Martin Ivanov’s Liszt

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

The young Bulgarian pianist Martin Ivanov’s impressive solo-CD debut featuring Chopin’s Waltzes led to an even more distinctive follow-up release including excellent performances of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke Op. 12 and Noveletten Op. 21. His third Gramola disc is given over to Liszt.

It begins promisingly, with as fluent and flexible a reading of the concert etude Waldesrauschen as you’re likely to encounter; its long singing melodic line ebbs and flows, supported by a beautifully contoured accompaniment. Ivanov starts Gnomenreignen at an optimistic clip that compels him to slow down when the second theme kicks in. As a result, the lack of momentum undermines the effect of Liszt’s accelerated tempo request later on.

In Ivanov’s Paganini Etudes, you won’t find individual profile and fanciful details characterizing disparate versions from Daniil Trifinov, Marc-André Hamelin, and, more recently, Vasco Dantas. Still, his direct and polished pianism takes the composer’s demands in stride, particularly in the buoyant La chasse and the A minor Theme and Variations’ assiduously effected tempo relationships.

The strengths of Ivanov’s Liszt Sonata include imaginative rubato in the lyrical second theme and a bracing and exciting fughetta. But the notorious octave passages seem studio bound, as if they are patched in as an afterthought rather than taking off from what came before. I also suspect that Ivanov is holding back dynamically. In sum, it’s a thoroughly respectable rendition among many, yet ranks below Arrau’s majestic breadth and drama, Leon Fleisher’s febrile classicism, and the no-holds-barred risk-taking of Joseph Moog’s recent recording. Although Ivanov’s latest disc takes a slight step back in relation to the promise of his first two releases, I nevertheless appreciate the best of his Liszt, and look forward to what he’ll offer next.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Sonata in B minor, Waldesrauschen, & Gnomenreignen: Arrau (Philips), Paganini Etudes: Hamelin (Hyperion)

    Grandes Etudes de Paganini; Waldesrauschen; Gnomenreignen; Piano Sonata in B minor
  • Martin Ivanov (piano)

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