United Kingdom Busoni and Liszt: Kirill Gerstein (piano). Wigmore Corridor, London, 23.11.2022. (MB)
Busoni – Elegien, BV 249: ‘Nach der Wendung’; Sonatina seconda, BV 259; Berceuse, BV 252; Sonatina no.6 tremendous Carmen, BV 284; Toccata, BV 287
Liszt – Études d’exécution transcendante, S 139
This was an interesting first instalment to Kirill Gerstein’s three-artist ‘Busoni and his World’ Wigmore Corridor residence. Gerstein greater than earned his payment, with a full first half of works by Busoni, gently and intelligently launched from the platform, adopted by all twelve of Liszt’s Transcendental Research. He supplied us a lot to ponder, a lot to be thrilled by, and far to sit up for later within the season.
‘Nach der Wendung’, first of the Elegies, takes its depart, as you would possibly anticipate, from late Liszt. A questing — it’s nearly unimaginable to not say ‘Faustian’ — piece, it acquired a duly questing efficiency. Some writing is extra tonal than different; Gerstein clearly communicated concord and its implications. The quiet radicalism of its passage was conveyed with acute intelligence, whether or not it wandered into the clouds or down into the rumbling bass. Its introverted imaginative and prescient paved the way in which properly for the Sonatina seconda. ‘Tonal oder Atonal?’ as Schoenberg would ask within the first of his Three Satires. Sure, no, or perhaps, ought to in all probability have been the reply. Its opening bass line right here strongly took a cue from Liszt, dissolving into the performing air, floating, resolidifying, and so forth. Listening to materials that might later discover its method into Doktor Faust with out the opera’s formal classicism is an interesting expertise. One senses a logic, even when one can’t outline it.
The Berceuse, printed individually, is the ultimate Elegie. Gerstein took it somewhat sooner than usually one hears it: slightly, I feel, to its benefit. Constructed and moulded to appreciable emotional impact, it emerged extra richly ambiguous than ever. The Carmen–Fantasy, one other so-called sonatina, introduced virtuosity, even hyper-virtuosity, extra strongly to the fore. Layers of music, maybe of meta-music too, have been revealed and corroded, all inside the Lisztian mannequin of the paraphrase. Gerstein captured extraordinarily properly the piece’s ruminative high quality: the composer, post-opera, extemporising on its themes. It was a turbulent, even violent necromancy we heard within the Toccata, its ‘superior’ language no bar to excessive Lisztian grandiloquence. One gained an impression of a number of prisms, by way of music one might by no means fairly pin down. The music from — or ‘to’? — Doktor Faust (associated to the unusual character, if one could name her that, of the Duchess of Parma) sounded as darkly elegiac and as dangerously sulphuric as I can recall.
Brighter major colors have been to be heard from the off in Liszt himself. The opening Prelude appeared to strip away a gauze curtain we had not realised was there. Its virtuosic thrills offered fairly the curtain-raiser. ‘Paysage’ supplied seductive distinction, phrases superbly leaned into. A Chopinesque — particularly within the cadenzas — ‘Mazeppa’ properly illustrated Gerstein’s nice command of Lisztian rhetoric: overseas to our extra cynical age in some ways, and but relished for what it’s. That high quality of big-heartedness took us by way of items such because the ‘Imaginative and prescient’ and ‘Eroica’, vividly delivered to life in themselves, but additionally a part of a better trajectory. So keen can we generally be to defend Liszt in opposition to his cultivated despisers, we are able to neglect how nice a factor it’s merely, and even not so merely, to like his music. Not that there was something sentimental to this efficiency; we cherished the music by way of Gerstein’s mental in addition to technical command. His turning of corners, as if revealing new vistas, sometimes introduced Mahler to thoughts. Gerstein might attraction too, as in ‘Ricordanza’. A bravura tenth research introduced us to the flower-like harmonic blooming of ‘Harmonies du soir’, whose darker currents and sheer strangeness — certainly enticing to Busoni — have been definitely not undersold. The ultimate research, ‘Chasse-neige’ was finely etched, seemingly in keeping with a palette created earlier than our ears.
The encore was Bach-Busoni: ‘Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmein’. Busoni marks it Molto scorrevole, ma distintamente. That’s unquestionably what we heard.