Liszt Piano Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Franz Liszt
LABELS: PentaTone Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt Piano Concertos
WORKS: Piano Concertos No. 1 in E flat & No. 2 in A; Totentanz; Fantasy on Hungarian Folk Tunes
PERFORMER: Nareh Arghamanyan (piano); Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alain Altinoglu


Here they come (yet) again. More than a year after Liszt’s bicentenary, PentaTone has come up with the latest in a flood of releases of these much-recorded works. Surplus to requirement, then, these interpretations need to be very good.

They display some obvious strengths: the technique of this young Armenian-born pianist is beautifully fluent, giving her playing a freedom that is not at all slick or perfunctory, and she also offers likeable, rounded tone and more than reasonable firepower. But you do also need the imagination to come up with individual things to say and there’s too little evidence of this. The First Concerto’s Quasi adagio not-quite-slow-movement section doesn’t sing with the focused rapture than it yearns to and nor does the Allegretto vivace scintillate as required. The Second Concerto’s more integrated musical design suits Arghamanyan’s equable range of musical options rather better, and she has some good moments in the startling pre-modernist world of Totentanz, launching incisively into the repeated-note pyrotechnics of the Fifth Variation.

Throughout all three works however and in the Fantasy (Liszt’s own arrangement of his solo‑piano Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14), Alain Altinoglu’s conducting of a decent orchestral contribution shows a much keener awareness of how to make things happen. The pleasing tone of Arghamanyan’s playing is well captured by the recording, while the orchestra is balanced
just a notch close.


Malcolm Hayes