Franz Liszt: 12 Grandes Études

review liszt x1 cong

Liszt was one of the most remarkable pianists of all time, and were he alive today he’d probably be in a prog band, trading keyboard solos of fearsome technical complexity with someone like Dream Theater’s John Petrucci. Happily, interminably long and dull prog solos were still more than 100 years away when Liszt composed these, so they’re mostly short, but equally complicated. Sometimes a little too complicated, and pianist Wenbin Jin deserves praise.

The first study, of the 12, now marked presto (very, very fast) rather than allegro con fuoco (very fast and fiery) according to the sleeve notes, is arpeggios, presumably to warm up one’s fingers before the really hard stuff begins, “a technical challenge rarely met” as the notes have it.

It’s entertaining, admittedly. The complexity does get a little too much in places, the speed and difficulty seeming to be the point rather than the enjoyment the listener extracts, but on the other hand it’s rich and luscious, and its virtuosity means it never gets dull.

Out on Naxos 8.573709

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