The Liszt bicentennial has brought a flood of records, and, with it, a flood of attention-getting record covers, apparently designed to remind everyone that Liszt was a Flamboyant Celebrity Artist, the Lady Gaga of his time. The cover for Lang Lang's forthcoming disc Liszt: My Piano Hero is becoming legend; Anthony Tommasini, in today's Times, aptly describes it as "something out of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." Lang Lang's former record label, DG, has struck back with this cover, which could almost be interpreted as passive-aggressive:
Kidding aside, there's some powerful, imaginative playing on this album, although I found a few of Buniatishvili's choices jarring. The Mephisto Waltz No. 1 is a jazzy tour-de-force.
DG has a compilation titled Liszt Wild and Crazy — a silly title but a fun neo-sixties graphic:
At the other extreme is this subdued cover for a forthcoming disc of the concertos with Daniel Barenboim at the piano and Pierre Boulez conducting. If I'm not mistaken, Boulez is about to say, "Daniel, cher ami, do we really have to do this?"
Alexander Krichel, a young pianist from Hamburg, seems to be thinking, "Gosh, I'm more handsome than Liszt in his prime!"
The cover of Nelson Freire's disc Harmonies du Soir is quite boring; the playing, however, is sublime. Freire, who has long given life to the old cliché "poet of the piano," has a way of connecting Liszt's gestures so that they form a naturally flowing narrative; you never feel hectored. This is the finest of the anniversary-year discs I've heard.
In memoriam Proper Discord.