Wai Yin Wong

Franz Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 52 - Transcriptions from Operas by Auber and Verdi

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The Naxos label's series of albums devoted to Liszt's operatic transcriptions reaches five volumes with this release, and on none of them is there a piece that's even moderately well known. From time to time, these works show up as filler on albums with more familiar Liszt works, but this does not give an idea of just how common operatic transcriptions were in the musical life of the 19th century. The sheer volume in which Liszt produced these works testifies to this, and they remain solid crowd-pleasers. The Naxos albums have various pianists -- this is the first for Young Steinway artist Wai Yin Wong -- and each one is devoted to operatic music of a different composer. The latter removes the program from the realm of a concert Liszt might have played, but it does focus the lens a bit closer on the music involved, probably appropriate for Naxos' complete set enterprise. You get a sense of the various ways Liszt might approach that composer's music. He wrote pieces of types other than the flashy dance pieces and big fantasies that, respectively, open and close the program here. Prayerful music was a staple of many operas from the middle third of the century, sample the Salve Maria from Verdi's Jérusalem, which Liszt liked enough to rework. The Verdi pieces are both from early operas: Ernani and Jérusalem. Most of the program is devoted to the now almost forgotten Auber, whose melodic invention was inexhaustible, and who is sorely in need of a revival; the Tyrolean melody from the comedy La fiancée is an ideal example, and the kind of Liszt work that just doesn't get played. Wong is still developing flair, but her playing is clean and sparkling, and the entire program is joyful, and enjoyable.

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