LISZT: Rhapsodie Espagnole; Malediction; Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes; SCHUBERT-LISZT: Wanderer Fantasy Op. 15 – Joshua Pierce, piano/ Moscow State Philharmonic Orch./State Symphony orch. of Russia (on Hungarian Fantasia)/ Paul Freeman – MSR Classics

by | Mar 18, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

LISZT: Rhapsodie Espagnole; Malediction; Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes; SCHUBERT-LISZT: Wanderer Fantasy Op. 15 – Joshua Pierce, piano/ Moscow State Philharmonic Orch./State Symphony orch. of Russia (on Hungarian Fantasia)/ Paul Freeman – MSR Classics [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Concert pianist Pierce has an immense repertory and has recorded widely for many different labels. His MSR recordings so far have covered Liszt, Brahms, Schubert, and the five Beethoven Piano Concertos.  This fascinating program brings together four Liszt works that epitomize exotic, dark and romantic elements in his many compositions and arrangements.  He was the ultimate virtuoso of his time, creating keyboard works that made the fullest use of the capabilities of the newly-enhanced concert grand piano. All of these works pull out all the stops in achieving the sort of crowd-pleasing effect the composer-pianist strove for.

The Spanish Rhapsody goes thru variations of several Spanish folk tunes, including the famous La Folia.  The Malediction is a strangely dark piece, according to the composer’s notes in the music having something to do with a curse. The Hungarian Fantasia is similar to the Spanish Rhapsody in working with various folk melodies.

Schubert’s large-scale Wanderer Fantasy is already a daunting work to perform – Schubert himself avoided it.  But this just challenged Liszt, who elaborated on and ornamented the Fantasy into different versions for solo piano, for four hands, and this “Symphonic Poem for Piano and Orchestra.” It takes Schubert’s already stirring main theme, which carries thruout the work, and ramps it up to the Lisztian super-virtuoso level – making it actually more exciting and impressive than the original.  Pierce is fully up to the virtuoso challenge and delivers the full Romantic goods.

 – John Sunier

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