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Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 18, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

Franz Liszt' two piano concertos amply display both his extraordinary pianistic ability and his originality as an influential Romantic composer. The first, premiered in Weimar in 1855 with Berlioz conducting, is a path-breaking tour de force whose f
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Product Details

  • Performer: Eldar Nebolsin
  • Orchestra: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Audio CD (November 18, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B001HBX8UK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,108 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
Younger pianist Eldar Nebolsin has arrived in our recording catalogs after winning two world competitions. In 1992, he was grand prize winner in the Santander competition, also garnering a special prize for Mozart concerto playing. Then in 2005, he again won first prize in the first ever Richter piano competition, repeating again his special recognition for Mozart concerto playing.

Now he arrives on Naxos with the two Liszt concertos, plus Totentanz for piano and orchestra. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic partners him, led by Russian Vasily Petrenko who is principal conductor now in Liverpool. Petrenko graduated in St. Petersburg, then started his conducting career in Russia, and he, too, has won several music competitions.

Speaking of Richter, one of the enduring recorded standards for performing these Liszt concertos was certainly set by Sviatoslav Richter himself in a famous Phillips disc with Kyril Kondrashin leading the LSO. Other high marks for comparisons might include Lazar Berman with Carlo Maria Giulini leading the Vienna Symphony, Barry Douglas with Jun'ichi Hirokami leading the LSO, Krystian Zimmerman with Seiji Ozawa leading Boston, Emmanuel Ax with Salonen leading the Philharmonia London, Jerome Rose in Budapest with Rico Saccani leading, ... plus don't forget Boris Berezovsky, Jorge Bolet, Claudio Arrau, Josef Bulva, Alfred Brendel, Julius Katchen, Arnoldo Cohen, and Claire Marie Le Guay on French Accord import. Oh, keyboard wizard Kemal Gekic with veteran Paul Freeman leading a Czech band.

If we want stellar performances of the first concerto only, we must add Artur Rubinstein, Martha Argerich, Earl Wild, Yundi Li, and two underground sleepers - Santiago Rodriguez, and Vardan Mamikonian.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc, recorded in 2007, is an outstanding example of highest quality at lowest price. Are there any snags? The short answer is 'No.'

This is a very competitive area of the disc market where just about every pianist of virtuoso standing has made a recording, and mostly they are uniformly fine. There are differences of emphasis of course. Just to run through some of the options: Byron Janis made a terrific recording for Mercury, recorded in Moscow with Kondrashin and Rozhdestvensky as the conductors. This bristles with excitement and musical virtuosity. Richter also made an exciting recording with Kondrashin but with the LSO. This is harder driven at the climaxes and the recording is rather close comparatively. From the same period, late 50s and early 60s, is the Katchen recording also with the LSO but with Argenta conducting. This is a flat out Romantic performance with a great sense of timing and some humour. Brendel with Haitink gives a thoughtful, possibly somewhat sober view and in the late 80s Zimerman with Ozawa provided an absolutely scorching version and much admired. There are many others equally deserving of mention.

Nebolsin undoubtedly joins this illustrious company. The point about the previous paragraph is to illustrate the range of excellence available on disc and also the impossibility of any one performance being considered definitive. The best that a performance can do is to match those and this Nebolsin does. His performance has plenty of fire tempered by expressive passages of repose. The orchestral response under Petrenko is all one could wish for and the recording, being both good and modern, is now one of the best available at any price.
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Format: Audio CD
The previous reviewer echoes a recent Gramophone rave for this CD, which claimed (incorrectly) that this was Naxos' first venture into the Liszt concertos and (incredibly) that Eldar Nebolsin, a 35-year-old Uzbeki pianist who later studied in Madrid, could be favorably compared to Richter in this repertoire. That's as much as claiming that Nebolsin is the second coming. He isn't, but he's not a cookie-cutter competiiton winner, either. His clean, assured technique is backed up with considerable musicality. The same can be said for Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool orchestra -- but hardly anyone tunes in to Liszt's concertos for the accompaniment. In both cases, there's a certain lack of tension and coherence when the music becomes lyrical, a droping off into politeness.

If you want a budget account of these three warhorses in very good, updated sonics, with especially powerful rendering of piano sound, this is a competitive CD, yet another sign that Naxos has raised its standards far above its early years. But let's face it, there's nothing left in these hollow Lisztian vessels except the thrill of hearing bravura playing at its most incendiary -- the calmer parts of the two concertos idle along until the next cascade of notes is ready to be fired off -- and the eminent virtuosity of Argerich and Richter is not in evidence here.
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The technical proficiency of Bro. Nebolsin is effortless and beautiful to listen to. I play the 1st Concerto for my personal enjoyment but certainly not with the ability and technique that he has. Thoroughly enjoy the piano playing here as well as the understanding interpretation of the pieces included on this disc.
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Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
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