If these transcriptions are a contest between Beethoven and Liszt, under Martynov’s fingers, Liszt is the winner. It isn’t that he emphasizes the music’s technical demands (although one hardly ceases to be aware of them in these muscular yet always lithe readings) but that his playing seems to stress the idea that a forward-looking Classical composer is being filtered through the sensibilities of a similarly forward-looking Romantic.
Martynov doesn’t sound like anyone else, and his lovely, bright-sounding Blüthner, nicely recorded by Zig-Zag in a church in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, contributes to making this a unique listening experience.
One is left thinking not about what a piano cannot do, compared to Beethoven’s orchestra, but about what an orchestra cannot do, compared to Liszt’s piano. That’s as it should be. Look out for this release, and for the two that will follow it. Very highly recommended.
The bottom line is that Martynov’s formidable keyboard command and strong musical personality draw you in and compel you to listen. I await this cycle’s remaining volumes with curiosity and anticipation.
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