While Liszt’s version of 12 songs from Winterreise is the crowning glory of his Schubert transcriptions, there are surprisingly few recordings of the complete set. Only two are presently available (one on fortepiano), making this new recording by Leonardo Pierdomenico a notable event, and coupled uniquely with two versions of Liszt’s own music.
The young Italian pianist has already established himself as a Lisztian of renown and distinction through the Piano Classics album (PCL10151) including the Ballades, Legendes and Csardas macabre. The album won widespread critical admiration: ‘Would that half the seasoned Lisztians I know had Pierdomenico’s keen ear for stylistic differentiation within this half-century of repertory. His highly developed technique and cultivated sound, both adaptable to a variety of affects, are wedded to those twin essentials for artistic Liszt-playing: imagination combined with thoroughgoing, scrupulous musicality.’ (Gramophone, September 2018)
Leonardo Pierdomenico now brings these Lisztian virtues to the songs from Winterreise which Liszt selected and arranged according to his own ordering, beginning like the original with ‘Gute Nacht’ but ending with the grim tavern scene of ‘Im Dorfe’. Along the journey, Liszt exercises all his powers of pianistic invention not merely to incorporate the song line within the piano part but to enrich Schubert’s music with his own sympathetic interpretation. In Der Lindenbaum, Liszt he deploys all manner of flourishes to conjure up the tree’s rustling
leaves. In a surprising twist, he follows it with the cycle’s otherwordly song evoking Der Leiermann, the hurdy-gurdy man.
The recital’s still central point of reflection is supplied by Liszt’s transcription of Gretchen from his Faust Symphony: a loving but complex portrait of the object of Faust’s affections, a cantabile meditation magnificently sustained over almost 20 minutes. By contrast, Totentanz in its solo-piano version is a feat of pianistic imagination, based on the Dies Irae plainchant, to test the most technically assured performers.
Authoritative notes by the pianist and scholar Mark Viner complete a set sure to draw the interest of all Lisztians.
- A new concept album by Leonardo Pierdomenico, in which Love and Death interact in their own merciful or lugubrious way.
- Franz Liszt was fascinated by the songs of Schubert, in a time when the recognition of the Viennese genius was at a low tide. He transcribed a substantial quantity of them for piano solo, sometimes merely combining the existing solo voice and accompaniment, but also creating highly elaborate versions, full of virtuoso and intricate embellishments. This album offers a selection of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, the journey of a disillusioned young lover into oblivion and death.
- The Gretchen section from Liszt’s own Faust Symphony is the bridge towards the Totentanz, for piano solo, a wild and hallucinatory evocation of Death, through the quoting of the Gregorian hymn of Dies Irae, a masterpiece of unparalleled imagination and frenzy.
- This third recording for Piano Classics by young Italian pianist Leonardo Pierdomenico firmly establishes his position as one of the most promising artists of his generation. His first album with works by Franz Liszt (PCL10151) received rave reviews from the international press, among which the prestigious Gramaphone Critic’s Choice: “His highly developed technique and cultivated sound, both adaptable to a variety of affects, are wedded to those twin essentials for artistic Liszt-playing: imagination combined with thoroughgoing, scrupulous musicality.” His second album with the Beethoven/Liszt Symphony 5 and the Beethoven/Alkan 3rd Piano Concerto (PCL10224) made the critic of Fanfare declare Pierdomenico as “the Carlos Kleiber of the piano”.