Liszt: Après une lecture du Dante

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Après une lecture du Dante: Fantasia quasi sonata; Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Mazeppa; Nuages gris; Funérailles etc
PERFORMER: Lise de la Salle (piano)

This year’s Liszt anniversary is adding appreciably to the number of recorded semiquavers, octaves, and barns duly stormed. Finding a recital shape amid so many notes is not easy, and this disc is perhaps best enjoyed piecemeal. Lise de la Salle is fully in command of the technical difficulties and much of her playing is exciting but, for this reviewer at least, being reminded at length of how far Liszt’s music stretches a pianist’s abilities becomes tiring. The music itself is of variable quality.
I yield to no one in my detestation of what Liszt does to the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, and can’t say I’m that keen on Mazeppa. On the other hand, the Dante Sonata, the Second Ballade and Funérailles are all Liszt on top form. In the first two, de la Salle is excellent, but I miss the slow crescendo at the start of Funérailles, where she pumps up the volume too early. Nor does she bring to Liszt’s Liebestod transcription the mixture of weight and urgency found in Nelson Goerner’s recent version for Cascavelle (reviewed May 2011). Understandably, she is severely tested by the stark simplicity and curious chords of Nuages gris. Roger Nichols