The Unforgettable “Forgotten”

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 9

Having reviewed Xiaoya Liu’s brilliant edition of Carl Vine’s four piano sonatas elsewhere, I was not at all surprised by the superb technique, sensitivity, and individuality that this gifted pianist brings to each and every selection throughout this release.

Her Mozart C minor Fantasy is a model of perfect pacing, where elegance and drama merge as one. Liu transforms Chopin’s early and flashy Rondo Op. 1 into something more substantial, pointedly shaping the decorative right-hand flourishes and creating shimmering sonorities with impressively discreet pedaling.

I’ve rarely heard such a feathery and scintillating Liszt Bagatelle Without Tonality, so different from Alfred Brendel’s harder-edged traversal. It assiduously leads into a comparably imaginative and convincingly capricious Valse oubliée No. 1. She plays the lyrical Romance oubliée beautifully, although I find the late Joel Hasting’s Naxos recording slightly warmer and fuller in body.

Why Charles Tomlinson Griffes’ compact and substantial 1918 Piano Sonata remains on the recital repertoire’s fringes is an utter mystery. Its sensuous melodies, potent expressivity, and idiomatic yet orchestrally-inspired keyboard textures easily warrant a “Great American Piano Sonata” ranking alongside Ives, Barber, Carter, and Copland. It’s also interesting how certain of the tumultuous finale’s figurations presage Prokofiev’s Seventh sonata, composed a quarter century later. Liu may not quite match Garrick Ohlsson, Stephen Beus, or Reed Tetzloff for high-voltage profile in the outer movements (they also benefit from stronger sonic presence), yet one cannot deny her narrative grasp and intelligently scaled dynamics. How ironic that a release entitled “The Forgotten” turns out to be unforgettable, and, more importantly, recommendable.

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Recording Details:

Album Title: The Forgotten
Reference Recording: None for this collection

W.A. MOZART: Fantasia in C minor K. 475
FRÉDÉRIC CHOPIN: Rondo in C minor Op. 1
FRANZ LISZT: Bagatelle Without Tonality; Valse oubliée No. 1; Romance oubliée

  • Xiaoya Liu (piano)

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