In 1962 Stephen Plaistow wrote of the Liszt E flat Polonaise on this set that ‘the playing of the E major Polonaise is outstanding: it has bravura, exquisite timing and poise, colour, delicacy, plenty of rhythmic character and an air of ebullient pomp that is quite irresistible.’ You might expect such ebullience from Vásáry in the music of his fellow-countryman Liszt, especially given his reputatation, cultivated and strengthened over decades, of specialism in a composer whose refined and elusive idiom requires such immersive study to escape the confines of virtuosity and even approach the expressive heart of the novel structures and evanescent textures exhibited by the B minor Sonata and the Légende No.2, of St Francis walking on the water. Such qualities will likely make a fine Debussyan of a pianist, too, and so, we may be unsurprised to learn, from the pages of Gramophone again, that the Suite bergamasque has ‘the right blend of chaste gravity and sensuous charm’ and Clair de lune ‘is a model of style’.
What may come as more of a surprise to those unaware of Vásáry’s eminence over half a century now as pianist, conductor and more importantly musician, is the vigorous authority of his Brahms, ideally set off here by the stamping energy of the two comparatively early variation sets of Op.21, the Op.35 Variations and the more heartfelt Klavierstücke Op.76. These recordings are from much later, the digital era indeed, but they reflect the promise felt by Stephen Plaistow, in 1967 this time, that ‘As one listens to his playing one senses at all times the intelligence and taste that lie behind it. The future of fine piano-playing seems assured while there are young pianists like him and Vladimir Ashkenazy around with maybe 40 years of playing ahead of them: a splendid thought!
- Classic recordings of Romantic piano literature.
- Original booklet notes included.