Liszt: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Concerto posth.; Concerto pathétique

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Concerto No. 2; Concerto posth.; Concerto pathétique
PERFORMER: Louis Lortie (piano); The Hague Residentie Orchestra/George Pehlivanian
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9918
Louis Lortie isn’t a keyboard heavyweight in the Richter or Argerich mould, but he squares up

Advertisement

to Liszt’s fearsome coruscations with more assurance here than in previous instalments of his Chandos survey. That said, however, Concerto No. 1’s preliminary salvoes lack the power, incision and nobility required fully to command the listener’s attention. The Quasi adagio slow movement finds Lortie’s playing too mannered to uncover the poetic rapture which Leslie Howard and (to a lesser degree) Krystian Zimerman evince. And in the finale, Chandos’s soft-grained recording manages to make Lortie’s attack seem even more diffident, though at least Liszt’s garish triangle becomes less objectionable.

The more lyrical Second Concerto, somewhat less Mephistophelean than its predecessor, suits Lortie’s circumspect approach slightly better. He produces some gorgeously mellifluous and sensitive phrasing after the D flat cello solo (track 8), where the dreamlike stasis created is totally apt. Earlier still, dialogues with solo horn and oboe are also pleasingly blended and nuanced, though Lortie’s Romantic contemplations aren’t matched by bravura heroism when it’s needed.

Advertisement

The closing stretto of Concerto No. 2 makes the point eloquently. Lortie just doesn’t possess the leonine strength that made Richter’s famous 1961 Philips account so riveting, and nor does conductor George Pehlivanian retain a firm enough grasp on the Concerto’s highly episodic structure to make the entire work knit together organically. Similar problems persist in the other works included, though in all cases, Leslie Howard’s Hyperion Complete Liszt Edition performances provide exemplary and superbly recorded alternatives. Michael Jameson