Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Totentanz

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Totentanz
PERFORMER: Alfredo Perl (piano); BBC SO/Yakov Kreizberg
Alfredo Perl plays Liszt’s two concertos from the vantage-point of a collaborative musician rather than a star pianist. Unlike certain pianists who can’t abide sharing the spotlight, Perl is willing to shape accompanimental figurations to support the First Concerto’s numerous first-desk orchestral solos, and especially the Second Concerto’s extended cello solo. He also keeps the music’s inner pulse alive by taking unaccompanied passages pretty much in tempo, with firmer, more metrically anchoring left-hand support than usual. And one could almost take dictation from the thoughtful clarification that Yakov Kreizberg elicits from his BBC musicians. In the main, the performances make sober, straightforward impressions that evoke Leslie Howard’s excellent (and better-recorded) Hyperion traversals. What’s missing, however, is the scintillation, outward panache, rhythmic alacrity and demonic element in the concertos that the classic Richter/Kondrashin versions serve up in droves, to say nothing of Alfred Brendel’s intense, joyriding Totentanz with Bernard Haitink tearing up the podium. All told, Perl and Kreizberg deserve admiration and respect for taking these often abused scores on faith. But when no one is looking, I yield to temptation and dance with the devilish benchmarks mentioned above. Jed Distler