Louis Lortie

Lizst: The Complete Anneés de Pelerinage

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French-Canadian powerhouse Louis Lortie performs Liszt's Années de pèlerinage in this tour de force of challenging music by a notoriously challenging composer. The Première Année is announced with majestic chords and trills, and one can sense that Lortie uses the whole piano and his whole body energy in the music. Representing a journey to Switzerland, this piece features a fuller, heavier sound on the piano that is especially evident in the eighth movement. The second movement swirls in the lower register, complemented by delicate upper passages. The fifth movement is particularly fantastic: Lortie creates fantastic drama between the upper and lower registers, absolutely giving the music his all. The piece ends quietly yet grandly, with a beautiful cantabile feel as the composer requested. This piece is not the most exciting of Liszt's Années de pèlerinage, for the music tends to sound alike and run together after a while; Lortie tries to make the most of it, however, but the composition has its limitations. The Deuxième Année is a far superior work, drawing on Italian themes and authors and making use of more sophisticated and complex lines. This makes for more drama in the music, which one hears in the dark beginning of the conclusion (which is inspired by Dante), after which the music travels through many moods with a repeating motif. Here are some of Liszt's hallmarks, such as his passion and yearning. The Troisième Année is the most engaging work of the CD. In Lortie's interpretation, the first movement, a prayer, pleads so delicately. Yet the pianist can also play very brightly even in darkness, as in the third movement, or with lively sparkling as in the fourth movement, where he creates beautiful swells in the music. The final piece of the album, a supplement to the Deuxième Année called Venezia e Napoli is very brief, but it is still a showcase for Lortie's gifts. He tackles the runs in the first movement with incredible agility and perfection, with not a single flaw. One can only wonder how anyone could play the final movement, with its complex, challenging, and difficult tempi. The answer is simple: if an artist is as brilliant as Lortie, he/she can handle the most difficult of repertoire.

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