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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Totentanz
Totentanz, Paraphrase on ‘Dies irae’ [17:21]
Symphonic Poem No. 6 ‘Mazeppa’ [16:30]
Symphonic Poem No. 11 ‘Hunnenschlacht’ [14:42]
Symphonic Poem No. 3 ‘Les Préludes’  [15:32]
Duo Tsuyuki-Rosenboom
rec. February/March 2016, Studio Odradek
ODRADEK RECORDS ODRCD329 [64:08]

Franz Liszt is generally regarded as the greatest pianist of all time, in much the same way as Niccolò Paganini reigned supreme over the violin. So, it comes as no surprise that the bulk of the Lisztian oeuvre is devoted to the piano. Through his music the composer transformed the instrument into a vehicle of virtuosity. His working life coincided with the development and emergence of the modern piano. In addition to his original compositions, Liszt wasn’t averse to making transcriptions of other composer’s music as well as his own. This gave audiences, before the advent of recordings, their sole opportunity to hear such music in the drawing rooms and salons. The Beethoven Symphonies, which he transcribed, are examples that immediately spring to mind.

Liszt’s transcriptions appear in arrangements for solo piano, two pianos and one piano with four hands. It’s in the latter category that the Duo Tsuyuki-Rosenboom perform their recital. They were formed in 2009, and this is their debut CD. They’ve chosen musical compositions ‘based on different programmatic backgrounds from the visual arts, literature and philosophy’. Of the four works featured, three are transcriptions by Liszt, with the Totentanz, Paraphrase on ‘Dies irae’ in an arrangement by the duo themselves. It’s noticeable that in the three transcriptions by Liszt, he is careful to avoid a mere ‘copy and paste’ approach, rather allowing the music to metamorphose completely transformed with additional material added. He explores the instrument’s capabilities to the full, exploiting it’s myriad range of colour and sonority.

The star of this impressive spectacle of sound is the duo’s own transcription of Totentanz, from which the album takes it’s title. It’s literally a mind-blowing extravaganza of scintillating pianism. A stomping rhythm ushers in the theme, and my first reaction was to have a double take, thinking an orchestra had entered the fray. The players achieve some wonderful sonorities and this, together with Odradek’s state-of-the-art sound makes for a thrilling aural experience. The duo cleverly employ some acoustic props such as quicksilver harp effects by strumming the piano strings, drums and castanets, rhythmic tapping to evoke skeletal bodies ……..it just goes on!

The other three works are here receiving their world première recording debuts in these four hand incarnations. Pianistic virtuosity and profound musicianship strongly make their mark. It’s a delight to encounter the ‘Hunnenschlacht’, which is a new one for me. I particularly enjoyed hearing the more familiar ‘Les Préludes’ which, in it’s orchestral version, has always been one of my favorite orchestral showpieces.

This is a spectacular debut recital disc, well-recorded and inclusive of some well-written documentation in English, German and Japanese. The Duo Tsuyuki-Rosenboom’s polished performances are carefully detailed, idiomatically phrased and finely-graded dynamically. Their like-minded commitment, shared empathy and singularity of vision, secure the performance’s success. You’re in for a treat.

Stephen Greenbank

 

 




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