Verdi & Wagner by Liszt & Kocsis

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COMPOSERS: Verdi & Wagner by Liszt & Kocsis
ALBUM TITLE: Un Piano ˆ L’opéra
WORKS: Transcriptions of Verdi & Wagner by Liszt & Kocsis
PERFORMER: Michel Dalberto (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 82876 60309 2
Liszt’s opera transcriptions contain some of his most idiomatic and innovative piano writing (even Brahms thought so), as this collection of paraphrases after Verdi and Wagner exemplifies. (Zoltán Kocsis’s arrangement of the Prelude from Tristan und Isolde is thrown in for good measure.) Beginning with a glittering account of the Rigoletto paraphrase, Michel Dalberto clearly revels in the sheer tactile sensuality of great tunes decked out with sumptuous embellishment, yet he is also attuned to the darker-hued sonorities of the Réminiscences de Simon Boccanegra and the ‘March solennelle’ from Wagner’s Parsifal. However, in transcriptions such as these, the pianist must make the piano sing, and for all his brilliance Dalberto doesn’t manage this, although both the recorded sound and the instrument itself may be partly to blame. The sound is admirably full and clear, but stiflingly close; most damaging is that the melodic lines aren’t sustained, the rapid decay of individual notes hardly enabling a seamless legato. In the Tristan Prelude, for example, the long lines become fragmented and prosaic, an effect at least diluted in the richer textures of Liszt’s version of the Liebestod. Despite Dalberto’s grand pianism, this shortcoming sadly detracts from what would otherwise be an outstanding disc. Tim Parry