Liszt: Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Three Petrarch Sonnets; Funérailles

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COMPOSERS: Franz Liszt
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt: Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Three Petrarch Sonnets; Funérailles
WORKS: Mephisto Waltz No. 1; Three Petrarch Sonnets; Funérailles
PERFORMER: David Wilde (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD34118

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Recent recordings of Liszt’s songs have usefully reminded us of the composer’s profound lyrical talents. This disc sets six pieces that began life as songs against the customary fire and brimstone to give a generous portrait of this amazing man. I’m not sure I approve of the ordering on the disc, which follows the Liebesträume with the Petrarch Sonnets: for me, this is too much of a very good thing, and I suggest that listeners could perhaps separate them with the First Mephisto Waltz. But Wilde makes some lovely sounds and, now in his late 70s, has learned to take his time. The first of the Liebesträume takes my prize for delicacy and control.

I’m rather less happy with Funérailles, which Wilde understandably calls one of Liszt’s greatest works for the piano. If the central lagrimoso section speaks of private grief at the death of the Hungarian martyrs in the 1848 revolution, the surrounding funeral march is surely a ceremonial expression of public sorrow, and as such demands implacably rhythmical performance (as given by Horowitz). I’m not persuaded by Wilde’s rubato here. But connoisseurs of piano playing will enjoy much on this disc.

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Roger Nichols