WORKS: Réminiscences des Huguenots; Unstern; Totentanz; Danse macabre; Nuages gris; La lugubre gondola I & II; Impromptu
PERFORMER: Arnaldo Cohen (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553852
Any recording company planning to issue the complete piano music of Liszt inevitably faces comparison with Hyperion, whose mammoth undertaking, bravely tackled by Leslie Howard, is justly celebrated. However, from the pianist’s point of view, to record forty-odd CDs of music by the same composer is decidedly reckless, and Howard’s more recent releases have not altogether maintained the promise of the earlier ones. Here and there a certain staleness has crept in.
Naxos, embarking on their own long-term project, are (wisely) distributing the task among a number of different pianists, and they could scarcely have started more auspiciously than with this first volume played by the Brazilian-born Arnaldo Cohen. The sheer variety of these lesser-known pieces is intriguing – Nuages gris (bleak, Impressionistic, beloved of Debussy and Stravinsky), Unstern (tense, nightmarish), the Réminiscences on themes from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (a test of practically every aspect of keyboard virtuosity and interpretative judgement), Totentanz (the less familiar solo version, lacking the orchestral accompaniment).
Cohen is that rare phenomenon, a towering virtuoso with the gift of nuance. I’m not particularly generous in my use of the ‘outstanding’ symbol, but this release positively demands it. And it’s at bargain price too. Wadham Sutton