Liszt: Transcendental Etudes, S 139

Reviewed on Mon 05 Sep, 2016

Kirill Gerstein has no misconceptions of the genius behind these Etudes, and his technique matches the transcendental demands of these works.

“Pathetically misunderstood” was Clifford Curzon’s verdict on Liszt. Kirill Gerstein has no misconceptions of the genius behind these Etudes, and his technique matches the transcendental demands of these works. Yet he is wayward in approach. Thus individual probing musicianship in say Vision (6), Eroica (7), Wilde Jagd (8), Ricordanza (9) and Harmonies du soir (11) stands alongside the puzzling cerebral detachment of Paysage (3), Mazeppa (4) and Feux follets (5). Lazar Berman 1959 (the re-mastered 1963 remake, also Melodiya, turns strident at levels above mezzo forte) interleaves fantasy with passionate heroism and tender longing, expressed through lines sensitively shaped, in sounds sonorously loud or delicately soft. Try Paysage for an interpretation mesmerising in its balance of all these factors that Gerstein, plus those like Claudio Arrau (Pentatone), György Cziffra (Erato) and Dinara Klinton (Genuin), cannot equal. Simply put, this is Liszt understood.
–Nalen Anthoni