Review: “A pianist with hands and brain intact” (BBC Music)

JS Bach/Rachmaninov: Partita No. 3 in E; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Liszt: Réminiscences de Don Juan; Paraphrase de concert sur Rigoletto; Schubert/Liszt: Gretchen am Spinnrade; Die Forelle; Erlkönig; J Strauss II/dohnányi: Schatz-walzer

Alessandro Taverna (piano)

SOMM SOMMCD 0605 73:05 mins

Italian pianist Alessandro Taverna, recorded live in concert in Southampton, plays a programme of well-contrasted approaches to the notion of virtuoso transcription. The storms, stresses and seemingly endless octaves of Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan are offset by Rachmaninov’s elegant reimagining of Bach violin solos; olde-world Vienna, gorgeous in a rarely-heard Strauss waltz transcription by Dohnányi, rubs shoulders with 1920s New York in Gershwin’s solo piano version of Rhapsody in Blue.

Taverna is possibly at his best in the most suave and delicate numbers. The pianistic candelabra in the Strauss waltz twinkle like Venetian glass and the whole piece oozes joy and charm. The Bach/ Rachmaninov transcriptions achieve an excellent balance between the clarity and poise of Bach’s originals and the pianistcomposer’s delicious harmonic embellishments; Taverna never lets glamour get the better of grace. Schubert receives the Liszt makeover in three songs, of which ‘Die Forelle’ perhaps comes off best; ‘Erlkönig’ in this performance could benefit from a little more contrast between the different ‘voices’ in the poem. There is even more sense of a challenge in the Liszt operatic extravaganzas; occasionally one might reach for the volume control to reduce the thunder a little – though frankly I’d applaud any pianist who can pull these off in concert and emerge with hands and brain intact. 

Jessica Duchen




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