Aquilles Delle Vigne’s Terrific Liszt Transcendental Etudes

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 5

Interpretively speaking, this newly remastered 1994 recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes is one of the most rewarding in the catalog. Knowing that pianist Aquilles Delle Vigne studied with Claudio Arrau and Georges Cziffra (both of whom recorded the Etudes), perhaps it’s no coincidence that his approach combines elements of Arrau’s tonal heft and rhetorical breadth and Cziffra’s more volatile, impetuous virtuosity. You hear this in the first etude: booming bass notes and rippling scales—Arrau; pounced upon, slightly accelerated chords—Cziffra. No. 2’s implied countermelodies in the left hand? Arrau. No. 2’s fiery broken chords between the hands? Cziffra.

However, it’s better not to oversimplify and pigeonhole my responses to Delle Vigne’s technically masterful and thoroughly internalized interpretations, but rather to describe what makes them distinct. Mazeppa fuses headlong intensity (the roller-coaster-like, frighteningly accurate octaves) and poetic purpose (the variety with which the arpeggiated chords are spaced and voiced). Note also the natural ebb and flow of Feux Follets’ rubato—and what a pleasure to hear Eroica’s opening measures meted out in tempo, with each disparate element so perfectly characterized. The untitled Tenth etude has tremendous sweep and shape, spiced with sharp accents on the appoggiaturas, while Chasse-neige’s central climax builds in long-lined arcs.

The slower, more lyrical pieces fare equally well in Delle Vigne’s hands: note the almost three-dimensional textural differentiation he achieves in Harmonies du soir. Unfortunately, the blustery, overly reverberant ambience causes the piano to swim more than sing, and it takes a leap of faith to accept that the Bösendorfer Imperial Grand heard in eleven out of the twelve Etudes (Feux Follets was recorded on a Steinway) is not a jangly barroom upright. No matter. This is big, poetic, and thoroughly captivating Liszt playing.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Claudio Arrau (Philips); László Simon (BIS)


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