Notes and Editorial Reviews
Ballade No. 2.
Années de pèlerinage:
Sonetti del Petrarca; Gondoliera; Canzone; Tarantella; Après une lecture de Dante
Alexander Krichel (pn)
TELOS 129 (72:03)
Predictably enough, those young pianists who have chosen to make their recording debuts with Liszt programs during the composer’s bicentennial are as diverse as the profession itself. Generally speaking, they are immaculately trained, musically sophisticated,
and beyond technically proficient. Most of them are obviously steeped in Liszt’s idiom, in itself no small feat. Compared with that of his great contemporaries Chopin and Schumann, Liszt’s music for piano is more stylistically diverse and there’s a great deal more of it. But over and above stylistic discernment, formidable technical equipment, a singing tone, secure grasp of Liszt’s advanced harmonic idiom, and the ability to elucidate the architectonics of his innovative formal structures, one element of successful Liszt playing, it seems to me, is paramount: a rich musical imagination. If Liszt is always pianistic, he nevertheless routinely calls on his interpreters to be supra-pianistic, to emulate the human voice, to conjure the colors and timbres of an orchestra, or to summon the rhetorical precision of a distinguished orator. It is in this realm of the musical imagination—exploring its farthest reaches for those various capacities to suggest and evoke, with clarity and proportion, a poetic idea—that most of the newcomers come up short. Happily a couple of this year’s debutants seem to have it all: the technique, instinct, culture, intellect, intuition, and the imagination for truly superlative Liszt playing. One of them is Alexander Krichel. He is a native of Hamburg, will be 22 this year, and has won prizes for his work as a mathematician as well as for his piano playing.
Krichel’s intelligent program includes four pieces from Book 2 of the
Années de pèlerinage
; the supplement to Book 2,
Venezia e Napoli
, in its entirety; and the B-Minor Ballade. He favors unrushed tempos, though even at his most leisurely the line is always beautifully maintained. This elegant
playing strikes just the right tone of ease and freedom in the
Venezia e Napoli
pieces, evoking the popularity of the melodies they incorporate—Perucchini in the
, Rossini in the
, and Cottrau in the trio of the
This is not to say that Kirchel doesn’t muster bravura and speed aplenty when called for. After the two languorous Venetian gondola songs, the
erupts in a paroxysm of fury that, despite its headlong pace, never sacrifices clarity. By contrast, the lyricism Krichel brings to the Petrarch Sonnets is aristocratic, passionate yet chaste, an apt pianistic equivalent, one feels, of these most refined of Renaissance poems. Phrasing and articulation match those of the songs from which the piano pieces derive. Everything is conceived in terms of human breath. The dramatic sweep and high-flown rhetoric of the fearsome
are tempered by luminous textures and an infinitely graded dynamic spectrum. Krichel’s approach to the B-Minor Ballade is perhaps the most original of all. He creates a splendid sense of atmosphere, alternately ominous, heroic, and sensually transcendent. Foreground and background are expertly delineated with an unerring sense of what should be emphasized and what relegated to supporting detail.
Recording values are excellent and the dimensionality of Krichel’s Steinway D faithfully portrayed. In his charmingly self-effacing foreword to the booklet notes, Krichel writes that he aims to show something besides the common image of Liszt as a shallow virtuoso, concluding, “I hope that my intentions become clear when listening to this album.” Indeed, no one will mistake his interpretations for anything less than genuine artistry. No doubt in the future, aspects of his music-making will continue to grow and ripen. But this is a young man from whom, given time and the alignment of whatever stars may govern a life in art, we may reasonably expect great things.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
Works on This Recording
Venezia e Napoli, S 162 by Franz Liszt
Alexander Krichel (Piano)
Written: 1859; Weimar, Germany
Length: 19 Minutes 10 Secs.
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