CD Review: LISZT — The Two Piano Concertos; 12 Transcendental Études (Alessandro Ambrosoli)

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by Tony Frankel on March 5, 2018

in CD-DVD,Music


Dynamic Records has just released an album of Liszt starring Italian pianist Alessandro Ambrosoli (b. 1969). Disc 1 is all 12 Études d’exécution transcendante; disc 2 are Liszt’s two piano concertos. Independent Italian record company Dynamic often releases live recordings, but that only applies to the second CD here. The Études were actually recorded back in 2002 at SMC Records in Ivrea, just outside of Turin, and re-released a decade later by KNS Classical; the concertos were recorded live at St. Petersburg Music Hall Theatre in 2015 with the St. Petersburg Northern Sinfonietta, led by its Principal Conductor & Music Director Fabio Mastrangelo.

Ambrosoli, a fellow countryman of another Liszt master, Sergio Fiorentino, not only radiates youthful vigor in a pulse-pounding parade of pride, but interprets Lizst magnificently. What is strange is that I can’t locate one other recording of Ambrosoli, who apparently still does concerts in Europe and Russia. I don’t know where he was between 2002 and 2015, but I sure would like to hear more from this talented and well-trained master in the future.

His aptitude for virtuosic brilliance and fantastic speed, as well as deeply reflective character, seem ready-made for the Transcendental Études. He executes the most difficult passages with extraordinary flair, while reserving his lyricism and introspection for Liszt’s poetic meditations. For a taste of Ambrosoli’s brilliance, try track five of disc one, the famous “Feux follets,” which he plays with dazzling technique and a light touch.

Also sample No. 4: “Mazeppa,” an audacious piece. Not only does it present challenges for physical stamina and dexterity, but there’s a huge range of sonorities in this evolution of musical fantasy. Here, the performer and the work become one. “Mazeppa” is an impressive tone poem, inspired by a Victor Hugo poem about a rider strapped to a horse, Ambrosoli nails those fat arpeggiated chords, and the thematic triads played by both hands on top of a sequence of ascending double thirds that fall between the beats. It’s an eight-minute thrill ride.

On the second disc, Ambrosoli — backed by the awesome Mastrangelo — plays the Second Piano Concerto’s dazzling piano lines with energy and flexibility. In particular, he offers a bracingly large, brilliant sound in Liszt’s showier passages and striking delicacy in its more introspective ones.

For the Piano Concerto No. 1, he handles well the various challenges of this virtuosic work. He established a majestic attitude by transmitting the commanding octaves at the commencement with thorough assurance. The clarity is magnificent throughout, whether pounding or pianissimo (and be assured that the lyrical parts of this concerto are just as difficult for the player).

With Daniil Trifonov and others having also released the Études, it’s a crowded market for buyers, but rest assured that Ambrosoli can safely be added to your Liszt … collection, that is.


Liszt: The Two Piano Concertos; 12 Transcendental Études
Dynamic Records CDS7801.02
Alessandro Ambrosoli, piano
The St. Petersburg Northern Sinfonietta of the Music Hall Theatre
Fabio Mastrangelo, conductor
CD One: 12 tracks | 62:29
CD Two: 4 tracks |
released on January 19, 2018
available at Amazon and Naxos

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