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The third book of Années de pélèrinage tells of a journey from exuberance to bitterness. Despised rather than fêted in his old age, Liszt’s dark-hued late works were viewed as the product of senility, their far-reaching prophecy incomprehensible to his contemporaries. The death of his children, ill health and the failure to secure a longed-for marriage contributed to his desolation and spiritual upheaval, graphically caught in music that readily erupts from introspection into a fist-shaking violence (the climaxes of the two threnodies) or a sardonic alternative to former optimism (the Bagatelle sans tonalité). La lugubre gondola is a premonition of Wagner’s death and the opening chime of ‘Angelus!’ is worlds away from the dizzying acrobatics of ‘La campanella’. But if some relief comes with ‘Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este’, Tiberghien’s relatively sombre view of its scintillating cascades reminds us of its religious undertow. Elsewhere his playing is of a burning commitment and intensity.

This is extraordinary music and few other pianists have captured its pain and disquiet more vividly or eloquently. Hyperion’s sound is superb and even when compared to, say, Lazar Berman’s justifiably celebrated recording, Tiberghien is supreme.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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