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What exactly defines a waltz? Marco Rapetti’s brilliantly enterprising programme suggests an infinite variety, particularly when played with such dexterity and affection. Ringing the changes with notable skill, his opening curtain-raiser, Liszt’s Bagatelle sans tonalité (originally intended as a Fifth Mephisto Waltz and unpublished until 1956) glints with the dark-hued, unsettling poetry of the composer’s final years. The Four Valses oubliées, too, turn simple notions of salon charm topsy-turvy, leaving Liszt’s glanz (glitter) period a bittersweet memory. Here, visionary to the last, Liszt, through his alchemist’s art, transcends years clouded by ill-health and adversity.

Debussy’s Valse romantique and La plus que lente follow naturally before a retreat to the aristocratic ballroom glitter of Balakirev and Glazunov – both waltzes that should be in the repertoires of all intrepid virtuoso pianists. Whirling his dancers off the floor at the close of the Glazunov, Rapetti more than holds his own with the many celebrated recordings of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, as alive to salty brio (the opening) as to introspection (the retrospective coda). Scriabin’s Quasi valse shifts kaleidoscopic patterns still further, while Stravinsky’s Valse pour les enfants is a spritely retort to convention. Schonberg’s waltz from his Op 23 rounds off an endlessly intriguing, ear-opening recital.

Ravel’s La Valse might have confirmed the menace behind Liszt’s prophecy, but together with further examples of the genre by Saint-Saëns, Fauré and Granados (to name but three) we must wait hopefully for another day. Finely recorded, here is a disc alive with the spirit of adventure.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing