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Beethovenian advances in keyboard technique, rigorously harnessed to musical considerations, gradually gave way to the kaleidoscopic candyfloss of Czerny before opening out onto the transcendental world of Liszt's Three Etudes de concert where the liberation of sheer virtuosity for its own sake counts as a 'virtue' in itself. But even Liszt, once roused, would brook no mincing about in his drive to musical consummation and it was here that the glossy detailwork of Daniel was no substitute. In the crossing over of hands in Waldesrauschen he seemed literally overstretched and, where the theme returns in its final apotheosis, he allowed the figuration to interrupt its continuity. The 'grand line' of which Ezra Pound speaks and of which Liszt never loses sight, was too often broken despite all the finesse of the minutiae and filigree of the cadenzas.

More debatable, however, was that although the pianist had stated his wish at the outset to play the whole recital uninterruptedly, he made as little pause between bagatelles, variations and études as he had between the succeeding Bagatelles themselves so that the programmed part of the recital became more of a Classic FM 'soup' than a bona fide main dish -- that is, until the Liszt arrived to claim a more profiled and less anonymous approach than Daniel was willing to supply. Thus these 'classics' of the repertoire were reduced to a featureless 'prelude' or foreplay to what lay outside the printed programme: ie, a rip-roaring paraphrase by (Paul) Pabst on Tchaikowsky's Eugene Onegin and Alkan's Chemin de fer -- the latter a 19th century tour de force packing something of the same wallop for their ears as Prokofiev's implacable Toccata Op 11 for ours.

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Copyright © 11 August 2006 Malcolm Troup, London UK


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