Liszt, Bach

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Petrarch Sonnets No. 47, 104 & 123; Après une lecture de Dante; Ballade No. 2 in B minor; Piano Sonata in B minor; Funérailles; Un sospiro,
PERFORMER: Earl Wild (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 72001 (distr. +1 614 761 8709;
When Liszt himself toured as a virtuoso pianist, he was dissatisfied with the pianos of his time, and sometimes left them in ruins. But today there are many makes which are more than adequate, and Earl Wild’s 1984-5 recordings were made on a Baldwin. Fine instruments, but the microphone was placed so close, it allows no room to breathe. In the Second Ballade, you can’t really tell what effects of recession, or contrasts in depth, Wild was after, because the dry, heavy sound seems as if you are sitting right underneath the instrument. But even allowing for the ugly piano tone, Wild’s way with the B minor Sonata is prosaic, and volatile tempo changes don’t disguise a lack of spontaneous feeling. Crossland takes a more straightforward, sensible view of the same work, though sensitive he is not, because he cannot, or will not, control volume, and the long, relaxed section before the fugue remains obstinately hard, unmelting. He plays a large Bösendorfer Imperial, which is recorded so distantly it sounds thin and tinny, and you have the impression it is at the far side of a large, empty room. Crossland can get round the notes of some difficult works, though he finds parts of the Rhapsodie espagnole heavy going; nor does he have much feeling for a singing line, or the ability to sustain long phrases while relaxing into them. Nothing here, whether from Wild or Crossland, does justice to Liszt as a keyboard poet, not merely a strong-armed athlete. See my recommendations below. Adrian Jack