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‘Old ones, new ones, loved ones, neglected ones,’ crooned the late and popular TV pianist Semprini as he mooned his way through a concoction called Mediterranean Concerto. To which I must add that Louis Kentner (1905-1982) is a forever new name from the past, loved if neglected. There have been previous re-issues but none to equal APR’s 2-CD tribute which shows Kentner in all his early glory (sadly his later playing became increasingly bloated and strenuous). His 1949 performance of Balakirev’s romantically intricate Sonata remains as beguiling as ever – tonally luxuriant, rhapsodic and with a finale of fearless virtuosity. His Islamey may not have the awe-inspiring scale of a Cziffra, Pletnev, Gilels or Berezovsky, yet even with the odd omission and re-arrangement few performances carry you along in the chase of this ultimate white- knuckle piece. Again, Kentner is every inch the inclusive virtuoso in the first CD issue of his Liszt Sonata. Very few pianists have captured Liszt’s rhetoric so grandly (a few rushed fences amount to no more than spots on a blazing sun).

Finally, there is Kentner’s legendary recording of Liapunov’s Transcendental Etudes, an ultra-demanding, ultra-Russian tribute to Liszt. And whether you rejoice in the deeply and joyously tolling bells of ‘Carillon’ or in the pianist’s intrepid assault on ‘Tereck’ (these were the days before the safety net of modern editing) you will surely wonder at Kentner’s poetic richness and command. Wherever you turn you will hear all of his imperial and charismatic style. Enthusiasts will know Josef Banowetz’s recording of Balakirev’s Mazurkas and recall Stephen Hough’s phenomenal agility and exotic colouration in his Naumberg prize-winning disc which included three of Liapunov’s Etudes. But Kentner’s album, brilliantly presented and re-mastered is in a class of its own, a must for all lovers of truly great pianism.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing