ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
FRANZ LISZT - Piano Works Vol. 2


FRANZ LISZT - Piano Works Vol. 2 - Garrick Ohlsson (Piano) - 090404940927 - Released: September 2013 - Bridge 9409

1} Adelaide (Beethoven-Liszt)
2} Fantasy and Fugue (Bach-Liszt)
3} Les Jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este
4} Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude
5} Funérailles
6} Nuages Gris
7} Klavierstücke in A flat major
8} Mephisto Waltz, No. 1

The beauty of most things, be they natural or man-made, lies in their level, or ability, to cover up or camouflage their inner workings. A skyscraper is all the more beautiful to look at based on how well it completely makes one lose sense of its inner steel beam scaffolding. A beautiful flower garden is all the more so when it covers up the fact that its bed is made of worms and manure. A flawlessly styled automobile goes to extremes of design to make one forget that it's nothing more than an engine and transmission on wheels. And the same laws apply to great music. A case in point is the music of Franz Liszt. Its inner workings are complex, and it abides by the rules and laws that govern music, but yet it transcends all that to the point where what you hear is strictly the essence, the romantic spirit behind the impulse to compose, absolved from the shackles of theory and systems. And when performed by a pianist of Garrick Ohlsson's stature and calibre, it's a thing of beauty indeed.

Compared to the Volume 1 reviewed here, this new recording showcases Liszt's poetic and contemplative musings rather than his flashy and extrovert nature. One can't get any more lost deep in thought, musically speaking, than in the Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude for example. Or rise from amorphous darkness to sublime heights like in Funérailles, Liszt's visceral reaction to the death of Frédéric Chopin, in which he brilliantly incorporates the essence of his most famous Polonaise. And what about Nuages Gris (Gray Clouds). What an odd little piece of music this is. It has been suggested that it may have been one of Liszt's own attempts at twelve-tone music, written when Arnold Schoenberg was only 7 years old. Very much out of character from the composer of the Hungarian Rhapsodies, but yet ahead of its time and mesmerizing.

Pianist Garrick Ohlsson was the first American to win first prize in the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition in 1970. One of my first recordings of the Chopin Nocturnes was one of his early recordings from back then on the Angel label (now EMI), and it has remained one of my favorites ever since. He stands at around six feet four inches and his hands can span twelve keys on a keyboard. What's amazing is not that he can thunder and roar through the fast and furious pieces, but rather how he can weave the finest filigree in works like Les Jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este. When he plays, the instrument dissolves away, leaving behind only the essence of the music.

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2013