Van Cliburn: My Favorite Liszt
Van Cliburn Piano
Cliburn's approach here is passionate and big, favoring clarity of line at all times. Whenever any important motif appears, he points it up almost pedantically. Yet he does so with imagination and a fine sense for drama. The big tolling-bell chords that come at just before the 10-minute mark have a crushing impact here, and the poetry in all the slower sections comes through with incredible sensitivity. If Cliburn has a weakness, it might be in his pedaling, which can turn into too much of a good thing and at times impart a slight haze to the sonic happenings. Still, this is one of the finest recordings this sonata has received. Argerich and Horowitz probably still have a slim edge, but Cliburn's reading is a valid, compelling alternative to their more blood-and-thunder approaches.
The other works here fare well, too. Un Sospiro and Liebestraum No. 3 are played with just the right mixture of sentimentality and drama. Both Consolations are given rather straightforward and wholly effective performances, as well. The Petrarchian Sonnet is not quite as successful, Cliburn's dynamics favoring mezzo-forte and forte a little too much throughout.
Of the fillers here, the most attractive is the Mephisto Waltz No. 1. Cliburn begins at as swift a tempo as there is to be heard, and he goes on to impart a sense of menace and mystery, of passion and presentiment throughout. The slow music comes through with the requisite sensual twistedness, and Cliburn's ability to color with well-judged rubato and a wide range of dynamics is impressive.
Cliburn was said to be past his prime in the 1970s, despite his still relatively young age. Yet, this reissue of performances from between 1972 and 1975 clearly demonstrates the talent he then possessed. His many Chopin recordings, his Brahms Second Concerto, his Rachmaninov Second Sonata, and his Prokofiev Sixth Sonata have been widely praised, and this Liszt collection must join that select company.
© Robert Cummings, All Music Guide
|1||Piano Sonata in B-, S.178||29:22||$4.95|
|2||3.In Db ('Un sospiro')||5:38||$0.99|
|3||6.Sonetto 123 del Petrarca||6:44||$0.99|
|6||3.O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst||4:49||$0.99|
|7||Mephisto Waltz No.1, S.514||10:49||$1.98|