarro can step outside the music to see it with a steady gaze into the distance.


Alexeyev’s other pieces come from a live concert, and include a thrilling, swirling Variations, the best thing on the disc, as well as three of the late pieces, which are passionate and poetic, not at all a prophet’s austere last words. Robert Maycock