New Discoveries, Vol. 4: Rêves et fantaisies
Leslie Howard (piano)
Hyperion CDA 68247 74:35 mins
2018 will go down as the year when not only did cricketer Alastair Cook finish his Test career with a century, but Leslie Howard made his 100th disc of
Liszt piano music. Although it bears Liszt’s own title ‘Rêves et fantaisies’, it can more prosaically be divided into ‘promesses’ and ‘réalisations’. The ‘promises’ come in the shape of incomplete sketches, whether as inserts into the albums of wellwishers, or as drafts of works either completed (in which case, recorded among the other 99 discs) or left incomplete. Scholars will have huge fun comparing the former and maybe having a go at completing the latter; though I should be sorry in a way to find a completion of the ‘Essai sur l’indifférence’ written around the age of 18, whose indifference seems only to gain from being unfinished.
Among works that are strictly speaking incomplete, but which are nonetheless ‘realised’ through coming to a solid final cadence, is the Fantaisie on Rossini’s Maometto II.
As Howard says in his authoritative note, this unfinished operatic fantasy ‘would probably have turned out as one of the great ones.’ The longest piece by far is a 23rd Hungarian Rhapsody, its two separate parts at last united and full of wonderful things. Less noble, indeed belonging to what Poulenc called
‘la délicieuse mauvaise musique’, is the Kavallerie-geschwindmarsch of 1870 – a three-minute item that will surely fly to the top of the knockout encore list. Howard’s mix of sensitivity and virtuosity is matched by the beautiful tone of the Potton Hall Steinway. Roger Nichols