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Complete Piano Music - 24

Giuseppe Andaloro , Liszt Franz Audio CD

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Mephisto Valses - 2 Elégies - Grand Solo de concert pour piano / Giuseppe Andaloro, piano

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liszt to the Future June 6 2007
By Hexameron - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
With the present recording and this future release Liszt: Verdi Opera Transcriptions, it would appear Naxos is once again focusing on the stellar Complete Liszt Piano series, one that might eventually rival Leslie Howard's discography on the Hyperion label. Part of the unique appeal to Naxos's own series, however, is its variety of performers: Arnaldo Cohen, Jeno Jando, Konstantin Scherbakov, and Philip Thomson, to name a few. This time, Giuseppe Andalaro, who won the 2005 International Ferruccio Busoni Piano Competition, makes his debut. Andaloro has his work cut out for him: not only does he tackle the immensely difficult Mephisto Waltzes, but also the Sonata in B minor junior, the Grosses Konzertsolo. In the wrong hands, these can become smeared and overly bombastic; fortunately, they are in the right hands here.

I really think Andaloro's Mephisto Waltzes are superlative. I'll concede that with the dozens of recordings of the First Mephisto Waltz, (Bolet, Berman, Brendel and Wild) Andaloro is not my favorite, but that doesn't mean his interpretation is lacking. In the last three Mephisto Waltzes is where Andaloro truly shines, though. The second MW was written in 1880 originally for orchestra and then transcribed to piano. Both versions are fittingly dedicated to the composer of the Danse Macabre, Saint-Saens. Liszt's second MW is truly a dazzling and grand piano composition, full of demonic weirdness and 20th century dissonances. Andaloro's combination of expert technique, savage attack and a surprising attention to dynamic details make his interpretation outstanding.

Humphrey Searle calls the Third Mephisto Waltz "one of Liszt's finest achievements." Alan Walker observes: "There is nothing in the chord-structures from the aforementioned Third 'Mephisto' Waltz that Schoenberg was not to introduce in his First Chamber Symphony (1906)." Indeed, this piece is a striking and futuristic work. Needless to say, Andaloro's performance is clean, lyrical, and explosive. The Fourth Mephisto Waltz wasn't actually published until the middle of the 20th century, and it's an unfinished work. According to Searle, "Liszt left some sketches for a contrasting section which he intended to interpolate towards the end, and so one cannot speak of the work as properly finished." Clearly, though, this piece can be played independently from the others, and for a three minute work, Liszt condenses plenty of substantial and dramatic ideas. Andaloro, again proves his mettle with this wicked tour-de-force.

The two Elegies make a fine contrast with the devilishly virtuosic Mephisto Waltzes and are filled with tremendous Romantic melancholy. They show no evidence of a knuckle-breaking showman, as Liszt's reputation tended to be and still is. The first is dedicated to one of Liszt's pupils and oozes a morose and nostalgic mood. The second, dedicated to Liszt's first biographer, Lina Ramann, is more passionate and songful. Saving perhaps the best for last, Andaloro makes fine work out of the Grosses Konzertsolo. Too many pianists have tried and failed to create music out of this monster. Clara Schumann hated this piece (probably because she couldn't play it) and Henselt, whom the composition is dedicated to, confessed to having problems playing it as well. Andaloro, however, while not matching the apotheosis that Leslie Howard's rendition reaches, still wins in the end. His interpretation favors a slower tempo in most thematic sections. He also treats one of the cadenzas with an excessive use of dynamics, balancing pianissimo and fortissimo with notable results. I like Leslie Howard's robust interpretation better, but Andaloro still makes it work: the tender phrases are crisp and the bravura passages are full of wild energy.

Bottom line: This is another successful addition to Naxos's Complete Piano Music enterprise. Giuseppe Andaloro's interpretations might not please everyone, but his heart and virtuosity are applied to this music in full. Liszt's Mephisto Waltzes are brilliant exhibitions; the two Elegies are emotional gems; Andalaro's Grosses Konzertsolo is moving and articulate, but I encourage those interested in the Grosses Konzertsolo to check out Leslie Howard's recording (Liszt: Fantasy, Variations, Funeral Odes, Concert Solo).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Young Pianist to Watch Aug. 12 2007
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I urge you to read the exhaustive review by my pianistic colleague, hexameron. He's left little for me to add. But I do want to put in my two cents about the young pianist heard here, Giuseppe Andaloro. This twenty-five year old pianist hails from Sicily. He studied under the legendary Sergio Fiorentino and one can hear that influence in his playing, namely the utter clarity, the well-considered phrasing and pedaling, the untaxed technical aplomb, the innate musicality, and the ability to set the piano (and the audience) on fire. I would, in fact, rate his Mephisto Waltz No. 1 among the very best I've heard on records.

I've given the CD four stars rather than five simply because I cannot get as enthused as hexameron about the other works featured here. I believe that the 23-minute-long Grosses Konzertsolo, S176/R18 contains, as did Clara Schumann, 'empty virtuosity.' I had trouble making myself listen to it a second time. And it's no wonder that the other three Mephisto Waltzes are seldom heard in concert. They come nowhere close to the incendiary Mephisto Waltz No. 1, played and recorded by almost every pianist worthy of the name for the past one hundred years. This is not to say that there isn't some fine music in the subsequent Mephistos, but they are rendered more or less hors de combat by their big brother. The two Elegies are typical lyrical but enigmatic late Liszt and are given nice readings here.

This CD serves notice that Giuseppe Andaloro is a pianist to keep a watch out for. I would love to hear whatever he chooses to record and hope I have the opportunity to hear him in recital some day soon.

Scott Morrison

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