Liszt

BBC Music Magazine - - Instrumental Reviews -

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

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★★

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