If you want a disc of Liszt’s Greatest Hits you could do worse than have Lang Lang as your guide. The hype and the hysterical fan base of the megastar Chinese pianist have not entirely managed to obscure the fact that he continues to mature as an artist. Lang has said Liszt is a special composer for him, and his playing on this disc demonstrates that affinity very clearly. 

What a wide-ranging composer Liszt was. I recently reviewed Brendel’s Liszt recordings, which concentrate on the inward, philosophical late works. Lang opts for Liszt the showman: cascades of glistening scales and fancy finger work (La Campanella), surging double octaves (Hungarian Rhapsody No 6) and so on. But Liszt also set the ladies swooning with the beauty of his tone and the breathless quality of his rubato, and Lang understands this side of the composer as well. In Liebestraum and the transcription of Schubert’s Ave Maria he achieves a perfect balance: not over-romanticised but not foursquare either. 

The thundering virtuoso and the gentle poet come together in Liszt’s First Piano Concerto − one of the best piano concertos ever written, in my opinion. This performance, recorded live with Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic, is a triumph from all concerned: by turns fiery, limpid, playful and always rising to the occasion when pyrotechnics are required. 

Another reviewer found the piano sound too toppy. On my system it sounds absolutely true. The booklet note has Liszt dying at the age of 125.

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