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Complete Piano Music 3

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses n° 1-6 / Philip Thomson, piano
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Product Details

  • Performer: Franz Liszt, Philip Thomson
  • Audio CD (August 5, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B00000143U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,490 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
This pianist whips up real excitement in "Benediction." I find myself conducting and playing "air piano" at the climactic moments. Thomson often makes alterations to the written score. Sometimes Liszt's dynamic markings are ignored; at other times, melodic lines are reinforced with octave doublings. These changes are pretty clearly motivated by nothing more than a desire to communicate the emotion of the piece as vividly and powerfully as possible, and as such would likely meet with approval from Liszt. His disdain was reserved for those who played without feeling, and that's certainly not the case here.
"Benediction," like quite a few of Liszt's works, has a reputation for seeming too long. It's a credit to Thomson that he almost leaves you wanting more, after sixteen minutes.
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This recording presents a side of Liszt's music that tends to be ignored: his manifestations of reverie, ecstasy, pain, religion, death, and introspection. All of these ideas and more can be found in Liszt's greatest collection of piano works, the "Harmonies Poetiques et Religiuses," which amount to real profundity and power in the hands of the relatively obscure pianist, Philip Thomson. It should be noted that in this Volume only parts of Liszt's complete "Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses" are featured. The rest will follow in the Liszt: Complete Piano Music, Vol. 4.

Liszt spent roughly five years of composition, revision, and even deletion of pieces for the piano cycle, "Harmonies Poetiques et Religiuses." The two opening works, "Invocation' and "Ave Maria" reveal Liszt's newfound compositional powers in his early Weimar days. The textures of these two pieces are unique, even chorale-like, while the nature of the music is prayerful and enraptured with religiosity. The most famous piece from the set, "Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude," is a 16-minute composition of incredible passion and exertion. I've heard the interpretations of Berman, Hough, Brendel and others, but Thomson plays the piece with fine sensitivity, sharp articulation, and always a passionate flare.

In my opinion, the work of genius in this piano cycle and the piece which can easily justify buying this CD, is the sublime "Pensee des morts," or "Thought of the Dead." I love what Philip Thomson says about it: "If the Benediction causes us temporarily to surrender our rationality to its ecstasy, the Pensee des Morts is an ascent into sheer madness." He is right.
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Liszt had at times in his life the idea of taking holy orders, and he indeed was ordained as a priest later in his life. Yet when you listen to his music it seems as if the devil was equally after his soul. in his music there is a nature which often takes him more near to hell than heaven. It was an expression of his deep rooted belief, and is in ten sections. He began work on these compositions in 1846 and it was completed almost ten years later. The title was taken from a group of poems by Alphonse de Lamartine. Each section has a religious title and are of substantial length. This disc carries the first six sections, the remaining songs are on Vol. 4 of the Naxos label,which also include the famous Funerailles, the complete work being too long for one CD. This disc is completed by three works of a sombre and sad nature. Les Mortes was composed to a poem, on the death of his young son. The music was first written for orchestra, and later appeared in many versions including this one for solo piano. Resignazione is a fragment from the back page of an organ work, Salve regina. Ungarns Gott, on a religious text by the Hungarian poet Sandor Petofi, equally appeared in many guises, and we will hear other versions later in this complete Liszt series. This third volume is played by the Canadian, Philip Thomson. He was the winner of the Liszt Concerto Competition at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, and has since played with all the Canadian orchestras, with recital tours that have taken him around the world. I'm glad that Amazon makes the Naxos label available for a budget price. It's great for Liszt lovers like myself to expand there collection of music.
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