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High-pitched claims for Alexander Gadjiev, the 24-year-old prizewinning Russian pianist, are amply confirmed by this debut album. Entitled Literary Fantasies and devoted to Liszt and Schumann, it enshrines with a dazzling strength and eloquence the very heart of 19th-century Romanticism. Whether in each of Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets with their luxuriant evocation of earthly love (‘blessed be the day, the month, the year’), unrequited passion (‘I fear, hope and burn and am full of ice’) or divine radiance (‘I saw on earth angelic grace’), Gadjiev gives his all. His sonority is as rich as it is varied, his virtually palpable ardour backed by a formidable command. Virtuosity roars and fulminates in the Dante Sonata; and whether presto agitato or dolcissimo con amore, Gadjiev’s feeling for Liszt’s rhetoric has few rivals on record (Volodos’s live performance, with its added embellishments, goes in a special category).

Schumann has always been at the heart of the great Russian pianists (Moiseiwitsch, Horowitz, Richter, etc) and here Gadjiev joins a rich tradition. His Kreisleriana achieves an enviable warmth and naturalness, quite without artifice or self-conscious idiosyncrasy. How acutely he responds to the music’s sudden darkening that made Schumann’s beloved Clara beg him for greater clarity and less obscurity. Gadjiev is no less telling in the oddly disturbing gnomic finale, with its near- Ivesian rhythmic dislocations: his performance is of an outstanding poetic resource. Finally, as an encore that falls like balm on the ear after so much storm and stress, the second of Schumann’s three Fantasiestücke Op 111, given with a special intimacy and affection. Gadjiev is finely recorded and I can hardly wait to hear him in the widest repertoire.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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