Notes and Editorial Reviews
Eight Transcriptions from
Nicolas Horvath (pn)
EDITIONS HORTUS 100 (70:15)
Liszt’s music is not exactly unknown and his fan base is not exactly lacking in numbers. Yet, for a composer whose name is instantly recognizable, Liszt remains remarkably misunderstood and alarmingly underappreciated. Indeed, even Liszt’s admirers are usually able to list only a few of his works (all written for the piano), and their admiration stems largely from being unafraid to admit having a guilty
pleasure. I came to appreciate Liszt’s music relatively late in my formative years, after hearing some of his late piano works, and despite my past indifference towards him, in recent years I have come to regard Liszt as one of the most important composers of the Romantic era, and quite possibly, the most influential one. The fact of the matter is that, without Liszt, the history of music would look drastically different from what we know it to be. That is because Liszt’s experimentations with chromaticism, bitonality, atonality, complex harmonies, and myriad compositional techniques many of us associate with the 20th century, inspired many fellow composers—among them Wagner, Debussy, Bartók, and Messiaen—to push the limits of musical expression to new boundaries.
Prior to hearing this new recording featuring the outstanding young pianist Nicolas Horvath, I considered Liszt’s oratorio
as a respectable, but not extraordinary work. Horvath’s recording, which consists of transcriptions of eight of the 14 movements that make up the oratorio, was a real revelation to me. Paradoxically, hearing Liszt’s scores played on a single instrument allowed me to hear the striking novelty of the music as never before. Much to my surprise, nearly all of the compositional techniques Liszt would later use in works like
Nuages gris, La lugubre gondola, Dem Andenken Pet?fis, Unstern!
, and so on, are already present in
Horvath’s pianism is spectacular. While you might not know it from hearing the disc, these transcriptions are at times diabolically difficult to play, so much so that they make many of the
sound like a proverbial walk in the park. Horvath overcomes Liszt’s obstacles with almost superhuman ease, although it is clear at times that the fearsome demands of the score are pushing the limits of what is humanly achievable behind a keyboard. What’s more, Horvath almost makes you forget that an orchestra and platoon of singers are missing. To be sure, some of the movements (e.g., “The Three Magi” and “The Miracle”) work better as piano pieces than others, but all are worthwhile hearing. The quality of the recorded sound is very fine, although somewhat dry. Highly recommended.
FANFARE: Radu A. Lelutiu
Works on This Recording
Christus, S 3 by Franz Liszt
Nicholas Horvath (Piano)
Written: 1862-1867; Rome, Italy
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