Liszt: Album d’un voyager

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Album d’un voyager: Impressions et Poésies, S156/R8; Apparitions, S155/R11
PERFORMER: Ashley Wass (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570768

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Liszt composed the three books of his Album d’un voyageur in the 1830s, having eloped with Countess Marie d’Agoult from Paris to Switzerland.

When he later revised some of the music for his Années de pèlerinage: Suisse, he withdrew the earlier work, even buying back the printing plates from its publisher – something of an over-reaction, since Book I of the Album is a remarkable creation in itself.

In its first version, the scale of the conception of ‘Vallée d’Obermann’ is already immense. The earlier, longer ‘Les cloches de Genève’ includes some beautiful, berceuse-like material, later omitted; his ‘Lyon’ and ‘Psaume’, rejected altogether, are fine statements also.

Ashley Wass’s command of the young Liszt’s idiom engages both with its poetry and virtuosity: he underscores the contrasts of mood and tempo in ‘Lyon’, for instance, to articulate the broader design in a way that’s highly effective.

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Just sometimes, a Lisztian sense of improvisatory naturalness seems to be missing (an area where Leslie Howard, on Hyperion, so often excels). The radiant final bars of ‘Psaume’, for instance, remain earthbound here, and so does the second of the three Apparitions – whereas in the first, the lyricism carries beautifully. Malcolm Hayes