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Liszt: Paganini Studies, Schubert Marches
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Liszt : Six Grandes Etudes de Paganini pour piano - Transcriptions pour le piano de Marches de F. Schubert / Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Hamelin and Hyperion have come up with an unusual and interesting program, balancing well-known Liszt transcriptions against all-but-unknown ones. The "Paganini Etudes" are among Liszt's better-known piano works, a heartfelt tribute to the violin virtuoso who inspired Liszt to greater heights of piano virtuosity. They're thrillers, and Hamelin has the technique and temperament to compete with the most famous Lisztianers who have recorded them. The Schubert Marches are rarities, both in the original four-hand versions and in Liszt's arrangements. Annotator Jeremy Nicholas does an excellent job of explaining where Liszt got his materials (two of the three Marches come from more than one work of Schubert's) and how he used them. The music sounds like a hybrid of Schubert and Liszt, very effective and engrossing, and Hamelin's playing is predictably intense. Score another winner for Hamelin, one of the most adventurous of all active pianists, and for Hyperion's presentation in all aspects. --Leslie Gerber
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good recorded versions of the paganini etudes have been hard to come by, as they tend to get overshadowed by the transcendental etudes. hamelin is entirely up to the technical challenges, though i found an imbalance in his approach: the delicate works or passages, in particular the "campanella" etude (adapted from a paganini violin concerto) are utterly ravishing, with a delicacy and fluency of touch that is like nothing i've heard in these works before. but the beefier and more dramatic passages, for example the opening of the first etude, seem relatively restrained and even lackluster. odd, as similar passages in the medtner works are enunciated with plenty of spit.
i found the schubert marches less appealing musically, though if you don't like what you're hearing just wait for a minute or two and the themes will change. i hear in these works a schubert vacillating between the poetic sonata composer and the more virtuosic "wandererfantasie" composer, and not coming down on either side.
until hamelin gets around to recording the transcendental etudes, i can strongly recommend the boris berezovsky version on emi, or the old ashkenazy recording -- if you can find it.