Elena Kuschnerova’s Liszt

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 6

Sound Quality: 9

Years ago I reviewed a mostly workmanlike all-Bach program from 2000 on the Orfeo label featuring Moscow-born/Germany-based pianist Elena Kuschnerova that contained one fabulous performance of the Partita No. 6 in E minor. Similarly, her Liszt recital for Bella Musica features one terrific selection among an uneven mix, which I’ll address later.

As with her Bach, Kuschnerova’s Liszt reveals a solid and assured technician, and a less enlivening musician. The way she rushes in the opening measures of Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este sets the tone for an overly impatient interpretation, where the arpeggio sprays press forward and the climaxes are undermined, despite some delicate soft playing midway. The two Petrarca Sonetti lack dynamic variety and repose; compare these (as well as the Jeux d’eaux) to the breadth and color throughout Claudio Arrau’s 1969 Philips recordings and you’ll hear what’s missing. Little thrust or swagger informs the E major Polonaise’s dotted rhythms, nor does the D-flat Consolation resonate and float to Horowitz’s magical standard (few performances do, in fairness!).

Although Kuschnerova paces Mephisto Waltz No. 1 with astute drama and intelligence, her interpretation falls short of Janina Fialkowska’s sense of fantasy or Vladimir Ashkenazy’s virtuosic flair. She avoids turning the Dante Sonata into an endless octave etude and makes the most out of the piece’s few windows of lyrical respite.

The opening salvo, Rhapsodie espagnol, boasts dazzling filigree and stylish élan from start to finish. This is great Liszt playing by any standard; too bad the following tracks are less inspired.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this collection

    Rhapsodie espagnol; Sonetti 104 & 123; Aprés une lecture du Dante; Polonaise No. 2 in E major; Consolation No. 3 in D-flat major; Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este; Mephisto Waltz No. 1
  • Elena Kuschnerova (piano)

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