Liszt: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2; Totentanz (CD review)
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.
William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer
Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.
The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.