FRANZ LISZT - Félix Ardanaz

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FRANZ LISZT - Piano Sonata in B minor - Mephisto Waltz - Mazeppa - Félix Ardanaz (Piano) - 8436039061828 - Released: June 2014 - Orpheus OR3906-1828

Sometimes in music, as in life itself, something completely unexpected comes out of left field and hits you like a ton of bricks. When asked by a press manager, agent, label representative or the artist themselves if I would be interested in listening to and possibly reviewing their latest recording, I always acquiesce and regardless of the source, allow the recording at least two if not three listening sessions before deciding if its worth reviewing or not. I know it's all very suggestive, but most are mediocre, run-of-the-mill, let's-put-this-out-one-more-time attempts that quickly end up in the "no" pile or filed away on a shelf. But once in a while I'm astounded by what I hear. Such is the case with this recording by Spanish pianist Félix Ardanaz.

Only 25 years old but with a list of study credentials and live performance dates behind him that would put to shame some of the well known top performers around today, I myself am embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of him until now. He's performed mostly in his native Spain, France and England, and released only two other recordings (on small labels) before this one if I'm not mistaking, which may explain his lack of exposure here in North America.

His command and mastery over the music of Franz Liszt is stupendous. His breadth of emotive expression and technical stamina in the Piano Sonata in B minor is on par with the likes of Bolet, Richter, Hamelin ... and even seems, in my opinion, to raise the bar even higher. The way he reads behind the notes and projects the scope and poetic vision of this work is quite remarkable. Again, and in the same league as the greats of the keyboard, he views this pantheonic piano sonata from above, and delivers an account that follows a single and cohesive thread from start to finish. And I've never heard such clarity of articulation within the fast passages of the Mephisto Waltz before. Quite a daredevil act when you consider that this piece was captured "live".

Although this CD was just recently released, it was actually recorded in September of 2010, when Félix Ardanaz was only 21. And did I mention that he's also a conductor. Now, let's see. What was I doing when I was 21? Oh yes, trying to get my act together. One to watch ... this musician is going places!

Jean-Yves Duperron - February 2015