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.)
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.
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