Liszt: From the Album of Princess Marie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein; Zigeuner-Epos; Célèbre mélodie hongroise

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: From the Album of Princess Marie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein; Zigeuner-Epos; Célèbre mélodie hongroise
PERFORMER: Leslie Howard (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67346
Leslie Howard, who has recorded 94 CDs of Liszt piano music for Hyperion, here adds a postlude to that Himalayan achievement. These ‘New Liszt Discoveries’ – some of them album-pieces no more than a page in length, some first versions of pieces later considerably reworked – have been uncovered by various means since completion of the series in 1999. (Howard’s booklet note, which recounts their genesis and return to light, is characteristically scholarly and painstaking.)

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To my mind, the most rewarding rediscovery is the lengthiest: the 11-piece Zigeuner-Epos (Gypsy Epic) that Liszt mapped out in the 1840s, at times in shorthand, to amplify his pianistic re-creation of Hungarian gypsy music. The breadth and bravura exhilaration of the more famous Rhapsodies may be lacking, yet the total amounts to a communicative snapshot of both the gypsy world evoked and the vast musical personality behind the evocations.

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Here and elsewhere, though, there are some desultory moments, which may well be directly related to Howard’s keyboard limitations: given the tirelessness of his sympathies for the composer and the strength and energy of his fingers, one feels a heel for regretting, not for the first time, the shortage of delicacy, charm and sheer dazzle in his readings. A disc for must-have-everything Lisztians. Max Loppert