Bertrand Chamayou

Liszt: Années de Pèlerinage

(CD - Naïve #V 5260)

Review by

Recorded in the spring and summer of 2011, Bertrand Chamayou's set of Franz Liszt's Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) was released just in time to honor the composer's 200th anniversary in October. That year saw a number of releases and reissues of the complete Années, and this ambitious collection of picturesque vignettes became increasingly popular despite its considerable length. The years in the title were the late 1830s, when Liszt and the Countess Marie d'Agoult traveled across Switzerland and Italy, and the pieces summon the full range of Romantic piano gestures and techniques, put at the service of poetic description and expressive power. Chamayou presents the music with great vitality and brilliance; indeed, the Années can only be played well by a virtuoso, which he certainly is. Yet there is always an undercurrent of reverie and restless wandering that he conveys, which shows a true sympathy with Liszt's aims, as well as an uncanny ability to create and maintain tension for extended periods, even when the music might offer some kind of resolution or release. A kind of "extreme pianist," Chamayou has dazzled critics with his concert performances of this expansive work, and he has impressed them with his stamina in pieces of similar difficulty and duration. The resonant recording in the Théâtre Auditorium de Poitiers adds a certain haziness in the soft, dreamlike sections, though loud passages and the most thunderous climaxes are sonorous and quite clear.

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