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Alec Robertson
Gramophone, July 2017

Kentner has never done anything so absolutely first-rate in every way as this very vivid interpretation, …Lambert’s extraordinary apt and picturesque orchestration might have been dictated to him by Liszt in a dream. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, December 2007

Collectors will warmly welcome this slice of Kentner’s discography. It brings to wider notice his majestic, if occasionally idiosyncratic Liszt and a pioneering and terrific Balakirev Sonata, topped and tailed by Kentner’s own naughty Walton arrangement and a vital Chopin Bolero. The recordings range between 1938 and 1951.

Though he may best and most luminously be remembered for his staggering recording of Lyapunov’s Transcendental Studies (on APR) there was far more to him on disc than that. These recordings go a considerable distance in showing us just how and why he was so widely admired.

The Csárdás macabre is a riotous amalgam of Kentner’s own instinctive textual emendations and a fulsome command of the authentic Lisztian tradition, served up with suitably malign command. The final paragraphs are an exercise in hypnotically accomplished control. Venezia e Napoli, of which we have the Gondoliera and Tarantella, is similarly engaged and inspired. The rubati Kentner employs are frequently dramatic and yet, perhaps paradoxically, for all their refusal to countenance metrical strictures, they work within the music to illuminate it, rather than sounding crass and indulgently applied on it. The Tarantella in particular is a rich, fabulous example of Kentner’s gifts a Liszt player. His more subtle and affecting side can be gauged from the brief En rêve, so deftly coloured and nourished.

The Balakirev sonata pays testament to his enquiring mind to the repertoire and the colouristic means at his disposal the better to explore such works. The shifting subtlety of the left hand voicings in the opening Andantino inflects the music with motion and eloquence. Similarly the more raucous rhythmic profile of the ensuing Mazurka show just how aptly Kentner characterises every phrase, every quixotic shift and mood. Such matters resurface in the Bolero which one might imagine would be meat and drink to Kentner’s active control of dance rhythms – and so it proves. He adds a magician’s control of rubati once again to maximal effect. This is an aspect of Kentner’s art confirmed by his own Walton movement, which is presented with sly wit.

One of the odder works in his discography was the 1940 collaboration with Constant Lambert in the latter’s orchestration of Liszt’s Dante Sonata or more properly Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata. Lambert orchestrated it for a Sadler’s Wells-Frederick Ashton choreography. It sounds crazily convincing and Kentner shows no signs of inhibition whatsoever.

And now for the bad news. The transfers are credited to producers and audio restoration engineers Marina and Victor Ledin and to restoration mastering engineer Amthony Casuccio. Whoever has done what they are dreadfully dull, opaque and disappointing. Highs have been ruthlessly disposed of and what remains is treble starved and soupy. There’s no audible difference between 1938 and 1951 sides, such has been the restoration aesthetic. You will need a huge treble boost even to begin to approach the original sound; if you don’t have a graphic equalizer or any other means to boost treble you will be stuck. This murky kind of thing simply won’t do.

So - superb performances, a fascinating release, but very poor transfers.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2007

I regret that Louis Kentner left no impression on me when I saw ‘the old man’, his undemonstrative style of playing doing nothing to excite my teenage years when so many virtuoso keyboard exponents were appearing. So this disc comes as a welcome corrective and substantiates the high regard in which he was held around the world. Born in the part of Europe that now forms part of the Czech Republic, he numbered among his mentors Leo Weiner and Zoltan Kodaly - Kodaly composing the Dances from Maroszek for him. In 1935 the thirty-year-old came to live in Britain and it was there that he made his major career, quickly distinguishing himself with his adventurous and often monumental programmes. He championed Liszt when he was far from popular, and at the other end of the spectrum played Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier when it was almost unknown. He gave premieres of many British piano works including concertos by Arnold Cooke, Rawsthorne and Tippett. Strangely it was not until his fifty-first year that he made his American debut, his concert showered with praise by the major New York critics. He was to record for a number of labels, not always in the sound quality that did him justice, the present disc devoted to those made for British Columbia between 1938 and 1951, most given a relatively short life in the catalogue. Technically he could release those running passages in the Liszt and Balakirev with spine-tingling virtuosity, and then in less demanding passages there are smudges. Certainly Liszt’s Csardas from 1951 is thrilling, the Balakirev Sonata, recorded two years earlier, just needing more control and shape, the final movement running away with itself. Taking all of the technical hurdles in two sections of the Venezia e Napoli, the Tarantella becomes a dazzling showpiece for his dexterity. It was the conductor, Constant Lambert, and the choreographer, Frederick Ashton, who thought of creating a new work for soloist and orchestra from the massive Liszt ‘Dante’ sonata, the original cast including the young Margot Fonteyn. Kentner is in fine form and the small theatre orchestra do their best. The restoration work is exemplary, and for much of the time you would be excused in thinking these tracks were or recent origin, the muddy sound of the 1940 Sadler’s Wells Orchestra bringing us back to reality.

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