Wagner, Liszt: Tristan und Isolde; Parsifal

Christophe Vautier

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Wagner, Liszt: Tristan und Isolde; Parsifal Review

by Blair Sanderson

Franz Liszt was a great champion of new music, and his piano transcriptions of selections from Richard Wagner's music dramas helped make them extremely popular outside the opera house. However, Christophe Vautier's 2015 album of transcriptions from Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde may mislead listeners, because only one of these Wagner arrangements was written by Liszt, the 1867 piano version of Isolde's Liebestod (track 5). The two preludes from Parsifal and the Prelude to Act I of Tristan und Isolde (tracks 2-4) are actually modern transcriptions by Jacques Caulin, and while they reflect the Lisztian spirit, they are rather literal reductions of the orchestral scores. Considering that the opening track, Après une lecture de Dante, and the Liebestod transcription are the only Liszt selections, one wonders why Vautier didn't include other genuine Wagner/Liszt transcriptions, such as the Prelude and Bacchanale and the Entrance of the Guests from Tannhäuser, the Spinning Chorus and Senta's Ballad from Der fliegende Holländer, the Bridal Procession from Lohengrin, or "Am stillen Herd in Winterszeit" from Die Meistersinger, all illustrative of Liszt's prodigious popularizing of Wagner and his phenomenal keyboard skills. Yet because Vautier's playing is adequate but not compelling, and the program is confusingly described in the liner notes, this package is a weak introduction to Liszt's practices and a rather dull treatment of Wagner's music.

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