Andrew von Oeyen

Liszt: Sonata in B minor; Waldesrauschen; Rigoletto; Etc.

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Andrew von Oeyen presents an album of all-Liszt pieces in which he gives it his all, something that is certainly necessary for a composer as demanding as Liszt. This is evident right from the start, where the Piano Sonata in B minor explodes to full fury after a deceptively calm beginning. Von Oeyen is extremely precise here, with a crisp touch on the piano; a fierce, athletic style concludes the final movement, but the listener can come away with the impression that the pianist has rather hammered away at the music. This issue comes up later in Valleé d'Obermann, though the hammering is tempered by legato passages in the upper register toward the end. On Waldesrauschen, there is a blooming, scintillating orchestration that alternates between the hands, giving the piece a rather Richard Strauss-like quality. It sparkles and is lovely to hear. The Verdi/Liszt Rigoletto is arguably the highlight of the album. The dark, low sounds in the left-hand give way to a tinkling, high right-hand -- a beautiful contrast -- and then the melody arrives, evolving in different variations. The listener truly gets the feel of Verdi's lyrical lines, underscored by Liszt's lushness and virtuosity. Perhaps it is not incorrect to say that von Oeyen plays the piece in the way a coloratura would sing, but in any case, the result is very warm and inviting. Lest one mistakenly think that the pianist is all high-energy, hammering, and frills, the Wagner pieces show a whole different side of von Oeyen's talents. Elsa's Bridal Procession is so delicate and heartbreakingly beautiful because the artist plays with such restraint and tenderness (as is Liszt's own famous Liebestraum), and Isolde's Liebestod ends on a whisper, perfectly fittiig for a lady who has just lost her beloved. Here, too, we see Liszt's genius in adapting opera music for the piano, especially music written by his son-in-law (Liszt's daughter Cosima was married to Wagner). Von Oeyen is certainly a gifted pianist, and it will be interesting to see how his musicianship and artistry evolve. He is also a bold pianist who has no fear in taking on extremely challenging music.

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