This disc, recorded in 2007, is an outstanding example of highest quality at lowest price. Are there any snags? The short answer is 'No.'
This is a very competitive area of the disc market where just about every pianist of virtuoso standing has made a recording, and mostly they are uniformly fine. There are differences of emphasis of course. Just to run through some of the options: Byron Janis made a terrific recording for Mercury, recorded in Moscow with Kondrashin and Rozhdestvensky as the conductors. This bristles with excitement and musical virtuosity. Richter also made an exciting recording with Kondrashin but with the LSO. This is harder driven at the climaxes and the recording is rather close comparatively. From the same period, late 50s and early 60s, is the Katchen recording also with the LSO but with Argenta conducting. This is a flat out Romantic performance with a great sense of timing and some humour. Brendel with Haitink gives a thoughtful, possibly somewhat sober view and in the late 80s Zimerman with Ozawa provided an absolutely scorching version and much admired. There are many others equally deserving of mention.
Nebolsin undoubtedly joins this illustrious company. The point about the previous paragraph is to illustrate the range of excellence available on disc and also the impossibility of any one performance being considered definitive. The best that a performance can do is to match those and this Nebolsin does. His performance has plenty of fire tempered by expressive passages of repose. The orchestral response under Petrenko is all one could wish for and the recording, being both good and modern, is now one of the best available at any price. Even the solo triangle in concerto 1 is perfectly balanced within the orchestral texture, clearly audible without exaggeration. The Totentanz has all the same virtues of performance and recording.
I would therefore suggest that purchasers looking for just one copy of these works would benefit by considering this disc very carefully. I would also suggest that this disc deserves equally serious consideration from collectors interested in acquiring comparative versions
To my shame, I have to stick my hands up to never having heard of the pianist Eldar Nebolsin before; but now I'm delighted that I've become acquainted with him, via his first-rate rendition of Liszt's two piano concertos on the ever-excellent Naxos label.
Right from the ominous first chords of the allegro maestoso of the 1st piano concerto, right through to the thrilling allegro animato of the second, 39 minutes later, this is a wonderful recording with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic being superbly supervised by Vasily Petrenko.
There's also an addition of Liszt's Totentanz - not one of my favourites, whoever plays it - but there for you if you happen to like it. But like it or not, it detracts nothing from the splendid disc, highly recommended and very competitively priced.
I was browsing the Naxos website (recommended- it lets you listen) when I came across this recording by a pianist I hadn't heard of, Nebolsin, who apparently recently won the sviatoslav richter prize. No wonder. Apart from the astonishing pianism, the accompaniment by the Liverpool Philharmonic with Petrenko at the helm was truly impressive. The sound recording is of demonstration quality.
This delightful package comes at super-bargain price. Don't hesitate, this version will match any head on.
The earlier review describing Liszt's concertos as "not great music" is complete and utter NONSENSE! The first is amongst the most sublimely beautiful works for piano and orchestra and yet also features one of the greatest virtuoso solo parts of the 19th century. Totally superior to Chopin's works for these forces (though these are admirable in their own right), Liszt, in his piano concertos reached the zenith of the genre in his day. Eldar Nebolsin's pianism is exquisite and powerful and Petrenko and the Liverpool Phil provide a masterful accompaniment. Petrenko is one of the truly great conductors of his generation - his recording of the Tchaikovsky Manfred Symphony is one of the finest orchestral recordings in decades - absolute mastery. A wonderful recording of some of Liszt's great works by superb performers and at budget cost - perfect!
Let's face it, Liszt's concerted works for piano and orchestra -- the two concertos and the piano/orchestra version of Totentanz -- are not great music. They tend to be episodic, patchy in their construction, sometimes sparse in their melodic materials, and downright vulgar in spots. But in the right hands they can be exciting concert experiences. Although there are many recordings of these works, there are few that rise to the heights. Among those are the versions by Richter Liszt: The Two Piano Concertos; The Piano Sonata and by Krystian Zimerman Liszt: Piano Concertos Nos.1 & 2; Totentanz. Eldar Nebolsin is a thirty-five year old Uzbeki pianist long resident in Madrid and he has fingers, musicianship and expressivity to spare. His earlier release of the Rachmaninov Preludes was greeted with almost universal acclaim (including mine) Rachmaninov: Preludes. He does not let us down in these performances of the concertos and the Totentanz. And he receives pretty good support from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. Their violin section seems considerably more silken than when I last heard anything from them. Recorded sound is fine although the famously cheeky triangle part in the third section of the First Concerto (which led to its initially sneering designation by Eduard Hanslick as 'The Triangle Concerto') seems subdued, barely audible.
The Richter disc -- which does not include the Totentanz (no loss, in my book; I've never been able to warm up to it) -- is currently at a very low price here at Amazon. But the sound is ancient. The Zimerman disc, at full price, has been my favorite recent recording. And indeed it still is my favorite. But the Nebolsin disc costs only about half as much as the Zimerman and that could be a deciding factor for some shoppers.