Richard Wagner's bicentennial year has yielded fresh performances of his music dramas, as well as some explorations of his non-operatic vocal and orchestral music. Somewhat surpisingly, though, the piano has figured significantly among releases in 2013: two recordings of Wagner's complete works for piano have appeared on the Brilliant and Dynamic labels, and they have been followed by this MDG album of keyboard transcriptions by various hands. Notably excluded are any transcriptions or paraphrases by Franz Liszt, which are so famous that they would warrant a separate album by themselves, and including them would have overwhelmed the competition here. Instead, pianist Severin von Eckardstein has programmed less familiar arrangements that are almost never heard anymore, or so new that they haven't achieved wide recognition. In the former category are Louis Brassin's splashy treatment of selections from Das Ring der Nibelungen, Ferruccio Busoni's elaboration of Siegfried's Funeral Music from Götterdämmerung, August Stradel's transcriptions of the Transformation Scene and Good Friday Spell from Parsifal, and Moritz Moszkowski's version of Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde. The two modern selections are Sydney Corbett's freely atonal Grabmal Kundry In Memoriam Hans Werner Henze, and Zoltán Kocsis' faithful adaptation of the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde. Eckardstein's skills are equal to the enormous demands of the music, which are sometimes as virtuosic as anything Liszt produced, though his expressive powers hold the listener's attention and make the album work at an artistic level. As flashy as keyboard arrangements can be, Eckardstein finds the lyricism, drama, and pathos in Wagner's music, underneath all the scales and embellishments, and delivers impressively musical performances throughout.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson