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Lazaridis: Liszt – Sonata in B Minor, Grandes Etudes De Paganini (24/88 FLAC)

Lazaridis: Liszt - Sonata in B Minor, Grandes Etudes De Paganini (88kHz /24bit, FLAC)
Lazaridis: Liszt - Sonata in B Minor, Grandes Etudes De Paganini (88kHz /24bit, FLAC)

Performer: George-Emmanuel Lazaridis
Composer: Franz Liszt
Audio CD
Number of Discs: 1 Hybrid SACD – DSD
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Linn Records
Size: 931 MB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

01. Piano Sonata in B minor
02. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude I
03. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude II
04. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude III
05. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude IV
06. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude V
07. Grandes Etudes de Paganini Etude VI

This elusive set is certainly worth every iota of investigative effort to locate and offers substantial rewards in every way.

This was bought following the following advice received from a regular reader and commentator of previous reviews. This disc ‘demands to be heard.’ Not for the first time I have followed a suggestion from the same enthusiast and, once more, have found the advice to be accurate. Lazaridis is a young Greek pianist of phenomenal technical skills and musical instincts described by Yonty Solomon as ‘A musician of superlative artistry and a performer of outstanding world-class distinction.’ That seems to sum up the playing on this disc pretty well!

The attraction on this occasion was the potential replacement of an earlier Paganini Etudes recording now unaccountably lost and an alternative to the Trifonov set recorded as part of that pianist’s survey of the complete Liszt Transcendental Studies. The SACD recording was also an attraction, especially being a Linn records production. The sonata was of less interest essentially as it is well-served already by recordings such as from Richter, Pletnev, Berezovsky and Guy (DVD).

The recording itself is strikingly realistic and effective with effortless reproduction of this widely demanding piano music – piano music is regularly recognised as being especially demanding to record and to reproduce. On this occasion the disc can be safely regarded as a supreme example of all obstacles being overcome.

The sonata performance easily rises to the challenges, both musical and technical, of the alternative readings. It offers essentially a lyrical and intensely musical performance that richly deserves the BBC Music Magazine summary as being ‘Special enough to be beyond comparison.’ This is reinforced by one of the best sets of the Paganini Etudes that listeners are likely to experience.

Beyond even the performance of the sonata there is humour here derived by the pianist apparently playing with the technical demands as if a cat playing with a mouse. Fortunately in this case, the musical ‘mouse’ survives intact and the listener is drawn into the fun. This ‘fun’ element is especially apparent in the 4th and 6th etudes, the latter being the subject of many sets of variations by other composers including Rachmaninov. The famous La Campanella etude, 3rd in the set, offers an ear-tickling display of pianism that never forgets that this is music and not just a technical challenge.

This elusive set is certainly worth every iota of investigative effort to locate and offers substantial rewards in every way.

“The power and ferocity of the climaxes are enough to make sure you’ve insured your loudspeakers and warned your neighbors! Clearly Lazaridis is no run-of-the-mill virtuoso, and we’re sure to hear more from him.” –

“I’ve always regarded Liszt’s B-Minor Sonata as one of music’s wonders. Employing cyclic form to combine all the movements of the traditional sonata into one, it demands utmost concentration of the pianist for half an hour. So perfect are its formal outlines and its harmonic scheme that we are always aware of moving towards a destination. When the artist finally takes us there, we breathe a sigh of heartfelt contentment: “You really did it right, Franz!” Of course, there is also ample scope for virtuosity along the way, and pianist George-Emmanuel Lazaridis gives it to us in double-handfuls in this stunning new offering from Linn Records. In a work that opens and closes softly and has some very intense moments en route, Lazaridis displays complete mastery of the full dynamic range, and Linn’s superb multichannel SACD sound allows us to hear it all. This is a pianist to set concert halls afire and cause meltdown on your DVD player. In terms of rubato, a technique of which Liszt was certainly an advocate, I am less happy with this performance, especially in contrast to the more even-handed approach used by Leonard Pennario in this work in The Early Years (MSR 1188) which I reviewed in last month’s New Classik Reviews. Essentially, rubato involves lengthening or condensing increments of time in a musical passage. The word comes from an Italian root meaning “to steal,” and like a good thief, the pianist using rubato is obliged to take the time he steals in one place and replace it in another. When you’re talking about romantic era music, rubato is always on the table. Like many young keyboard artists, Lazaridis is inclined to take the dramatic passages very fast and tempestuously, while he has a tendency to really take his time and caress the quieter, more intimate ones. At 33:38, his B-Minor Sonata is on the long side – almost 7 minutes longer than Pennario’s, which came as a surprise. Of course, the difference in use of rubato is largely a matter of taste. While I prefer Pennario’s approach for the insight it gives me into the music, one cannot deny the tremendous excitement that Lazaridis generates in this work. The other half of the program consists of six of Liszt’s Paganini Etudes, including the two ever-popular “name” Etudes, La Campanella and La Chasse, and the famous 24th Etude that inspired both Brahms and Rachmaninoff to write variations. The dynamic qualities that Lazaridis displayed in the first half of the program are also present here.” –Atlanta Audio Society

“The mighty Liszt B minor Sonata once held Mt Everest status in the piano literature, reserved for only a handful of the greatest virtuosos. Not any more. As with Mt Everest, every mountaineer now conquers it, and the Liszt Sonata has entered into the repertoire of every single pianist, even those who are too young to drive a car. Record companies are even releasing debut recitals by young barnstorming virtuosos prominently tossing off the work. Young George-Emmanuel Lazaridis easily slips into the top ranks with his finely recorded performance here. We need not fear the towering octaves will slip, the skips be missed or the fugue run sour in the voicing. It is all done with such ease that we wonder how this sonata could be that feared unconquerable piano piece left only to the giants to wrestle with. As with the other many new recordings, it is left to the performer to fill out the other half of the disc and here Lazaridis gives us a supreme account of the sparkling Paganini Etudes. He manages to make them sound even more musically interesting than the Sonata, now that’s something to be proud of. Pianist Recommended” –The Pianist

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