Franz Liszt - Années de Pèlerinage I - Michael Korstick

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The two piano works presented together on this new recording are some of Franz Liszt's most creatively expressive compositions. The Années de Pèlerinage I (Switzerland) in particular displays a symphonic depth to its writing and evokes vivid images by its use of orchestral palettes that transport us to the very places depicted in this travel scrapbook. The suite opens with the Chapelle de Guillaume Tell, which although just a piano piece, is as dramatic as any Wagner operatic scene, and if scored for orchestra would include an oversized brass section. Michael Korstick, the pianist in this recording, definitely pictures it this way and gives it an epic and heroic reading, noble and bold with himself bringing out the orchestral undertones of this work. The spirit of Au lac de Wallenstadt which follows, is so well captured here that you can see the sunlight dancing and shimmering on top of the water crests as if the lake was on fire. You can hear and feel the joy of water droplets flowing down the stream in Au bord d'une source. The furious energy that Michael Korstick whips up during the middle section of Orage is unbelievable. Under his hands, the storm grows to such a powerful and intense level, with hundreds of notes blowing around like a hurricane, that you almost feel like you should be taking cover. The poetically delicate and yet massive Vallée d'Obermann has never been so deeply felt, with Michael Korstick finding the perfect balance between weight and tenderness at all the right moments.

This reading of the famous Piano Sonata in B minor easily stands shoulder to shoulder with the great interpretations by Bolet, Richter, Cziffra ... in its scope and vision, and a solid line from start to finish. The recording captures the piano up close and delivers impressive power when needed. So much so that in the triple forte passages of the aforementioned 'Storm', the piano strings are probably only a decibel away from snapping. Pianism at its interpretive best!

Jean-Yves Duperron