The huge literature of transcriptions by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) has always suffered a mixed reputation: prized by fellow composers from Busoni to Finnissy, performed by virtuosi from Arrau to Zilberstein, yet vilified by many critics. Even the composer’s long-term companion, Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, considered them ‘puerilities’. In the composer’s own lifetime they were thought inseparable from his incomparable artistry at the piano: Sir Charles Hallé told the story of a concert given by Liszt and Berlioz in Paris in 1836 in which Berlioz conducted the Marche au Supplice from the Symphonie Fantastique. At the conclusion of the movement, Liszt sat down and played his own partition of the work ‘with an effect even surpassing that of the full orchestra, and creating an indescribable furore.’
Love, enthusiasm, and veneration always marked Liszt's attitude toward Schubert, and he paid his tribute by word and deed. He transcribed many of the Lieder for solo piano and edited for publication most of his piano compositions. As a conductor at Weimar he even attempted to revive Schubert’s much-maligned operas. In the often-overlooked Soirées de Vienne, Liszt turned his keen and sympathetic eye to the six groups of piano waltzes which Schubert composed between 1815 and 1923. Unlike much of his music, they were published and widely distributed during his lifetime, brief and occasional works but full of Schubert’s inimitable spontaneity, entrancing melody, breathtaking modulations, emotional range, and sparingly deployed, pungent dissonance.
Liszt drew from all six groups in composing the Soirées de Vienne. He preserved the Viennese flavour of the original melodies, lending them just enough sonority to make them suitable for a concert hall without sacrificing their original intimacy and delicacy. He juxtaposed the tunes, made transitions from one to the next, with characteristic taste and discrimination. He refrained from heavy-handed virtuoso treatment, yet he achieved flashing brilliance whenever Schubert wrote with a bold or assertive pen. The ninth and last of the Soirées stands apart as an original set of variations with an introduction and coda upon Schubert’s so-called Trauerwalzer.
While No.6 of the collection has often been recorded, the complete Soirées de Vienne are rarely encountered either live or on record, making Alberto Ferro’s new recording all the more welcome. Born in 1996, he was a first-prize winner of several significant competitions before making his career as both a performer and teacher (professor of piano at the conservatoire in Foggia). The present release marks his debut on Piano Classics.
Franz Liszt, indefatigable pianist, conductor and composer, was one of the first romantic composers to recognize the genius of Franz Schubert. Apart from his numerous piano transcriptions of Schubert’s songs he arranged 34 waltzes, written by Schubert to entertain his audience, into a series of 9 “Soirées de Vienne”, elaborate compositions written in Liszt’s inimitable pianistic idiom, refined, perceptive and utterly charming.
Alberto Ferro (born 1996) is one of the most remarkable talents of today. He achieved his Master's degree under the guidance of Prof. Epifanio Comis, his lifetime mentor, at the "Vincenzo Bellini" Institute of Music in Catania (2018). He also attended several piano masterclasses held by very important pianists such as Michel Béroff, Dina Yoffe, Leslie Howard, Elisso Virsaladze, Joaquín Achúcarro, Richard Goode, Jörg Demus and Vladimir Ashkenazy. He won the 2017 Beethoven Competition in Bonn and took top prizes at the Busoni Competition as well as the Premio Venezia. His recent CD with the Etudes-Tableaux by Rachmaninoff received 5-star reviews in the international press.