Boris Berezovsky

Liszt: Sonata in B minor

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This is a "live recording" in a general sense; it fuses two separate performances, from the Royal Festival Hall in London and the hall of the Festival de la Grange de Meslay in Tours, France. One wishes sometimes for the fearless live takes of yore. But never mind; this is top-notch Liszt, from a Russian pianist who has rightfully become an A-list international attraction. The program is nicely balanced between the weighty Piano Sonata in B minor and the colorful travel works that follow. Hearing the three pieces collectively titled Venezia e Napoli (Venice and Naples), from the Années de pélerinage (The Years of Pilgrimage) series, one is reminded by Berezovsky's lyrical readings that these two cities, separated even today by a long drive on the autostrada, suggested the height of sophisticated adventure on the part of one who had visited them both and could musically evoke their gondoliers, songs, and tarantella dances. The highlight is Berezovsky's consistently exciting reading of the Piano Sonata in B minor. His is a tense performance with a great deal of forward momentum -- making the work into more a true sonata and less the quasi-improvisatory fantasy-sonata it often becomes. To pull off this kind of quick, driven playing in Liszt takes superb technical skills, and Berezovsky has the kind of tossed-off confidence that one imagines kept Liszt's audiences flocking to see him. Both halves of the concert are very well engineered, and no ambient noise disturbs the transcendent Harmonies du soir that closes the proceedings, at least until the lovely Chopin encore. A very fine hour of Liszt, with strong graphic design framing notes in French, English, and German.

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