Gábor Farkas

Liszt: Opera and Song for Solo Piano

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Franz Liszt's renderings of music from other media for piano had various purposes. Some, like the Totentanz at the end of this program by Hungarian pianist Gábor Farkas, were virtuoso showpieces, while the "paraphrases" of operatic melodies heard here lay somewhere between virtuosity and a desire to favor an audience with familiar tunes of the day. Yet others show a more inward side of Liszt. Consider and sample the three versions of songs by Clara Schumann. What are they generically? More than transcriptions, surely, and more even than arrangements. They are almost like the large paraphrases without the virtuoso element. They almost have an exploratory quality, and the fact that Liszt, a hypermasculine figure, worked with the music of Clara Schumann -- not unknown, but not music in everyone's ears like the operatic paraphrases were -- is notable in itself. Farkas does very well with these. You can get a more rip-roaring Totentanz if you look around for one, but the subtle treatments of the song renderings here are delightful: they make it possible to imagine Liszt himself thinking his way through these pieces. Farkas is aided by fine engineering from the acoustically perfect Steinway Hall in New York, and in all this is one of the growing Steinway & Sons label's more satisfying releases.

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