The Strad CDs: Liszt
By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, January 1990.
If you have never thought of Liszt in terms of the violin or viola, these two discs will open your eyes and ears. I cannot promise you great music (apart from Harold in Italy) but you will have to go a long way to hear any of this material better played.
I hadn’t realized that there was enough Liszt music for violin and piano to fill about one and a half CDs. To round the programme out to two volumes—we are promised the second soon—pianist Thomas Labé provides a beautiful Sposalizio and a scintillating Second Hungarian Rhapsody with his own cadenza. So you can be assured of superb piano playing to partner another young artist, Rachel Barton. The programme is an intriguing mixture of the gentle and the excitable, but always with Liszt’s interesting harmonies to stir the palate. Barton plays bang in the middle of the note, with a lovely tone on her 1617 Brothers Amati, and the recording quality is everything we have come to expect from the Dorian team.
That Liszt attached considerable value to his fine transcription of Harold in Italy was proved when he wrote a coda for his viola version of the Romance Oubliée, using the viola arpeggios from the Pilgrims’ March. This is his only original viola piece but Csaba Erdélyi, working from violin and cello versions, has made careful viola versions of four other pieces. They are beautifully played, apart from one flat note in the first Elégie which should have been retaken, and Erdélyi draws a wonderfully warm tone from his 1991 Joseph Curtin instrument. As for Harold in Italy, I have four other versions (three on CD) of the transcription, and this is perhaps the best, with both players at full stretch and the distinguished British pianist Ian Hobson playing every note in the finale—some simplify it. The sound quality is excellent, if not quite in the Dorian class. Let’s hope this disc heralds a spate of recordings from Erdélyi.