Liszt’s Transcendental Études, twice

(Deutsche Grammophon)

Franz Liszt. Transcendental. The Complete Concert Études. Daniil Trifonov. Deutsche Grammophon.

Franz Liszt. Transcendental Études. Kirill Gerstein. Myrios Classics.

Daunting. Formidable. Punishing. A supreme test of a pianist’s technique and stamina. Liszt’s “Transcendental Études” are indeed all of these things. But the rare genius of Daniil Trifonov’s recording of these works, released in 2016, lies in the ability of this 25-year-old Russian phenomenon to remind us that Liszt was not merely a composer of virtuoso showpieces but a musical poet of the highest order.

Unlike Chopin’s pathbreaking studies for solo piano, Liszt’s Études do not isolate specific technical problems. Instead, Liszt harnessed a dazzling array of innovations on the level of sheer sound — new colors, textures and sonorities — to create a cycle of tone poems for the piano that captures the breadth and intensity of the composer’s imagination. The sheer range of musical expression is astonishing: pastoral reveries, woodland scenes, romantic arias, heroic dramas, historical legends and visions of spiritual strife.

Trifonov displays staggering technical mastery and structural command. But the special quality of his performances comes from his musical finesse: the kaleidoscopic array of colors he can conjure and his seemingly endless variety of articulation and phrasing…

Read the full review here (Washington Post, December 30, 2016).

Stewart Goodyear performs his “Nutcracker” transcription at the Phillips

Stewart Goodyear (Photo by Anita Zvonar)

Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker, Op. 71 (Arranged by Stewart Goodyear)

Stewart Goodyear is nothing if not courageous. Last January, the Canadian pianist fearlessly re-created the program from the legendary Glenn Gould’s American debut at the Phillips Collection in 1955 and made it his own. On Sunday, Goodyear returned to the Phillips to showcase his latest feat of musical daring: an arrangement of the complete score of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” for solo piano. It was a bold, gripping performance, full of propulsive drama if short on balletic grace…

Read the full review here (Washington Post, December 19, 2016).