Liszt: Années de pèlerinage (Année 2: Italie-Venezia e Napoli); Petrarch Sonnet No. 104; Après une lecture de Dante; Légendes; La campanella

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Edelweiss
WORKS: Années de pèlerinage (Année 2: Italie-Venezia e Napoli); Petrarch Sonnet No. 104; Après une lecture de Dante; Légendes; La campanella
PERFORMER: Daniel Levy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ED 1038 DDD
It was inevitable that the cosmopolitan Liszt should have had a special relationship with Italy, its culture and – since he had always wanted to be a priest – its church. This disc offers a selection from Liszt’s many pieces connected with Italian places (Venice and Naples in the first three), literature (the Petrarch Sonnet and Dante Sonata), music (La campanella is based on a concerto by Paganini) and legend. A nice idea, but I found it very uncomfortable to listen to.

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The piano is super-bright, and recorded in such a way that it sounds like tubular bells or a vibraphone. As for Levy’s playing, it’s hard to resist the image of a pianist putting his own technique under a microscope, with his nose an inch away from the keyboard. Surely La campanella shouldn’t be articulated as if we wanted to take it down as a dictation exercise? Virtuoso passages like the end of the Venezia e Napoli tarantella sound unduly circumspect. There’s an unsettling feeling that everything is being done by remote control, so that the music becomes an objective not yet in focus, while the mechanics of its production are paramount. If you want to find out if the Dante Sonata can express human passions, don’t listen to Levy, but seek out Decca’s wonderful young discovery, Eldar Nebolsin (reviewed in August 1994). Adrian Jack