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Liszt - An Orchestra On The Piano / Orazio Sciortino

Liszt / Sciortino
Release Date: 04/24/2012 
Label:  Dynamic   Catalog #: 716  
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LISZT Gretchen. Le Triomphe funèbre du Tasse. Orpheus. Les Préludes. Mephisto Waltz No. 1 Orazio Sciortino (pn) DYNAMIC CDS 716 (68:10)

This interesting recording by the Sicilian-born pianist and composer Orazio Sciortino presents Liszt orchestral works in transcriptions by his pupil August Stradal ( Orpheus ), by Karl Klauser ( Les Préludes ), by Read more Ferruccio Busoni ( Mephisto Waltz ), and by Liszt himself ( Gretchen— second movement of A Faust Symphony— and the third of the Trois odes funèbres, Le Triomphe funèbre du Tasse ). They are studio recordings made in Milan, where Sciortino now lives, in November 2011.

The transcriptions themselves are varied in nature. Liszt’s of Gretchen and Busoni’s of the Mephisto Waltz are, in terms of length and pianistic textures, the most elaborate. The Triumphal Funeral of Tasso is not so long a work, and Liszt’s translation of it for piano is, comparatively speaking, straightforward. A late Liszt pupil, August Stradal transcribed all 12 of the Weimar symphonic poems, which are much less freighted with virtuoso scaffolding than, say, the surviving transcriptions of Karl Tausig. Given that of all the symphonic poems, Orpheus is the most direct in utterance and the most delicately scored, the choice of the Stradal transcription seems appropriate. Karl Klauser was one of several arrangers engaged by Breitkopf & Härtel to produce solo versions of Liszt’s symphonic poems, which were then published alongside Liszt’s own transcriptions for piano duet and for two pianos and the orchestral originals. According to the Searle-Winklhofer-Short-Howard catalog (2004), Liszt had a hand in shaping Klauser’s arrangement, which dates apparently from the 1860s.

The most remarkable aspect of Sciortino’s performances is their bold conception. His readings are those of a seasoned conductor, at once sensitive to expressive detail yet always delineating the greater architectural structure in vivid relief. His technical equipment is formidable, allowing him to toss off the thorny Busoni Mephisto Waltz with alacrity and panache. (The difference between the Liszt and Busoni transcriptions of this piece, incidentally, might be characterized thus: In the Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Liszt made a piano piece out of his orchestral work, whereas Busoni’s transcription is more or less a literal rendering for piano of the orchestral version of it, the second of the Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust. ) Here, as indeed throughout the recording, Sciortino’s scrupulous attention to the details of voice-leading is particularly appealing. He is also the master of unconventional and highly effective pedal effects; witness for example track 5 at 6:24.

But for all the abundant coloristic effects brought to bear in the Busoni, I find the ardent portrait of Gretchen the most moving in strictly musical terms. Its understated lyricism is so tender, so poignant in every detail, that there were moments when I felt as though I were hearing this music, familiar to me from childhood, for the first time. Moreover, on the keyboard, the subtle dissonances stand out with greater piquancy than when played by an orchestra. No less touching is the tragic dignity of Le Triomphe funèbre du Tasse. In fact, in terms of affective impact, Sciortino’s performance compares favorably to the recent excellent recording of the orchestral original by Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Hyperion CDA 67856).

In both Les Préludes and Orpheus we again encounter the sensitivity to textural and agogic nuance, the sense of inevitability and aptness with regard to tempo and momentum, and originality of conception that pervade the other pieces. Sciortino’s gifts, both as a musician and as a pianist, seem to exist in perfect symbiosis. This recording whets the appetite to hear more of his Liszt playing and to hear him perform his own music. Warmly recommended.

FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
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Works on This Recording

Orpheus, S 98 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1854; Weimar, Germany 
Les préludes, S 97 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848/1854; Weimar, Germany 
Episodes from Lenau's Faust, S 110: no 2, Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke "Mephisto Waltz no 1" by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861; Weimar, Germany 
Le Triomphe Funčbre du Tasse, S 517 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; Rome, Italy 
Faust Symphony, S 108: 2nd movement, Gretchen by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Orazio Sciortino (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1857; Weimar, Germany 

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