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Samson François was the ultimate maverick, remaining a wild, untutored phoenix despite Cortot’s and Marguerite Long’s attempts to curb his exuberance. For Pierre Barbizet he was, quite simply, the greatest pianist in the world, while Brigitte Engerer leftone of his recitals reeling at the impact of his hypnotic fantasy and freedom.

Naturally, for a pianist who left almost everything to chance and whose disordered and flamboyant lifestyle contributed to his early death at 46, consistency was out of the question. You could leave his concerts bewitched, bothered or bewildered. And so it is in this extraordinary live broadcast.

His Schumann Études Symphoniques are oddly heavy and Teutonic while his Liszt Sonata, with its rhetoric gasps, becomes virtually surreal. You may argue over the greatest Liszt Sonata on record, but you can’t argue over the strangest. In the Don Juan fantasy, François takes you to the very edge – over the edge in the coda – but with responses as vivid and tempestuous as you could wish. No point in comparisons: François was always François in whatever guise he appeared. This issue is a reminder of the contradictions of musical genius.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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