, June 2010
Recorded in 1990, this album dates back to the early years of Naxos, the label formed by German/Hong Kong entrepreneur Klaus Heymann. It remains a good example of many of the label’s strengths, as well as a weakness that was especially evident in those early times: the sound is unpleasant, with Jenö Jandó’s piano banging around in the stone walls of a Budapest church. When the Hungarian pianist recorded this selection of Liszt pieces, classical piano was still dominated by big names and bigger budgets, but recordings like this showed that Naxos could find performers, at first many of them in Eastern Europe, who could deliver top-notch music-making at costs that permitted budget pricing and soon a forward-looking approach to online distribution. Jandó, who went on to record a wide variety of piano repertoire for Naxos, does not break new ground but delivers solid, unimpeachable performances of the Piano Sonata in B minor, two programmatic pieces from the Années de pélerinage, and La Campanella, a classic finger stretcher from the Transcendental Etudes. It is in this last work, where the seemingly impossible peals of bells are delivered with clean precision, that he’s at his best, but there’s energy and beauty throughout, and this remains a reasonable choice for a basic Liszt disc.