BBC Music Magazine - - CONCERTO -

Brahms: Pi­ano Con­certo No. 1; Liszt: Three Fu­neral Odes Sán­dor Fal­vai (pi­anist); Hun­gar­ian Na­tional Phil­har­monic Orches­tra/ Zoltán Koc­sis

Ce­les­tial Har­monies 07869 80:59 mins (2 discs)

Zoltán Koc­sis’s death last Novem­ber, aged only 64, hit the clas­si­cal mu­sic com­mu­nity hard. There­fore this record­ing, posthu­mously re­leased, ac­quires ex­tra poignancy as Koc­sis and the Hun­gar­ian Na­tional Phil­har­monic Orches­tra (HNPO), of which he had been mu­sic direc­tor since 1997, tra­verse the grand rhetoric of their fel­low coun­try­man Franz Liszt’s three Fu­neral Odes. This mu­sic is, ad­mit­tedly, not al­ways Liszt’s finest, but with re­strained pace, sin­u­ous strings and the evo­ca­tion of taut, Danube-black at­mos­pheres, the HNPO and Koc­sis make the best pos­si­ble case for its min­gling of the cer­e­mo­ni­ous and the tragic.

Brahms’s Pi­ano Con­certo No. 1 can be nearly as dark. The youth­ful com­poser con­ceived the first ver­sion shortly af­ter his men­tor Robert Schu­mann’s sui­cide at­tempt. The soloist Sán­dor Fal­vai, a for­mer pres­i­dent of Bu­dapest’s Franz

Liszt Academy, of­fers play­ing of great dis­tinc­tion, char­ac­terised by fine and shin­ing sound, strongly de­lin­eated struc­ture and a sense of con­tained power that bursts forth when re­quired. Tem­pos are per­haps slightly pon­der­ous, but main­tain the per­for­mance’s in­tense se­ri­ous­ness of ap­proach while al­low­ing melodic lines time to sing.

Some may con­sider the weighty in­ter­pre­ta­tions, plain pre­sen­ta­tion and co­pi­ous, eru­dite pro­gramme notes old fash­ioned. In fact the fo­cus is en­tirely on the point and the heart of the mu­sic. Jes­sica Duchen

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