, May 2012
He [Bruce Levingston] opens with Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann, a performance in which he tries to penetrate the deepest, darkest parts of Obermann’s soul at psychoanalytic length (15:56 to Berman’s 14:24). When bits of light do sneak through (as in the sixth and twelfth minutes) they feel, ironically, like daybreak. This performance is not quite fiery enough to be epic, but it is pianism on a grand scale. The opening of Les Cloches de Genève, by contrast, feels as light as air. Ultimately, though, this movement and Les jeux d’eaux begin to run together in their mixture of lightness and incredibly slow tempos. For the latter, Levingston takes 10:15, which means that after a very promising beginning there is both surface glitter and an odd heaviness, more like cold ocean water than the fountains of a villa.
The first two Brahms pieces, an intermezzo from Op 116 and a ballade, both feel much more impressionistic than you’d expect of Brahms, and possibly more than you’d want of him too. The Brahms waltz, in D minor Op 39 No 9, is given a relatively ‘straight’ treatment and paired directly with Wolfgang Rihm’s Brahmsliebewalzer, an excellent tribute to the earlier composer. The two waltzes, I have to say, were recorded in a different session from the rest, and the difference is telling; these two tracks feel less present, and a bit clangier. Dorian is its usual excellent self for the rest.
Levingston has actually saved best for last: a suite from Philip Glass’s Dracula. These are among Glass’s most characterful short pieces, with instantly compelling portraits of Dracula, Van Helsing, and a couple of especially good scenes. The lead-in to the final reprise is excellently done and Bruce Levingston’s nocturnal tone finally meets its perfect match. That this is a world premiere recording is even more exciting.
Aside from the Glass (and Rihm), the album is a bit of an acquired taste; in the case of some of the slower performances, they become a bit droopy for me. I’ll still take several other pianists in the Liszt Années excerpts, but the Dracula suite is eleven minutes of pure excellence. I’m glad to have heard it, and your curiosity should be piqued. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review