Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat
Piano Concerto No.2 in A
Totentanz – Paraphrase on the Dies Irae
Eldar Nebolsin (piano)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Recorded 6 & 7 September 2007 in Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: November 2008
CD No: NAXOS 8.570517
Duration: 54 minutes
There’s a lot to admire in these performances (a shame that the Hungarian Fantasia isn’t also included), even if the relative distance of the orchestra’s grand opening to Concerto No.1 suggests that the balance will favour the pianist. This is not the case: Eldar Nebolsin receives what might be termed a concert-hall perspective and his playing is favourably captured in terms of bravura and sensitivity. In the First Concerto, only the solo violin seems a little too recessed and ‘floating’; otherwise the all-important contributions from woodwinds carry the air well – and are all personably rendered – and trombones have an ideal presence.
The E flat Concerto emerges fresh and spontaneously, without affectation, and often with a heartfelt beauty that is captivating. There is no lack of virtuosity either, or elfin lightness in the triangle-dominated third movement, the finale bringing a touch of pomp and theatricality – all apposite to Liszt’s transformation of themes without upsetting his carefully crafted economy; the closing bars enjoy Vasily Petrenko’s care for dynamics and detail for a good romp home!
Time and again the ear alights on carefully graded orchestral playing, enticing in itself, and also well-matched to Nebolsin’s ambitions. Indeed, pianist and conductor seem to have a fine rapport, seconded by the orchestra second, not least in the imploring-becoming-stormy opening section of the first movement of the A major Concerto, during which Nebolsin displays no lack of temperament. Petrenko responds with a particularly alluring opening to the second movement, the third strides forth purposefully, and the final bars glitter (although clearer timpani and even wilder-trilling woodwinds would have been welcome – for that seek out Kondrashin conducting for Richter) to complete an unusually alive yet unaffected account.
Totentanz has darker undercurrents than are brought out here, although there is no lack of introspection and devilry. In the opening bars, more-present timpani (again) would have added a ‘heavier’ feel and, in general, the sinister world evoked by Liszt tends to be shifted towards something too Slavonic rather than hellish. Nevertheless, there is a lot of electricity flying around here to complete a very recommendable release.