on 26 September 2011
This bargain set would still be a bargain at full price. It was revelation to me in that I did not know the playing of Ciccolini yet within a few bars it was clearly apparent that he is a unique and outstanding player. He puts paid to the old myth that Liszt was a mere showman who wrote superficial display pieces. Both the contemplative and the visionary aspects of the music are well brought out - with plenty of bravura where necessary, as in 'Funérailles', which comes across as a mighty homage to the dead and not a fireworks display. Every note seems to matter to Ciccolini, almost as though he were speaking directly to the listener and he evokes vividly the pastoral pieces in "Les Années de Pèlerinage" as well as bringing out the sense of inner peace which Liszt felt when contemplating the Swiss countryside.
The set also includes the complete "Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses" - usually we only get to hear "Bénédiction de Dieu dans la Solitude" - and very beautiful they are. Operatic paraphrases include two written when Liszt was at the height of his powers: "Aïda" and "Simon Boccanegra", which capture the mood of the originals so well, notably the final pages of "Aïda".
Judging from this superb set, Aldo Ciccolini, Italian-born but resident in France for most of his life, merits much greater attention than he is sometimes accorded and I recommend his Liszt with all possible enthusiasm.