Fellner In Concert: Splendid Liszt, Less Impressive Beethoven

Review by: Jens F. Laurson


Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 7

If you favor pianism over star-power, Austrian Till Fellner should be right up your alley. Although the one-time Alfred Brendel-protégée is generally well regarded among connoisseurs, he strikes as perennially underrated. At his worst, Fellner’s style can appear straightforward, neat, and well behaved, making extremes appear to take place with a built-in “ma non troppo”. But while he might be a touch subtle, he’s always musical and conveys—at his best—the idea that he thought about the music in question, rather than simply learned it. Case in point his Liszt—Book One of the Année de pèlerinage—on this release, which is beguiling.

The no-nonsense approach, devoid of glitz-and-blitz, seemingly stripped of all layers of interpretation while presenting everything in tasteful moderation rather than hammering out the extremes—it works wonders as an alternative to, say, the powerful roar of a Lazar Berman. True, he does not elicit quite the flitting twilight of colors from the Musikverein’s concert grand that, say, Daniel Grimwood charms out of a historic Erard (Sfz music), but his nuance, fine play, and the refreshing briskness of “Vallée d’Obermann” do whet the appetite for more and more recent Fellner.

The Beethoven shares some similar qualities but is ultimately less impressive. The Arietta variation movement is a touch long-winded (though well sustained); a little slip that would never matter in live performance but that on repeat listening telegraphs its presence in bar 142 becomes a tiny blot on the escutcheon. For all its virtues, the performance ultimately strikes as just another Op. 111 caught on disc, not Till Fellner’s definitive word on Sonata No. 32.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: Till Fellner In Concert
Reference Recording: Liszt: Grimwood (Sfz music); Chamayou (Naïve), Beethoven Op. 111: Pollini (DG)

  • Till Fellner (piano)
  • ECM - ECM 2511
  • CD

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