Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor; Grandes Études de Paganini

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Linn
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt
WORKS: Piano Sonata in B minor; Grandes Études de Paganini
PERFORMER: George-Emmanuel Lazaridis (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 282 (hybrid CD/SACD)
I had previously encountered the Greek pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis through his all Schumann disc for Somm, but as promising as that disc was it didn’t prepare me for the sheer quality of this Liszt recording. Lazaridis gives a supremely authoritative reading of the B minor Sonata, which is not only intensely committed but also deeply imaginative. His virtuoso credentials are impeccable, and are matched by the focus and suppleness of his lyrical playing.

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Lazaridis revels in the contrasts in this music, as any great Lisztian must, and his characterisation and sense of dramatic undercurrent are vivid and revealing. Only with the onset of the profound final coda did I wish for greater poise and a more telling sense of withdrawal. While no one should be without Zimerman’s magisterial version on DG, Lazaridis need not fear comparisons – his account is compellingly personal without being distractingly idiosyncratic.

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Lazaridis is equally commanding in the Paganini Studies, where even at its most taxing the music unfolds with an unruffled sense of control and inevitability. Lazaridis conveys the grandeur of the opening tremolo study with great nobility, his interlocking octaves in No. 2 bristle with energy, and his range of character in No. 5 (‘La chasse’) is impressive. ‘La campanella’ at times misses its essential delicacy, and Lazaridis’s decision to emasculate the final étude’s climactic bass chords by replacing them with bare octaves seems at odds with his otherwise coruscating performance. Nevertheless, at its best this account rivals equally fine recordings from the urbane Hamelin and the outstanding Cécile Ousset. Warmly recommended. Tim Parry