Eldar Nebolsin, piano; Vasily Petrenko, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Naxos 8.570517.
Naxos must have sensed something special about this disc because they gave it special treatment with a fancy slipcover. They were right. The disc is special, with excellent performances and excellent sound, a secure investment all the way around.
It seems appropriate that pianist Eldar Nebolsin won first prize at the first Sviantoslav Richter International Piano Competition in 2005; Nebolsin's interpretations of the two Liszt piano concertos remind one quite a lot of Richter's famous recordings. Nebolsin is bold when he needs to be and remarkably poetic, too, producing a First Piano Concerto that is both grand and lyrical. Sometimes it isn't as easy to pull off it seems. Liszt wrote the First Concerto in four short, cyclically connected movements, unusual in itself, and they are played without a break. Nebolsin brings it off brilliantly.
In the Second Concerto, which is graver, more serious, and, as critics would say, more mature, than the First, Nebolsin is appropriately more somber. It's interesting that the Second Piano Concerto never became anywhere near as popular as the First, though, so what do critics know. Nebolsin makes the First Concerto seem cheerful and outgoing by contrast. The accompanying Totentanz is similarly charged.
Naxos engineers provide the piano and orchestra with good, clean, wide, robust sound. It's smoother than the old Richter recording on Philips and a bit more transparent than the Brendel recording, also on Philips, although not quite as warm. For a new digital recording at a low price, the Naxos appears to my ears if not a first-place recommendation certainly a surefire addition to a short list of recommendations.
About the Author
Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.
Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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