Lazar Berman, a bear of a man whom The Times of London called ‘one of the last unabashed exponents of the Romantic tradition of Russian pianism’, was known for the power of his playing and for his prodigious technique but was also capable of great delicacy at the keyboard. The core of his repertoire was the great Romantic and post-Romantic works, from Beethoven to Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Emil Gilels referred to him as a ‘phenomenon of the musical world’. Eloquence presents his complete Deutsche Grammophon recordings over five titles.
Berman’s recording of Liszt’s complete ‘Années de Pèlerinage’ has been one of the reference recordings of the work since it was made in 1977. Recorded in Munich’s Alter Herkulessaal, the sound affords plenty of opportunity to appreciate Berman’s breathtaking sense of detail and yet his visionary perspective ensures that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, that the individual pieces in each ‘journey’ are shaped into a whole experience.
The coupling, making up the fourth disc in this set, is much lesser known: the first release on CD of Berman’s 1961 recordings of ‘Funérailles’ and the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 as well as the truly astonishing 1965 versions of six of Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert lieder.
Années de pèlerinage – Première année: Suisse, S. 160
Années de pèlerinage – Deuxième année: Italie, S. 161
Venezia e Napoli, S. 162 (supplément aux Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année: Italie)
Années de pèlerinage – Troisième année, S. 163
Funérailles (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173)*
Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 in E flat major, S. 244 ‘Pesther Carneval’*
arr. Franz Liszt
Der Leiermann (Winterreise)
Die junge Nonne
Wohin (Die schöne Müllerin)
Lazar Berman, piano
*FIRST RELEASE ON CD
Executive Producer: Werner Mayer (Années de pèlerinage); unknown (Funérailles, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, Schubert Lieder transcriptions)
Recording Producer: Wolf-Dieter Karwatky (Années de pèlerinage); unknown (Funérailles, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, Schubert Lieder transcriptions)
Balance Engineer: Hans-Peter Schweigmann (Années de pèlerinage); unknown (Funérailles, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12, Schubert Lieder transcriptions)
Editing: Jürgen Bulgrin, Manfred Bartel (Années de pèlerinage)
Recordings: 1961 (Funérailles, Hungarian Rhapsody); 1965 (Schubert Lieder transcriptions); Residenz, Alter Herkulessaal, Munich, Germany, May 1977 (Années de pèlerinage)
‘As a technician, Berman is extraordinary in terms of sheer evenness, control, and rhythmic panache, yet he always channels his considerable craft toward musical ends. It’s a relief, for example, to hear octave passages in Orage, Vallée d’Obermann, and the Dante Sonata shaped in sentence-like phrases rather than banged out. In turn, the Tarantella’s repeated notes sound like quicksilver pearls rather than pellets’ (Années de Pèlerinage) Classics Today
‘the quality of the recording is first-rate, reproducing the whole of Berman’s very wide dynamic range … Berman’s pianism is superb. Nothing about this artist has ever impressed me more than his ability to combine tremendous weight and body of tone with speed … but finger-tip delicacy is equally impressive throughout the journey, not least when the imagery is aqueous’ (Années de Pèlerinage) Gramophone