LISZT: Selected Works = Two Concert Etudes; Six Consolations; Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude; Trois Liebestraume; Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12; Les Cloches de Geneve; Three Petrarch Sonnets; Mephisto Waltz No. 1 – Dmitri Vorobiev, piano – Blue Griffin BGR267 (2 CDs) 59:00; 50:45 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Russian pianist Dmitri Vorobiev has won competitions in Italy (Casagrande International Piano Competition) and the New Orleans International Piano Competition. From this all-Liszt recital (rec. 25-26 August 2012), he brings a natural prowess and temperament to the composer’s demands for both bravura and poetry. Vorobiev assembled the program to celebrate Liszt’s Bi-Centennial in 2011, stating, “It is difficult to imagine what the world of classical piano would be today without his influence.”
The 1847 Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp Minor has had equally potent exponents in Bolet, Bachauer, and Levitzky; and Vorobiev’s Steinway D certainly offers pungently stylish evocations of gypsy sensibilities in ravishing sound. We do not often recall that the work is dedicated to Joseph Joachim, whose own tastes favored colorful gypsy accents. Vorobiev deliberately slows the final section to a kind martial tempo whose flourishes and variants explode with humor and gaiety. From the same year, on an entirely contrary plane of experience, Liszt composed at Woronince the Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude, a modally ecstatic piece that exploits the Magyar version of the pentatonic scale. Much of the “communal” aspect of the meditation occurs in D Major. Vorobiev approaches this monumental piece with reverent devotion, as he does the dreamy nocturne of 1833, Les Cloches de Geneve, dedicated to Liszt’s daughter Blandine, by Countess Marie d’Agoult. Liquid triplets suggest pearls in space rather than “mere” church bells whose layers reach another ecstasy here in Liszt’s first Italian “Year of Pilgrimage.” Vorobiev’s capacity to shape Liszt’s vocal line informs the set of 1850 Six Consolations, of which the D-flat Major (No. 3, Lento placido) reverberates with allusions to the D-flat Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2 of Chopin.
The two parallel sets of poetry, the Liebestraume and the Sonetti del Petrarca, receive from Vorobiev a sensitively fluent reading that invests the music with the full sense of their poetic inspirations and reference points. We do not often audition—except from integralists like Kentner, Arrau and Bolet—the set of three Petrarch Sonnets in one sitting, each devoted to an aspect of love in the manner of Plato or Shakespeare. Certainly, the No. 47 on the subject of courtly love rivals in beauty the ubiquitous Sonnet 104 and its layered tropes on (unrequited) erotic passion. No. 123 lifts the sentiment heavenward, the melodic line conceived as an ornamented plainchant, arioso, over luscious bass harmonies. So, too, we rarely hear the Three Liebestraume at once, with their poems by Uhland and Freiligrath. The first of the Nocturnes, “Hohe Liebe,” embraces a celestial vision; the second “Blissful Death,” exploits the conceit of love and death; and the popular A-flat Major “O love!” celebrates mature love. The curlicues and silver scales of No. 1 easily suggest some of Liszt’s “water pieces” in Vorobiev’s silken realization.
Vorobiev proffers three virtuoso works besides the Hungarian Rhapsody: the 1862 Two Concert Etudes “Waldesrauschen” and “Gnomenreigen” provide, respectively, surges of sixteenth notes and driving rhythms, particularly in the latter, with its homage to the elfin flights of Mendelssohn and Berlioz. The 1860 Mephisto Waltz No. 1 substantiates Louis Kentner’s famous remark that “Liszt feared God, but he loved the Devil.” Vorobiev takes the Horowitz approach here, the village wedding a springboard for Mephisto to seize a violin and convert the otherwise religious sacrament into a witches’ brew. Playful and sensuous, the dance explodes with theatrical pauses and suspended cadences, liberally applied. As an execution de bravura, the piece makes a fitting conclusion to a well-considered and brilliantly performed homage to the eternal master of the Romantic piano.