Liszt: Dante Sonata, Reminiscences de Norma & Don Juan, Mephisto Waltz No. 1 - Stanev
Classical - Instrumental
Liszt: Dante Sonata; Reminiscences de Norma; Reminiscences de Don Juan; Mephisto Waltz No. 1
Vesselin Stanev, piano
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Review by John Broggio - February 22, 2017
After a somewhat reserved account captured here (Liszt: 12 études d'exécution transcendantes - Vesselin Stanev), there are no such reservations for this disc.
Like the earlier disc of the transcendental studies, Vesselin Stanev produces immaculate sounds from the piano and the engineering is at least as fine as it was then. What marks this disc out is Stanev has (one small exception aside) cast caution to the wind, while retaining the appealing lyricism with which he imbues his playing of Liszt. The Norma fantasy is an incredible tour de force of piano writing and playing here, playing hommage to the operatic roots Stanev's delivery of Liszt's transcription conveys the illusion of a singing line with admirable ease of tone. The Dante sonata is more overtly virtuoso in conception (not that the transcriptions here are light in that regard but that focus is definitely secondary - in the "pure" Liszt compositions, that is more arguable!) and here Stanev thrillingly presses on when the music demands it while never losing control of the overall structure. This account may not have that last degree of technical bravado that Volodos extracts on his wonderful disc Volodos Plays Liszt but the musicianship is not in question.
The other "pure" Liszt composition here is the first Mephisto waltz; here pianists are in a double bind because their performances are compared to the greats of the keyboard but also extraordinary performances of Liszt's orchestral version. Here, as in the Dante sonata, Stanev judges well the level of rubato required and how much excitement to give in to - only once in the passage preceding the coda does it feel a little too cautious but this is a small criticism of an otherwise terrific performance. The fantasy on themes from Mozart's Don Giovanni closes the disc and this work & performance are in every possible way a glorious repudiation of HIP: the soaring lyricism in Stanev's capable hands and his pre-HIP tempi really do bring to mind the "golden age" of pianism, even if his coordination of left & right hands are far removed from many exponents in that past era.
Overall, a fine Liszt recital that rewards repeated listening.
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