Zeynep Ucbasaran: 1847, Liszt in Istanbul

This lively and more-ish album of piano music consists of a selection of works from the 1847 Istanbul recitals of Franz Liszt.
Lizst had arrived to entertain and was given a seven-octave piano by craftsman Sébastien Pierre Erard to play on while he was in what was then Constantinople. He played at the Royal Palace, the Russian Embassy and the Franchini Hall. The sleeve notes comment that when he played one piece, Liszt “stunned” audiences of his time by his virtuosity.

The CD opens with Grande Paraphrase De La Marche De Giuseppe Donizetti Composée Pour Sa Majesté Le Sultan Abdul-Medjid Khan, whose sound is a lot crisper than its title. It’s a march and allows Lizst to show off his skills, with the music ranging from militaristic to romantic, but often very fiddly (to use a technical term).

Réminiscences de Lucia Di Lammermoor de Donizetti follows, the first of two movements Liszt composed based on a sextet from the second act of the opera. After showing off with Grande Paraphrase it’s down to being a little thoughtful ad slower, evocative of being played to swells in a royal palace.

Also included is Magyar Dalok, solo piano adaptations of Hungarian folk tunes, which is slower and more thoughtful in places.

Ucbasaran’s performance is polished and accomplished: she played this live on the European Broadcasting Union across Europe as part of the celebration of Liszt’s 200th birthday in October 2011.

This CD is very easy to listen to, while being entertaining and satisfying. Its appeal was illustrated when a seven-year-old wandered over to tell us she liked it.

This is out on Divine Art, dda 25213.

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