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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Sergio Fiorentino Edition Volume 2 - The Complete Liszt Recordings
Sergio Fiorentino (piano)
Full track-listing below
rec. 1958-97
PIANO CLASSICS PCLM0041 [6 CDs: 459:11]

This is the second set to have been issued by this company devoted to the art of Italian pianist Sergio Fiorentino (1927-98). This Liszt legacy comes from LPs made between 1958 and 1967, that is to say roughly the Saga LP years, when he recorded for this and smaller labels in Britain. One disc, CD6, comes from much later and reissues the 1997 Berlin sessions that gave rise, inter alia, to a superb recording of the Sonata in B minor.
Master tapes for mono and stereo sessions seem largely no longer to be extant. Most of the sessions were overseen by William Barrington Coupe, later to find notoriety, and he had Charles Haynes, later of Pearl, on hand for some sessions. Given that almost everything therefore had to be dubbed from commercial LP, Ernst Lumpe, whose achievement this set is, asks for a certain amount of forbearance in respect of some of the tricky matters that proved impossible to eliminate. One small mystery remains. Concert Artist LPA1062 was announced for release in March 1956. It contained five Concert Studies, and five of the Etudes d’exécution transcendente, but thus far no copy has turned up. If it were ever to do so then clearly Lumpe would be delighted to hear it, even though he suspects it was never released due to the label’s liquidation around that time.
I can offer only a brief overview of this remarkable collection, sometimes indifferently recorded though it was. CD1 offers a nobly voiced Années de pèlerinage, première année: Suisse (Greenwich Town Hall, London, 1963) complete with a particularly dramatic Orage which is played with flair but no attempt to impose a rhetorical virtuosity. Vallée d’Obermann is characterised with veiled intensity. Venezia e Napoli completes this disc, recorded in Salle Wagram, Paris in September 1962. Disc two focuses on the Hungarian Rhapsodies, Nos 2, 6, 7, 19, 11 and 13. These all date from 1963 and none duplicates the run of Rhapsodies contained in CD5 (Nos. 8, 12 and 15), which were recorded in 1958 and 1960 in Hamburg and Paris. To the Rhapsodies Fiorentino brings clarity and drama. One of the tracks on this disc, the Paganini Study No. 2 in E flat major, comes from the original master tape and is in good sound for the time.
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen leads CD3 in imperious, sepulchral fashion - an impressive achievement despite a pitch wobble preserved on the LP. The six Consolations are subtly coloured, No.4 in particular, whilst there’s a quiet, not granitic intensity to Nuages gris. Perhaps the very best performance here is a toweringly tense Unstern! Sinistre, disastro. CD4 was largely but not wholly issued by APR in their Fiorentino series. The main difference is that APR5584 contained Chopin’s Fantasia on Polish Airs and Ab Irato. For Chopin’s First Concerto Fiorentino was accompanied in 1958 by the Hamburg Pro Musica under Erich Riede (also known - orchestra not conductor - as the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra). The recording is average, which is all that can be said, too, of the band. Fiorentino is on expansive form. The Second Concerto saw the collaboration of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Vernon Handley in February 1966. Once again the orchestra is hardly the last word in refinement but the performance is slightly better than the Hamburg one. Neither concerto performance really shows Fiorentino on his best form. An interloper turns up at the end of the disc - none other than Weber, with his Polonaise brillante (Guildford, 1966).
Tape wow rather disfigures Liebestraum No. 3 (Hamburg 1958) and both Ballades at points (Paris, 1960). Pre-echo needs to be ignored during the Hungarian Rhapsody No.12. Several of the pieces in this fifth disc can be heard in other performances elsewhere in the box set; the Mephisto Waltz No.1 for instance or Funérailles. In general this disc has the worst of the wow. Such is the case with the Ballades, which re-appear in the Berlin performances on the last disc. This is Fiorentino at the autumnal summit of his prowess, the year before his death; still technically superb, colouristically commanding. The Sonata performance is, as noted, splendid, and the recorded sound in the Konzertsaal Siemensvilla affords him all the help he needs. This is Fiorentino as most listeners will remember him.
Which, in a sense, is why this collection - largely devoted to the days when he seemed to record things sight-unseen, as it were - is so interesting. One gets early and late Fiorentino with the balance weighted very firmly to the younger man. Despite the imperfections of performance and recording, and despite the gulf in time that separates the younger from the older man, this is the totality of Fiorentino’s Liszt, and it has been lovingly sourced and compiled.
Jonathan Woolf  
Full track-listing 
CD 1 [72:05] 
Années de pèlerinage, première année: Suisse
Venezia e Napoli; Gondoliera [5:55]: Canzone [3:13]: Tarantella [7:30]
rec, 1963, Greenwich Town Hall, London and September 1962, Salle Wagram, Paris (Venezia)
CD 2 [72:24]
Paganini Study No. 2 in E flat major [4:51]
Concert Etude No.2; Gnomenreigen [2:48]
Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 2 in C sharp minor [9:01]: No.6 in D flat major [7:03]: No.7 in D minor [6:02]: No.10 in E major [6:17]: No.11 in A minor [5:39]: No.13 in A minor [9:31]
Grand Galop Chromatique [3:28]
Ab Irato [2:08]
Grande Fantaisie de bravoure sur la Clochette de Paganini [13:43]
rec. 1966, Guildford Civic Hall (Paganini Study, Gnomenreigen); 1963, Guildford Civic Hall (Rhapsodies); September 1962, Salle Wagram, Paris (Grand Galop, Ab Irato, Grande Fantaisie)
CD 3 [79:30]
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen; Praeludium [6:49]
Consolations: Nos 1 in E major [1:40]: 2 in E major [4:23]: 3 in D flat major [4:34]: 4 in D flat major [3:30]: 5 in E major [2:51]: 6 in E major [3:10]
Nuages gris [3:40]
La lugubre gondola (first version) [4:51]: (second version) [9:15]
RW - Venezia [3:35]
Kleine Klavierstücke: Nos 1 in E major [2:15]: 2 in A flat major [2:24]: 3 in F sharp major [1:38]: 4 in F sharp major [0:59]
Zweite Elegie [4:17]
Petöfi szellemének-Dem Andenken Petöfis [6:00]
Schlaflos! Frage und Antwort [3:10]
Unstern! Sinistre, disastro [8:55]
rec. 1967, Guildford Civic Hall (Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, and Consolations) and 1962, Greenwich Town Hall, London (remainder)
CD 4 [78:46]
Mephisto Waltz No. 1 [9:41]
Fünf Ungarische Volkslieder [8:17]
Années de pèlerinage; Book II Italie; Sposalizio [9:29]
Piano Concertos No. 1 in E flat major [18:39]
Piano Concertos No. 2 in A major [23:18]
Carl Maria von WEBER
Polonaise brillante [10:38]
Hamburg Pro Musica/Erich Riede (Liszt Piano Concerto No.1)
Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley (Liszt Piano Concerto No.2 and Weber)
rec. September 1962, Salle Wagram, Paris (Mephisto Waltz, Sposalizio), July 1958, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Piano Concerto No,.1), February 1966, Guildford Civic Hall (Volkslieder, Piano Concerto No.2, Weber)
CD 5 [79:44]
Liebestraum No. 3 in A flat major [4:53]
Paganini Study No.3; La Campanella [4:10]
Etude d’exécution transcendente No.6 Vision [4:25]
Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 8 [6:25]: 12 [10:02], 15 Rákóczy March [4:49]
Ballades Nos 1 in D flat major [7:04]: 2 in B minor [15:30]
Funérailles [12:38]
Mephisto Waltz No. 1 [9:29]
rec. July 1958, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Liebestraum, La Campanella, Vision, Hungarian Rhapsody No,15) and January 1960, Salle Adyar, Paris (remainder)
CD 6 [76:42]
Ballades Nos 1 in D flat major [7:19]: 2 in B minor [16:04]
Funérailles [12:49]
La Leggierezza [5:06]
Waldesrauschen [4:13]
Sonata in B minor [30:23]
rec. October 1997, Konzertsaal Siemensvilla, Berlin