Culture Magazine

Comparative Listening: Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1

By Superconductor @ppelkonen

Comparative Listening: Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1It's been a little while since we've done Comparative Listening, the feature where five (or so) recordings of the same work battle for shelf space. Today, we're celebrating the 200th birthday of piano virtuoso and composer Franz Liszt, examining recordings of his Piano Concerto No. 1.


The contenders:

  • London Symphony Orchestra cond. Josef Krips; Wilhelm Kempff, Piano (DG, 1953)
  • Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra cond. Kurt Masur; Michel Beroff, Piano (Philips, 1981)
  • New York Philharmonic cond. Leonard Bernstein; Andre Watts, Piano (Sony, 1963)
  • London Symphony Orchestra cond. Claudio Abbado; Martha Argerich, Piano (DG, 1968)
  • Budapest Festival Orchestra cond. Karl Anton Rickenbacker, Leslie Howard, Piano (Hyperion, 1998)
  • Munich Philharmonic cond. Thomas Hengelbrock; Alice Sara Ott, Piano (DG, 2010)
  • Vienna Philharmonic cond. Valery Gergiev; Lang Lang, Piano (Sony, 2011)

Comparative Listening: Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1
Franz Liszt's first piano concerto consists of four movements, played without a break. The composer, already the rage of Europe as a touring virtuoso, broke fresh ground with this work. As we celebrate his 200th birthday, let's look at different performances available on CD.
You can tell a lot about how the Liszt First Concerto is going to play out by how the piano soloist attacks the hellishly difficult opening cadenza. Wilhelm Kempff plays with astonishing speed and produces growling low notes. In the 1981 Philips recording, Michel Beroff offers a quiet, restrained take with expert conducting from Kurt Masur.
This early 1968 recording with Martha Argerich is impressive from start to finish.. She breathes fire right out of the box before settling down into the Beethoven-inspired main theme. Lang Lang's brand-new recording on Sony with the Vienna Philharmonic (coming out tomorrow) benefits from terrific orchestral playing under Valery Gergiev and pianism that alternates between fiery cadenzas and feline grace.
Some recordings present the two central movements as one big track, as they flow into each other without a break. Together, the Andantino and Prestissimo form a ten-minute structure. Ultimately, it builds to a recap of the opening of the Allegro.
The New York Philharmonic (under Leonard Bernstein) sounds splendid in this movement with the orchestra caught better than the piano part. This is not the fault of soloist Andre Watts. Leslie Howard, whose recording is available as part of his mammoth complete Liszt edition on Hyperion, produces bell-like tone in the cadenzas. He is helped by the idiomatic playing of the Budapest forces.
The final movement, a sprightly march, is played with great authority by the Viennese forces, particularly the descending figures in the heavy brass that introduce the first solo. Mr. Lang's fingers dance easily across the keys, playing these runs with astonishing speed. Alice Sara Ott uses force on the authoritative main theme, but her playing sounds clipped.
The strongest last movement belongs to the venerable German pianist Wilhelm Kempff, whose Beethoven recordings inspired a legion of aspiring pianists. Mr. Kempff takes a heavier approach to the piano part, rolling down the keyboard with great authority. Finally, Michel Beroff's performance with Kurt Masur is well conducted, and this underrated pianist plays with great speed and precision.


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Friday Q&A: Improving Posture

    Friday Q&A: Improving Posture

    The Proportions of the Human Figure by Leonardo da VinciQ: I've practiced yoga sporadically over the past decade, but now at 75 I'm noticing my posture leans... Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   Ninazolotow
    FITNESS, HEALTH, HEALTHY LIVING
  • The Verdi Project: Don Carlos

    Verdi Project: Carlos

    Verdi's last opera for Paris has a complicated history. by Paul J. Pelkonen Troubled youth: the not-so-youthful Placido Domingo as Verdi's Don Carlos.Photo ©... Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   Superconductor
    CULTURE, THEATRE & OPERA
  • After the Rain

    Rain arrived late last night and continued till morning, the kitchen garden looks refreshed with a noticeable earthy aroma to the air. Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   The Garden Smallholder
    GARDENING, HOME
  • Week's-End Commentary: "The Judgment of God Has Come"; "The American Gospel Is...

    Phillip Bump, "The group least likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to accept refugees? Evangelicals":Pew's new research includes a fascinating... Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   William Lindsey
    LGBTQ, RELIGION, SOCIETY
  • 6 Relationship Strategies That Propel Your Business

    Relationship Strategies That Propel Your Business

    Unfortunately, people who are great at inventing things, and have high creativity, often don’t have strong interpersonal skills or interests. Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   Martin Zwilling
    BUSINESS, CAREER
  • Bumpdate: 30 Weeks

    Bumpdate: Weeks

    Well friends it’s officially summer! Kids had their last day of school yesterday and I just can’t believe it. I feel like I just sent N to Kindergarten and now... Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   Thesamanthashow
    LIFESTYLE, SELF EXPRESSION
  • Storms That Rage at the Wuthering Heights

    Wuthering refers to blowing of strong winds. As the book itself says about the name Wuthering Heights, ““Wuthering” being a significant provincial adjective,... Read more

    The 25 May 2018 by   Jyoti Arora
    SELF EXPRESSION

COMMENTS ( 1 )

By Gil
posted on 07 October at 15:43
Report spam/abuse

■London Symphony Orchestra cond. Josef Krips; Wilhelm Kempff, Piano (DG, 1953)

It is a mistake. There is no recording of this concerto with Maestro Josef Krips. And even less in DG