ALBUM TITLE: Liszt
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Totentanz; Hungarian Fantasy, S123
PERFORMER: Oleg Marshev (piano); Aalborg SO/Matthias Aeschbacher
CATALOGUE NO: DACOCD 651
Any pianist who relishes, as does the formidable Oleg Marshev, the challenges of Paul Pabst’s opera paraphrases and Emil von Sauer’s concert studies – both of which he has recorded for Danacord – will take the virtuoso demands of Liszt’s two concertos comfortably in their stride. These are fluent, intelligent and musical performances that successfully avoid bombast, yet rarely sparkle or radiate a burning intensity.
Marshev projects a strong sense of line and an attractive tone, spins filigree passagework with a refined delicacy, and keeps Liszt’s occasionally over-inflated rhetoric firmly in check. He is, however, not one to throw caution to the wind and for excitement, pianistic sophistication and expressive range this disc bows to Zimerman’s classic recording with Seiji Ozawa’s Boston orchestra. Numerous examples illustrate essentially the same points: in the First Concerto, the recitative passages of the Quasi Adagio need greater dramatic intensity to contrast the movement’s pervading lyricism; or try the left-hand drum rolls in the Second (track 5 from 3:35), which surely need a crisper rhythmic drive; the Totentanz pales alongside Zimerman’s saturated character and terrifying virtuosity; the Hungarian Fantasy has a spritzy charm when it needs an ebullient fizz. Marshev is hampered by the Aalborg Symphony Orchestra’s thin and soggy support, captured in a slightly airless recording, and important passages of chamber-like dialogue sound lacklustre.
Marshev is certainly worth hearing, but anyone wanting to explore Liszt’s piano-and-orchestra works beyond the concertos should investigate Michel Béroff’s two-disc EMI set, while those who chiefly want the concertos should go for Zimerman. Tim Parry