Harmonies poétiques et religieuses
Saskia Giorgini (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 296 84:49 mins
Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses are less familiar – and more appealing – than his Années de pèlerinage. Giorgini’s affinity with this reflective music is evident from the outset. Formidable technical ability is matched by the architectural sense, harmonic sensibility and coloristic range this sprawling music demands. Her shaping of climaxes demonstrates complete control of pace and dynamics, on a Bösendorfer which never sounds brash.
Particularly persuasive is the lengthy ‘Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude’, with its exquisite shimmering accompaniments and a glorious, soaring melody. The wordless prayer of the ‘Pater Noster’ feels heartfelt and sincere. The famous ‘Funerailles’ receives a powerful reading at an intelligent (not funereal) pace, with effortless handling of the unrelenting left-hand octave passages.
Giorgini makes a good case for the gloomy opening stretches of the ‘Pensées des Morts’, and less inspired passages in the ‘Hymne de l’enfant a son reveil’, the ‘Andante Lagrimoso’ and the closing ‘Cantique d’amour’. Her ability to cut through Liszt’s dense textures is exemplified in the roiling, surging ‘Miserere d’apres Palestrina’. Some rhetorical, declamatory passages really need live performance to pull off their theatricality, but Giorgini enlivens them with both high drama and thoughtful interiority.
This fine recording demands that the listener draw the curtains on a wintry evening, pour a glass of something delicious and complex, and let Giorgini guide us across Liszt’s expansive spiritual landscapes.