LIszt: Années de Pèlerinage (complete)

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COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: SFZ Music
WORKS: Années de Pèlerinage (complete)
PERFORMER: Daniel Grimwood (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SFZM 0208 (

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Hearing these magnificent works performed on a period instrument amounts to a case of swings and roundabouts, but illuminatingly so. In the first two books, Liszt’s closely bunched bass-register chords need care on a modern piano to prevent them sounding too thick; here they balance themselves quite naturally.

The instrument’s mellow resonance is a revealing resource (for instance, conjuring wonderful echoing alphorns in Chapelle de Guillaume Tell). But the mid-treble register’s shortage of sustained singing tone is a surprise. And the later third book was surely written for something more powerful.

What this set is much more about is its exceptional performer. There isn’t a single dud among Daniel Grimwood’s interpretations. The best of them – Sposalizio, the Petrarch Sonnets, the two ‘Cypress Threnodies’ – match the finest I’ve heard anywhere. He has all the virtuoso velocity and firepower, and then some, that’s needed for the Dante Sonata.

One musical mood after another is caught to near-perfection (the roguishness of Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa is a delight); and the middle section of Les cloches de Genève beautifully brings out Liszt’s improvisatory streak. Sometimes, as in Angelus!, there’s a reluctance to play softly enough – but that may be to do with the instrument?

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For some annoying reason the recording’s left-hand channel disappears during the first half of Sposalizio. Elsewhere the sound is glitch-free, excellent, and does justice to Grimwood’s remarkable achievement. Malcolm Hayes