Liszt-Verdi: Complete Paraphrases and Free Transcriptions

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COMPOSERS: Liszt,Verdi
LABELS: Odradek
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt-Verdi
WORKS: Complete Paraphrases and Free Transcriptions; plus download only: Agnus Dei from Messa di Requiem
PERFORMER: Rinaldo Zhok
CATALOGUE NO: ODRCD309

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Unlike most composer anniversaries, Liszt’s 2011 bicentenary seems actually to have done some good. The longstanding misconception, that about 90 per cent of Liszt’s music was worthless, was shown to be so obviously ridiculous that a steady stream of fine recordings has been materialising ever since – such as this one by Trieste-born Rinaldo Zhok, which breathes quality in every department. As Zhok himself puts it, describing these masterly transcriptions: ‘[Liszt] builds on what one might define the Verdian spirituality … I believe that what emerges is a wonderful exchange: Liszt gives Verdi his hands, Verdi gives Liszt his voice.’

Zhok plays the music like that, with technical command to spare. He conveys each work’s capacity to conjure the world of the opera concerned, and without a trace of meretriciousness in the keyboard virtuosity. While Liszt’s roguish streak in the Rigoletto paraphrase isn’t quite captured, Zhok excels in the dark broodings of Il trovatore’s ‘Miserere’, and reveals Réminiscences de Boccanegra as a true late-Liszt masterwork. The piano here is a Steinway Model B, whose warm, rounded tone is beautifully captured. And the Requiem’s ‘Agnus Dei’, which wouldn’t fit on the CD itself, is available as a free download from the Odradek website.

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Malcolm Hayes