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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Franz LISZT (1811–1886) Sonata in B minor (S178) [34:38]
Concert etude no.1 – Il lamento (S144 no.1) [12:45]
Concert etude no.2 – La Leggierzza (S144 no.2) [5:52]
Daria Telizyn (piano) CLAUDIO RECORDS CR3705-2 [47:14]
In the closing sentences in my previous review of a recording by the late Daria Telizyn (review), I discovered that she had also recorded a disc including the Liszt sonata and that I would have a listen at a later time. So when the opportunity to review this disc presented itself, I was more than happy to give it a spin.
The first thing that struck me about this disc was the length of time that she took to play the sonata – as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, most performances total about 30 minutes or so however, here it lasts more than 34 and a half minutes making it the longest recording I have yet heard! You might think that as it runs for that long, the performance would be dull. That would be a total miscalculation – from the outset, there is a palpable sense of tension in the playing. Yes, overall it takes several minutes longer than some of the more famous performances but everything is so perfectly judged throughout that you lose track of time as you become utterly absorbed in the piece. Despite the overall long running time, she was also capable of playing very fast, witness the ‘Allegro energico’ section near the beginning. The way she placed the notes, accurately and quietly at about 5 minutes (before the ‘poco rallantando’ section, bar 137) is wonderful – I’ve not heard anyone else play it like this (and I have 28 recordings of this particular work in my library). She seemed to be able to give the music time to breathe even when there are severe difficulties in the writing. The other thing which strikes me here, even more than in her other recording is the way she pointed up phrases towards the end. It’s something that maybe doesn’t strike you at first listening but once you’ve heard it, she does it most of the time and it is most effective.
The slower sections of the Sonata are slow but do not drag at all - they really do hold your interest. The playing is utterly magical in the ‘Andante sostenuto’ (starting at bar 329) leading up to the march like theme which occurred much earlier on in the work (although in F sharp major rather than D major). The section marked ppp (starting at bar 422) with descending scales is absolutely immaculately played and has a strange sense of nostalgia. There is a hint of something evil in the descending scales leading to the ‘Fugato’ section – she was able to bring a sense of the sinister undertones in her recording of ‘Totentanz’ that I reviewed previously and this sense of feeling also works very well here. There is an anomaly here at 24’22’’ – suddenly, she accelerates massively which is not something I’ve heard other pianists do however, it does lead perfectly into the following section (a recapitulation of the main opening theme) and the next section, marked ‘Marcato’. Somehow, after this, she manages to reign in the speed and calmness is restored for the ‘Cantando’ section at bar 616. Despite these changes, the whole piece holds together extremely well. I like the way she speeds up before the tempo marking of ‘Presto’ at bar 673 as it helps to integrate the structure very well and it comes of less of a shock. I should also point out here that her ‘Presto’ is very quick! As you might expect from the playing, she handles the ending of the piece (where Liszt wraps up all the themes from throughout the work into an amazing quiet ending in B major) absolutely superbly. Again, the nostalgic edge to her playing is to the fore and everything is perfectly judged. This really is a marvellous account of a splendid work.
After the Sonata, the following tracks are 2 of the 3 from the set of Concert Etudes which were published in 1849 with subtitles added by the publisher in a later edition. The best known of these 3 is the final one (‘Un Sospiro)’ which sadly she did not record - a great shame as I feel she would really have made something remarkable of it. Anyway, the first is the longest and is given the title “Il Lamento” – “A Lament”. I’ve always liked this piece far more than the more popular other two in the set. It’s almost constructed like a set of variations with various levels of complexity as the work evolves. The slightly wonky tune around 2 minutes in is splendidly handed and sounds quirky rather than just a reading of what was written. She possessed the ability to sound almost like she was improvising while recording which is very unusual. Again, the tempo is slow overall but there is plenty of variety and the changes in speed are so well judged that you don’t notice. The whole work holds together very well and is marvellously played throughout. The sinister feeling she was able to impart in the ‘Sonata’ and in ‘Totentanz’ is also present here at around 6 and a half minutes and it works very well in this context. This doesn’t last long as the romantic sounding atmosphere is very soon restored with some delectable playing of the awkward rhythms found about 8 minutes in. After more variation style musings of varying levels of difficulty and differing atmospheres, the work draws quietly and very reverently to a close. It sounds like she was almost meditating as she was playing as the atmosphere is so deeply felt.
The second of the studies is much more energetic and is full of chromatic scales however the trick here is to play them lightly – something which she was able to do excellently well. The beginning is amazingly played and very light in touch – however there are also some noisier sections to this work and her fingerwork in these was phenomenal. She builds up to a nice crescendo at around 1’20’’ but doesn’t overcook it by being too loud or bombastic. The following chromatic passages are very fast and incredibly delicate. There is an outburst at 3’06’’ which is full of difficulties but they are all surpassed without a hint of awkwardness and the lead back into more of the chromatic scales is wonderful. The ending is quiet and the music just seems to drift quietly to a halt. This is a marvellous performance of this work and it’s now my favourite of all those which I have heard.
The whole disc contains really super performances of all the works and I can only echo what I wrote about her in my previous review that “Daria Telizyn clearly possessed a superb technique and grasp of musicality” – there is nothing here that would make me change my opinion one iota and I can only lament that she died so young and that she left such a small discography.