SCHUBERT Three Piano Pieces, D 946. SCHUBERT-LISZT Der Doppelgänger. Aufenhalt. Ständchen von Shakespeare. PAGANINI-LISZT La chasse. LISZT Après une lecture du Dante—Fantasia quasi Sonata, S 161/7 • Zsolt Bognár (pn) • CON BRIO 21346 (57: 40)
Read more For more than a decade, the young pianist Zsolt Bognár has been studying at the Cleveland Institute of Music with the eminent artist and pedagogue Sergei Babayan. Through Babayan, Bognár has been steeped in the Russian pianistic tradition associated with the likes of Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, two giants whom Bognár cites as formative influences. Bognár’s pedigree, however, is not entirely Russian. Before studying with Babayan, Bognár worked with Roger Shields, a pupil of Soulima Stravinsky, Yvonne Loriod, and Wilhelm Kempff. Bognár’s complex musical lineage is reflected in his playing, which is at once virtuosic, probing, and affecting.
In Schubert’s Klavierstücke, Bognár impresses me with his unforced poetry, his judicious use of rubato, and his understanding of the subtle tempo relationships and kaleidoscopic color and dynamic shades that characterize these enigmatic works. Those qualities are also present in Bognár’s traversal of the Liszt transcriptions of Schubert’s songs, Der Doppelgänger, Aufenthalt, and Ständchen von Shakespeare. One minor quibble concerns Bognár’s slightly romanticized treatment of Der Doppelgänger. Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach’s way with this bone-chilling song (see my review in 36:1) has forever changed my perception of it. In the Liszt Etude and the Dante Sonata, Bognár’s playing sizzles with white-hot virtuosity, pinpoint control, and interpretive freedom reminiscent of Lazar Berman.
One of the handful of rules Fanfare reviewers are required to follow provides for comparative evaluation aimed at informing the reader how the album under consideration measures up against the competition. Most often, I find this comparative exercise to be daunting because it is enormously subjective, not to mention inherently unfair. At times, however, this task results in the subject of the comparison itself becoming a future reference. At bottom, that is the gist of my conclusions regarding Bognár’s album—that is, I know of no recording of the featured repertoire that is finer than Bognár’s. The most appropriate praise that comes to mind is that another critic once bestowed upon Ivan Moravec—each and every one of these recordings is a thing of beauty itself, rare and luminous as a Ming vase.
The quality of the sound engineering is outstanding. Warmly recommended.
An overdue and impressive debut recordingMarch 25, 2014By T. Drake (South Euclid, OH)See All My Reviews"Disclosure: I have followed the performer's career with interest since attending his stunning performance of Tchaikovsky's Second Piano Concerto in 2006 and have become acquainted with him. It's nice, for a change, to hear a debut recording by a Classical performer who isn't the latest competition winner or flash-in-the-pan Internet sensation. Zsolt Bognár is a native of Illinois, whose parents are of Hungarian and Philippine ancestry. The pianist, who holds triple citizenship, studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Sergei Babayan, and his performances have a suitably cosmopolitan perspective. Born in 1982, this CD was recorded when he was 28 and it's obvious from the results that he's already a fully mature artist - unlike a certain other pianist also born in 1982. Schubert's three posthumous Impromptus (D. 946) have not attained the popularity of the two earlier sets. I'm familiar with recordings by Pollini and Kempff, and an especially fine but indifferently recorded performance by Richter. Bognár gives the first Impromptu, in E-flat minor, a greater sense of urgency than Pollini, which contrasts well with the central section B major. The second Impromptu, in E-flat major, is given a spacious interpretation; darker toned than Kempff, with disturbing bass accents during the A-flat minor trio. The Allegro of the third Impromptu is held back slightly, an interpretive decision that perplexed me, as I've heard Bognár play it in concert with more brio. But as the work progressed, I realized the tempo was chosen so that it would segue smoothly into the central trio - so that the piece emerges as unified, not sectionalized. Bognár's is now my "go-to" set for these pieces. Bognár's rendition of the Ständchen von Shakespeare (also known as Hark, Hark, the Lark) features an attention to voicing, phrasing, and a delicacy sadly missing from Kissin's version, while his treatment of Der Doppelgänger, a work that harkens toward Liszt's Il Penseroso, is a chilling amalgam of stillness and motion. Liszt's Dante Sonata is a work I've heard pounded and hacked through so much that I've almost come to dread it. Alternately, some have tried to make the work more profound than it is and have turned it into something terminally boring. Bognár brings gravitas, without pretense or portent, to the more lyrical sections, while bringing ample virtuosity to the more extroverted sections. Bognár, rare for today's pianists, seems highly attentive to tonal quality: his fortes are never harsh, and his pianissimos remain clearly audible. There's a sense of rise & fall to the phrasing that reflects the structure of the piece, so it builds to the climax rather than rushing forth. The excellent sonics nicely balance immediacy with impact."Report Abuse