Friday, April 14, 2017

Franz Liszt - Piano Concertos; etc. (Julius Katchen; Jorge Bolet)


Composer: Franz Liszt; Ernő Dohnányi; Franz Schubert

  • (01-04) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 1 in E flat major
  • (05-08) Liszt - Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major
  • (09) Dohnányi - Variations on a nursery song, Op.25
Julius Katchen, piano
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Ataúlfo Argenta, conductor (1-8)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Adrian Boult, conductor (9)

  • (01) Liszt - Totentanz
  • (02) Liszt - Malédiction
  • (03) Liszt - Fantasia on Hungarian folk themes
  • (04-07) Schubert, orch. Liszt - Wandererfantasie
Jorge Bolet, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
Ivan Fischer, conductor (1-3)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Georg Solti, conductor (4-7)

Date: 1957-1959 (Katchen); 1984-1986 (Bolet)
Label: Decca Classics



"The next Double Decca is undoubtedly my pick of the month, and not to be missed. It combines superb examples of the virtuosity and fine Romantic sensibility of two of Decca’s most charismatic keyboard lions, Julius Katchen, from the 1950s and early 1960s, and Jorge Bolet from the 1980s. Having made the best-ever mono recording of Dohnanyi’s Nursery Variations, Katchen and Sir Adrian Boult returned to the Kingsway Hall with the LPO to record it again in 1959 with comparable flair and the bonus of Decca’s finest analogue stereo, which still sounds marvellous more than four decades later.

The Wagnerian opening is thrilling, and the first appearance of the famous nursery-rhyme theme brings a delectable frisson, while the performance throughout sparkles with wit. Katchen was partnered by Argenta for the two Liszt concertos and the result is hardly less involving, though perhaps No 1 is rather finer than No 2. But when we turn to the other Liszt concertante pieces the result is even more dazzling. Bolet’s bravura is remarkable: his fingerwork glitters, and he gets splendid support from the LSO under Ivan Fischer; he also makes a remarkably good case, here with Solti, for Liszt’s over- the-top orchestral version of Schubert’s Wanderer fantasie."

-- Ivan March, Gramophone

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Julius Katchen (August 15, 1926 – April 29, 1969) was an American concert pianist. He was born in Long Branch, New Jersey but lived in Paris since 1947 until his death. He studied music with his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Svet, immigrants from Europe, and attended Haverford College, graduating in 1946. Katchen is possibly best known for his recordings of Johannes Brahms's solo piano works for Decca. He also recorded the Brahms trios,  the three violin sonatas and the second cello sonata with Josef Suk and János Starker.


Jorge Bolet (November 15, 1914 – October 16, 1990) was a Cuban-born American virtuoso pianist and teacher. He studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, His teachers included Leopold Godowsky, Josef Hofmann, David Saperton, Moriz Rosenthal and Fritz Reiner. Bolet is particularly well remembered for his performances and recordings of large-scale Romantic music, particularly works by Franz Liszt, César Franck, and Frédéric Chopin. He also specialised in piano transcriptions and unusual repertoire, including the fiendishly difficult works of Godowsky, many of which Bolet had studied with the composer himself.


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