Composer: Ferencz Liszt
Performer: Paul Lewis
Format: FLAC (tracks)
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Size: 154 MB
01. Piano Sonata in B minor, S178
02. Nuages gris, S199
03. Venezia, S. 201: Lento assai
04. Unstern: sinistre disastro S208
Quatre petites pièces pour piano, S. 192
05. I. Adagio
06. II. Moderato
07. III. Adagio
08. IV. Andantino
09. En rêve – Nocturne S207
10. Schlaflos Frage und Antwort, S203
11. La lugubre gondola (version II), S. 200
Once considered musically incomprehensible and technically unplayable, the Liszt Sonata is now part of the repertoire of virtually every pianist of note. Yet even in a crowded marketplace (where Horowitz, Gilels, Richter, Argerich, Brendel, Pollini and others jostle for attention) Paul Lewis’s recording stands out for its breadth, mastery and shining musicianship.
Eschewing all obvious display, he concentrates on the Sonata’s monumental weight, grandeur and ever-elusive inner poetry. His sense of drama is dark and intense, and his reading of the central Andante sostenuto alone puts his performance in the highest league. Lewis’s octaves in the final Prestissimo blaze before the retrospective coda are of a pulverising strength; with him the Sonata regains its stature among music’s most formidable milestones.
Moving to the music of Liszt’s final years, Lewis ranges from Nuages gris, much admired by Stravinsky, its language anticipating Debussy, Bartók and even Schoenberg, to Unstern (literally, and in Shakespearean terms, ‘unstarred’), music of a sinister violence. If there’s solace in the relatively benign world of the four LittlePieces and En rêve it’s quickly shattered by Lalugubre gondole II, a desolate elegy anticipating Wagner’s funeral.
This isn’t music for late-night listening, more an invitation to ‘sleepless question and answer’.
But these pieces are played with a rapt and haunting sense of their attenuated beauty, making this one of the finest, most intelligently planned Liszt recitals for many years. Harmonia Mundi’s sound is of demonstration quality.