Notes and Editorial Reviews
Lazar Berman combines grandeur and sensibility to a rare degree and his response to challenging Book Three, in particular, is of the highest musical quality and poetic insight.
Slightly more warmth and detail emerges in DG's 20-bit remastering of Lazar Berman's 1977 recording of Liszt's Années de pèlerinage compared to the label's earlier CD edition. As a technician, Berman is extraordinary in terms of sheer evenness, control, and rhythmic panache, yet he always channels his considerable craft toward musical ends. It's a relief, for example, to hear octave passages in Orage, Vallée d'Obermann, and the Dante Sonata shaped in sentence-like phrases rather than banged out. In turn, the Tarantella's
repeated notes sound like quicksilver pearls rather than pellets. Listeners attracted to Jorge Bolet's suave sobriety in the cycle's more lyrical, rhetorical selections also will respond to Berman's similar eloquence in the three Petrach Sonetti, Book One's opening and closing pieces (Chapelle de Guillaume Tell and Les Cloches de Genève), and Book Three's introspective, forward-looking Sursum corda and Sunt lacrymae rerum. Of course Berman won't displace my affection for Claudio Arrau's more soul-searching inflections in Les Jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este, Wilhelm Kempff's magically shaded Au bord d'une source, or the ravishing inner voices Vladimir Horowitz clarifies in the Petrarch Sonetto 104. Still, this set remains the reference Années de pèlerinage... [8/24/2002]
-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
Liszt's three volumes of Annees de pelerinage are rarely recorded complete, largely because many pianists remain baffled by the dark-hued prophecy and romanticism of the third and final book. So it is particularly gratifying to welcome Lazar Berman's superb 1977 DG recordings back into the catalogue, particularly when so finely remastered on CD. Berman is hardly celebrated as the most subtle or refined of pianists, but at his greatest he combines grandeur and sensibility to a rare degree and his response to Book Three, in particular, is of the highest musical quality and poetic insight. Try the opening of "Angelus", where Liszt depicts the uncertain peal of bells with an impressionistic delicacy worthy of Debussy, and you will surely marvel at how far he journeyed from the earlier flamboyance of, say "La Campanella"—a wholly different chime. Berman's resource here is scarcely less remarkable and his performance of the entire book is hauntingly inward and sympathetic to both the radiance of "Les jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este" and to Liszt's truly dark night of the soul (lamentoso, doloroso and so on), to his desolating lack of spiritual solace elsewhere. Berman's performance of "Jeux" is indeed a far cry from other more superficially brilliant accounts by Pletnev or Andre Watts (EMI, 12/86—nla) and in his hands "Sursum Corda" only achieves its final uplift after pages or a truly harrowing intensity.
Berman is hardly less persuasive in the first two books. "Chapelle de Guillaume Tell" is a true celebration of Switzerland's republican hero with alpine horns ringing through the mountains, while in "Au lac de Wallenstadt" Berman's gently undulating traversal is truly pianissimo and dokissimo egualamente. His "Orage" is predictably breathtaking, though even he cannot match the pulverizing force in this piece of Joseph Villa (Second Hearing—nla), and in the gloomy Byronic "Vallee d'Obermann" the severest critic will find himself discarding his Becicmesser's pencil, mesmerized by Berman's free-wheeling eloquence. On the debit side, "Eglogue" is more breathless than serene and "Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa" is occasionally heavy-handed. Berman's three Petrarch Sonnets, too, are less consistently ardent than those from Artur Pizarro or Kathryn Stott on their more recent recordings, but elsewhere he is as warmhearted as he is masterful, concluding Venezia e Napoli (Book Two's supplement and garland of encores) with the most characterful and virtuosic of all recorded Tarantellas.
-- Gramophone [11/1993]
reviewing this set reissued previously as DG 437206 Read less
Works on This Recording
Venezia e Napoli, S 162 by Franz Liszt
Lazar Berman (Piano)
Written: 1859; Weimar, Germany
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