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Liszt: Piano Concertos, Hungarian Fantasy / Arghamanyan, Altinoglu

Liszt / Arghamanyan / Altinoglu
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Pentatone   Catalog #: 5186397  
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Nareh Arghamanyan
Conductor:  Alain Altinoglu
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Not that anyone buys a recording of Liszt’s flashy Hungarian Fantasy for the orchestra part, but check out this SACD if you want to hear the final section’s percussion parts defined as in no other version, or the first-desk orchestral solos sounding like real first-desk orchestral solos rather than window dressing. In the Totentanz I’ve never heard the passage with solo bassoon and low strings so sharply and acerbically delineated as here. Nor, in the First concerto’s final section, do I recall ever hearing such a sumptuous yet crystal-clear orchestral image that reveals the piano, pizzicato strings, rapid wind flourishes, and trusty solo triangle effortlessly dovetailing each other on a three-dimensional sonic canvas. The Second concerto Read more also receives a vividly detailed and disciplined reading, but it doesn’t quite match the animation, outward panache, and demonic edge with which Richter, Janis, Thibaudet, and Cohen have spoiled me over the years.

And speaking of pianists, it’s time to mention Nareh Arghamanyan, whose earlier PentaTone solo Rachmaninov disc earned a rave review from yours truly. She takes lots of liberties with Liszt’s texts, yet does so with a sense of purpose and a high degree of technical refinement. In the First concerto’s solo sections, Arghamanyan metes out rubato in gradual proportions in the manner of a conductor, yet often shapes decorative passagework in strict tempo, making expressive points through accent and coloration. You also hear the pianist shade the bravura descending double notes in the Second concerto to mesh with her orchestral surroundings; many pianists simply, obliviously, pound them out.

If Arghamanyan’s phrasing of the Hungarian Fantasy’s main theme is too cut and dried at the outset (where are Earl Wild’s added arpeggio fills or George Cziffra’s roller-coaster phrasing when we need them?), I like how she bites into the Friska’s often smoothed-out dissonances. For all four of these works on one disc, Thibaudet/Dutoit still rules for overall flair and consistency, yet this release’s interpretive care and high sonic standards deserve serious consideration, together with Ronald Vermeulen’s excellent booklet notes.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1. Hungarian Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra, S 123 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Nareh Arghamanyan (Piano)
Conductor:  Alain Altinoglu
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1852; Weimar, Germany 
2. Concerto for Piano no 2 in A major, S 125 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Nareh Arghamanyan (Piano)
Conductor:  Alain Altinoglu
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839/1861; Weimar, Germany 
3. Concerto for Piano no 1 in E flat major, S 124 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Nareh Arghamanyan (Piano)
Conductor:  Alain Altinoglu
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849/1856; Weimar, Germany 

Sound Samples

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124/R455: Allegro maestoso
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124/R455: Quasi adagio - Allegretto vivace
Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, S124/R455: Allegro marziale animato
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125/R456: Adagio sostenuto assai -
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125/R456: Allegro agitato assai -
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125/R456: Allegro deciso -
Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major, S125/R456: Marziale un poco meno allegro
Totentanz, S126/R457: Andante - Allegro - Allegro moderato -
Totentanz, S126/R457: Variation 1 - Variation 2 -
Totentanz, S126/R457: Variation 3 -
Totentanz, S126/R457: Variation 4 -
Totentanz, S126/R457: Variation 5 -
Totentanz, S126/R457: Variation 6
Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes, S123/R458, "Hungarian Fantasy"

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Extraordinarily uninspired March 12, 2013 By David R. (Pine, CO) See All My Reviews "Best of all here are the two non-concerto works, the Totentanz and Fantasy. They have some adrenaline and sense of involvment. But the main works here are non-starters. VERY fussy from both pianist and conductor alike. Tempos are all over the place. No tempo has a chance to establish iteself for more than a bar or two before it's stretched and pulled and tugged out of any kind of musical sense. The conductor is the real problem here. He takes every possible chance to slam on the brakes and halt any sense of momentum or coherence. There are a few moments of fluffing the notes from the pianist too. She is clearly not ready to play these concertos. Add to that, an unusally stuffy and congested recording from PentaTone and you've got a near disaster. All in all, this is the record that absolutely needed have been made. There are simply too many good pianists and conductors out there making wonderful music that should be given the chance, and this one shouldn't have been. Most disappointing." Report Abuse
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