Notes and Editorial Reviews
Elsas Breitzug zum Munster
Tristan und Isolde:
Prelude (transcr. Kocsis);
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg:
Prelude to act I (transcr. Kocsis).
Zoltán Kocsis (pn)
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 7401 (44:28)
Zoltán Kocsis has always been one of the most musical pianists around, and his Bartók series is a true milestone in recording history. That musicality is essentially what carries this disc through. In including his own arrangements, he valiantly and laudably enters the arena of the great pianist-transcribers, and comes off remarkably well. In taking some Liszt transcriptions and adding some of his own, it becomes clear that this is a labor of love. Recorded in London in September 1980, this is an impressive (but short) collection of transcriptions.
excerpt is delicately done, and the impression is actually very lovely. Unfortunately in
passages the piano recording is wiry, verging towards the tinny, and the sound lacks some depth (in fairness the ear does adjust, to some degree). Kocsis is a great guide, though, infinitely sensitive, as he is in his own take on the
Prelude. Somehow he manages to sustain the long unaccompanied or sparsely accompanied lines, in the process linking this to Liszt’s late works for piano. Kocsis shapes the performance impeccably. In lesser hands this might easily sound insubstantial and very obviously a transcription (the piano is not built to crescendo through long notes, for example). Yet Kocsis plays with such passion that the build-up to the climax is tremendously exciting. The
rises with some sense of inevitably from the ashes of the Prelude and is infused with the same level of resonance Kocsis displayed in the Prelude. Compare and contrast this with Barry Douglas’s 1986 RCA recording, a celebration of technique over musicianship.
Overture is grandly conceived and grandly delivered, with nice swoops upwards, and Kocsis really seems to revel in the more lyrical parts. But it does rather run out of steam later on and as such is the weakest item so far; the ending (particularly the last chord) is unconvincing. The low bell sounds of the
excerpt are an essay in blackness.
At 44 minutes, this is very low playing time for a compact disc. It is good to have it in the catalog, though, and much of the playing is cherishable.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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