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Jonathan Welsh
MusicWeb International, December 2017

This disc begins with Liszt’s marvellous recreation of the ‘Danse des Sylphes’ from La damnation de Faust. …there is no need to play the piano transcription at supersonic speed and the incredibly delicate and beautiful playing here comes across marvellously with the speed striking me as just about right.

Next follows a rather powerful account of the ‘Benediction and Serment’ from the opera Benvenuto Cellini—here Liszt takes one specific scene and arranges it. Liszt does a superb job and none of the detail is lost—the same could also be said of the performer here, as nothing is missed and the overall effect is wonderful. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Sang Woo Kang
American Record Guide, September 2017

Bian’s playing is balanced and sensitive in these Liszt arrangements from Berlioz operas, projecting his sound vibrantly. He produces a warm sound when needed, as in the Damnation de Faust. The thorny and dense, more unfamiliar King Lear is difficult to listen to, but one can tell that Bian carefully calibrates every note, with a beautiful tone and voicing. The more familiar Symphonie Fantastique excerpts, especially the March, is done exquisitely, with perfect control and no sense of bravura. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, July 2017

All of [this] is as well configured and as well played by pianist Feng Bian as one might hope.

This one is serious and also lots of fun! Berlioz is transformed and much good it does him. © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review, June 2017

The Dance of the Sylphs from The Damnation of Faust, the Bénédiction et serment from Benvenuto Cellini, and the March of the Pilgrims from Harold in Italy are all given careful and very lovely treatment by Liszt, and Bian brings out the pieces’ manifest beauties in very involving and altogether winning readings. There are also pieces here drawn from Symphonie fantastique, including Marche au supplice—which has an introductory section called L’idée fixe before the march itself, and which requires more of the pounding virtuosity for which Liszt is known. More interesting, though, is a work called L’idée fixe: Andante amoroso d’après une mélodie de Hector Berlioz, which uses the symphony’s famous recurring theme as the basis for a lovely, fantasia-like work of warmth and gentleness, which Bian handles with sensitivity and skill. © 2017 Read complete review

Blair Sanderson, June 2017

These transcriptions are remarkably true to the originals, notwithstanding the occasional virtuosic touches that Liszt added for embellishment or to imitate orchestral sonorities. By 19th century standards, the music was fairly represented, and many listeners gained their first knowledge of Berlioz from these transcriptions. Feng Bian’s manner is likely quite close to Liszt’s intentions, not overly flashy or bombastic, but technically brilliant and expressive, and these engaging performances give an idea of how enjoyable the transcriptions were for Liszt’s audiences. Feng’s enthusiasm is clear in his energetic playing, though he also displays considerable sensitivity and delicacy, as in his performances of the Danse des Sylphs and the free fantasy on the L’idée fixe, which reflect Liszt’s quieter side. © 2017 Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2017

The Forty-sixth edition in the complete piano music is devoted to the transcriptions of opera and concert music by Hector Berlioz published in the later part of his life. Such arrangements helped to disseminate music to audiences outside of the reach of symphony orchestras in an age long before today’s motorised transport, while at the same time used to demonstrate the virtuosity of the arranger. Both were good reasons for Franz Liszt to embark on such transcriptions, though looking back they were not much more than piano arrangements used today by opera and ballet rehearsal pianists. The soloist on this disc, Feng Bian, then poses the question, as many have done before him, as to how much freedom of expression Liszt used in his performances of such works. Certainly the young Chinese-born pianist uses tempos I have yet to encounter in the concert hall, even employing a jaunty March au supplice from the Sinfonia fantastique. That said, he is already a multi-award winner that would point to a technically assured performer on stage, and when Liszt does offer challenges, they are despatched with a comforting ease. The recording, for some reason requiring five days, was made at the Yale School of Music, where Feng Bian studied with Peter Frankl, and would appear to have had the microphone(s) very close to the instrument, the lower octaves given the impact many of these works require, and a dry ambiance adding to the clean-cut finger-work. Not essential Liszt, but it adds to our knowledge of his enormous output. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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