SCHUBERT: Fantasy in C “Wanderer” D 760; LISZT: 2nd Year – Italy – from “Années de pelerinage” – Luiza Borac, piano – Avie

by | Jan 16, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SCHUBERT: Fantasy in C “Wanderer” D 760; LISZT: 2nd Year – Italy – from “Années de pelerinage” – Luiza Borac, piano – Avie multichannel SACD AV2061, 74:14 ****:

At first look it may seem rather odd to couple these two contrasting composers on the same disc, but there are actually a number of connections. Each of them contributed one variations on a waltz by Diabelli to a collection featuring 50 different composers. After Schubert’s death Liszt arranged the Wanderer Fantasy for piano and orchestra, and he also made solo piano transcriptions of many Schubert songs.

Schubert’s Wanderer is surely his most extroverted and heroic work for piano – almost more like what Liszt would write. And most of the half-dozen Liszt works on this disc are more intimate and poignant, more like we usually think of Schubert. Only the Fantasia After a Lecture on Dante gets into the more flamboyant style associated with Liszt.  It was a pleasant surprise to find the complete Wanderer poem by George Philipp Schmidt printed on the back of the note booklet; I had never seen it before.  The piece deals with a standard Schubertian theme of a lonely and alienated figure who is far from his homeland and pines for it.  It is cyclical in structure, transforming in various ways in all of its four movements the original rhythmic theme which came from a 1816 Schubert lied.

The first of the Liszt pieces in the Years of Pilgrimage set for Italy is an otherworldly depiction of the “celestial graces” mentioned in Petrach’s Sonnet No. 123, which is also reprinted in the note booklet.  The Dante Lecture piece was also inspired by a poem, this time by Victor Hugo. Its opening is a virtuoso impression of hellfire. The next three shorter selections capture scenes in Venice and Naples – The Gondolier, the Song of the Gondolier, the Neapolitan Tarantella. An encore to the well-filled SACD is the most impressionistic, almost Debussian sound of The Fountain of the Villa d’Este.

Luiza Borac brought us earlier on this same label the excellent SACD of the three Piano Suites by Enescu – her Romanian countryman. Her playing is sensitive and beautifully phrased on all the works, but there are Wanderer performances of a more heroic nature – which the piece seems to call for. However, they are not on SACD, and the transparent clarity and impact of the fine piano sound on this disc (in both stereo and multichannel) erases most of my wanting for a slightly more muscular Wanderer.

 – John Sunier 

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