Liszt for Two (CD review)

Hungarian Rhapsodies for Piano Four-Hands; Mephisto Waltz for Two Pianos. Georgia and Louise Mangos, piano. Cedille Records CDR 90000 052.

We are all more or less familiar with the orchestral arrangements of a half dozen of Franz Liszt's nineteen Hungarian Rhapsodies for Piano, but what is less well known is that he adapted them for piano duos (one piano, four hands), too.

Just when or why Liszt made the later duet arrangements nobody's quite sure, but as the accompanying booklet explains, Liszt did play them with students in his later years. A handy chart in the booklet provides the new numbering of the duos, as well as of the orchestral versions. The original piano solos that get the duo and orchestral treatments are Nos. 2, 5, 6, 9, 12, and 14.

Georgia and Louise Mangos
The Mangos sisters, Georgia and Louise, play the works with appropriate gypsy flair, although it turns out that none of the tunes Liszt employed were genuine folk songs at all but "popular light music that the gypsies had transformed into their own unique performing style." In any case, the Mangos ladies perform all of it with an effortless spirit, yet with a degree of lyricism not commonly associated with the pieces. Their manner seems a touch lighter, less flamboyant, and more poetic than the best solo interpretations I've heard. Of course, for two sets of hands, the Rhapsodies sound richer and fuller than usual, and they take a moment's getting used to. Then, the sisters do the Mephisto Waltz No. 1 coupling as arranged for two separate pianos, and that appears richer still.

The recording is another of Cedille's demo-quality productions, made by the team of producer James Ginsburg and engineer Bill Maylone. The piano sound is as natural, as well balanced, and as well detailed as anything I've heard, miked at a moderate distance with enough room ambiance to ensure a realistic presentation. In fact, the dynamics of the production make the whole thing sound as though you're sitting in front of the performers live as they play.

Finally, I hope you will forgive me for a totally uncalled-for aside: Upon reaching No. 4 in D minor, based upon the popular No. 2 in C# Minor, I couldn't help thinking as I listened to four hands playing the piece of the old Looney Tunes cartoon with Bugs and Daffy Duck trying to outdo one another. No, it bears no relationship to that silliness, but, still, old stereotypes die hard.

This is another outstanding Cedille recording, both musically and sonically.


To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow:

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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

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.

Mission Statement

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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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa