A Journey for Piano Four Hands

Oh that Franz Liszt! He composed the two Lenau Faust Episodes for orchestra, including the well-known Mephisto Waltz, and then turned around and pilfered himself by turning them into two tour de force pieces for a demonically gifted keyboardist (himself of course) that only he could tackle thanks to allegedly having made a pact with Satan, no less. Or so many thought, for long after the Abbé passed on to a better life down below or elsewhere, many a piano star of Liszt’s time and many thereafter hesitatingly added these fearfully finger-breaking pieces to their concert arsenals.

How fortunate it is to have the duo of Turkish pianist Zeynep Ucbasaran and the Italian pianist Sergio Gallo joining their formidable technical and musical prowess without the need of having to make any infernal pacts in this divine music 2016 release.

Together Ms. Ucbasaran and Signor Gallo, greatly aided by recording engineer Barbara Hirsch make an orchestra unnecessary in this album of mostly originally-orchestral pieces. Here you will hear a lively rendition of three Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances: the lively Furiants nos. 1 and 8, and the laid-back Dumka no. 2. The listener will find further delights in selections from Gounod’s Faust (the other one), Godard’s lovely lullaby from Jocelyn, the Overture to Bizet’s Carmen, and Darius Milhaud’s zany Brazilian-inflected depiction of a bull up on a roof Le Boeuf sur le toit.

Were it not for the enterprise of these two superb interpreters of music of all kinds and the support of the good folks at divine music, much of this music – lighter fare and salon ditties in this instance – would be inaccessible in piano-duo format, just as in the 19th century a trip to the concert hall in the big city was out of reach, were it not for the home piano – often four hands – that made a happy and economical substitute for tickets to hear Liszt in person.

Rafael de Acha        ALL ABOUT THE ARTS