The first "year" of Franz Liszt's Annees de Pelerinage (Years of Pilgramage) begins, as so many good stories do, with a scandal. One of Liszt's primary reasons for his departure for Switzerland was not for the enjoyment of nature, but so that he could elope with his already-pregnant (and previously married) mistress. The result of his visits abroad, however, not only produced some of the most transcendent works of Liszt's output, but also began a new chapter in how composers wrote for the piano. This Turtle Records disc of pianist Yoram Ish-Hurwitz is an ideal introduction to this first "year." It begins with an erudite set of liner notes, written by the performer, that are extremely informative yet easy to read. In them, Ish-Hurwitz makes it clear that these works are not to be performed or interpreted as programmatic compositions, but rather a reflection of the emotions and experiences Liszt had in Switzerland. At this task, Ish-Hurwitz succeeds masterfully. His playing is unassuming throughout; highly nuanced and demonstrative without beating listeners over the head, Ish-Hurwitz acts as a sort of tour guide for listeners. This is not the ostentatious, overtly technical Liszt that many listeners may associate with his name, but rather the introspective, serene, and reflective side of the man. The album's SACD surround sound enhances this experience by putting the listener in the middle of the performance. At the conclusion of this album, listeners are left wondering why, since its recording in 2004, Ish-Hurwitz has not yet recorded the complete cycle.
AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Années de pèlerinage, 1st Year ("Suisse"), suite for piano, S. 160 (LW A159)|