, June 2007
This twenty-fourth volume in the Naxos series of Liszt’s complete piano music contains a mixture of the known and the relatively unknown. Performed by Italian pianist Giuseppe Andaloro the music on this disc comprises works of a mixture of lengths, including a fine example of one of Liszt’s ventures into larger forms, namely his substantial Grosses Konzertsolo, S176.
The Palermo-born Giuseppe Andaloro has been successful in a number of piano competitions including the prestigious 2005 Ferruccio Busoni competition in Bolzano. A student of the renowned pianist and teacher Sergio Fiorentino from Naples, Andaloro is also active as a conductor and a composer.
Liszt is best known as a virtuoso pianist, although, he was also a major influence as a progressive composer who according to biographer Cecil Gray created, “some of the greatest and most original masterpieces of the nineteenth century.” A prolific and versatile composer Liszt produced over seven hundred scores covering most genres of which over half were piano compositions.
Although Liszt’s name is extremely well known a large proportion of his compositions remain neglected. With the exception of a small number of frequently recorded warhorses and the temporary resurgence in interest for the centenary of his death in 1986, Liszt is, I believe, a composer who is currently out of vogue. The same could be said about Gounod and Franck whose music seems to be suffering the same ignominious fate.
Liszt’s Four Mephisto Waltzes were undoubtedly inspired by Faus,Ein Gedicht by the Hungarian-Austrian Romantic poet Nikolaus Lenau. The Mephisto Waltz No. 1, the second of the Two episodes from Lenau’s Faust,was originally known as ‘Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke’ (The Dance in the Village Inn). The score was first heard in Liszt’s orchestrated version with the piano score dedicated to Liszt’s former pupil the young pianist Carl Tausig. In this interpretation the wild and thrilling heights of the opening section contrast superbly with the melting tenderness of the central Espressivo amoroso.
Dating from the years 1878-81 the Mephisto Waltz No. 2 was heard in its orchestral version at Budapest in 1881 and dedicated to Saint-Saëns. Andaloro once again provides an assured change of mood from the devil’s diabolical activities to the welcome mood of absolute relaxation from 3:01 (track 2). Most impressive is the thrilling conclusion, overflowing with zest and ardour.
Composed in 1883 the Mephisto Waltz No. 3 is dedicated to Liszt’s former pupil Marie Jaëll, the piano prodigy and composer. Here Andaloro builds up an impressive degree of tension providing powerful and exhilarating playing. From 1885 the Mephisto Waltz No. 4 lay unfinished and unpublished for some time. Liszt left some sketches for a contrasting Andantino section that he probably intended to incorporate into the score. In this brief Mephisto Waltz No. 4 our confident Italian soloist provides robust playing with a gripping sense of urgency.
Liszt’s Two Elegies were written in 1874 and 1878 respectively. The First Elegy was composed in memory of Madame Moukhanoff-Kalergis (née Countess Marie Nesselrode) who was a talented pianist and member of Liszt’s circle. A work notable for an intense sense of grieving evident throughout. The Second Elegy bears a dedication to Liszt's biographer Lina Ramann and has been described as being, “a work of tender melancholy.” In the First Elegy Anadaloro displays a deep concentration in a heartfelt performance and in the Second Elegy one feels a deep sadness from our accomplished communicator. The passionate climax that builds from 3:04 (track 6) is just sensational.
Liszt composed his substantial and single movement Grosses Konzertsolo, S176 between 1849 and 1850. Although intended as a competition score for the Paris Conservatoire, the dedicatee, the gifted virtuoso pianist Adolf Henselt, declared that he was unable to play it. Liszt also produced an extended version for piano and orchestra titled the Grand Solo de Concert, S365. Some time before publication in 1851 Liszt revised the Grosses Konzertsolo by adding an Andante sostenuto central section also reworking later stages of the piece creating a single span three-sections-in-one movement. In 1856 Liszt went on to make an arrangement of the Grosses Konzertsolo for two pianos titled the Concerto pathétique, S258.
The extended Grosses Konzertsolo is a study of technique and concentration in which Andaloro takes a vice-like grip and directs the listener on a remarkable musical journey. An epic score, the Grosses Konzert solo deserves to be heard far more frequently in recital. Sadly the accessibility of the work is hindered by its substantial length.
Closely recorded at Potton Hall in Suffolk this Naxos disc has the advantage of an exceptional sound quality being bright and crystal clear. Keith Anderson’s booklet notes match his usual high standard.
For those wishing to explore outside the more usual genre of Liszt’s piano works and symphonic poems I have prepared a list of a number of performances of fascinating Liszt works that have provided me with considerable enjoyment. Given the relative neglect of the music in recent times it is hard to imagine just how esteemed he was in his day. As a strong advocate of the music of Liszt I believe one of his most enduring genres, and frequently his most neglected, is his often revelatory sacred music. The listing is contained at the end of my review of Liszt’s Via Crucis on the Naïve label.
Pianist Giuseppe Andaloro is indeed an inspired choice as soloist. One senses his complete involvement with the significant demands of Liszt’s challenging music.