Liszt: Légendes; Consolations; Fantasia and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H; Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Valse oubliée No. 1; Impromptu in F sharp

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Légendes; Consolations; Fantasia and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H; Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Valse oubliée No. 1; Impromptu in F sharp
PERFORMER: Lilya Zilberstein (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 447 755-2 DDD
This recital reminds us that, for all his creative variety and even waywardness, Liszt very much belonged to and drew inspiration from the Romantic mainstream. In particular, we see here how great his debt was to Chopin. The six Consolations share with Chopin’s nocturnes lyrical, legato lines in the right hand often set against gently flowing left-hand accompaniments.

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The Russian pianist Lilya Zilberstein (the winner of the 1987 Busoni Piano Competition) is at her most expressive here: she sustains a compellingly beautiful cantabile while avoiding any salon mawkishness. Chopin’s influence can also be detected behind the B minor Ballade, which Liszt wrote soon after his great Sonata in the same key. This is an unsettling piece and Zilberstein convincingly conveys its distortions of Classical sonata form and swift changes of mood.

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Liszt displays another aspect of his archetypal Romanticism in the detailed literary programmes of the two Légendes of 1863, which he wrote after rereading the lives of the saints. Zilberstein vividly evokes the delicately chattering birdsong surrounding St Francis of Assisi and the crashing waves on which St Francis of Paola walks. Her relatively brisk tempi give a sense of effortlessness, sometimes at the expense of the numinous stillness that lies behind all the motion. William Humphreys-Jones