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Hyperion Records

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Architectural Water Folly. English School (18th century)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67677
Recording details: October 2007
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: October 2008
Total duration: 29 minutes 19 seconds

'This daunting and inspired coupling is played by Hamish Milne with an uplifting musical authority. Indeed, aided by Hyperion's superb sound, Milne even surpasses his earlier L'Oiseau Lyre recording of the Liszt/Busoni Fantasy … Milne's performance is of an unfaltering beauty and lucidity' (Gramophone)

'Milne, who through his studies with Guido Agosti is a 'grand-pupil' of Busoni himself, tackles this repertoire with a full appreciation of the Classicism that lies behing its Romantic surface, and is especially effective at clarifying the fugal layers in the Fantasia and the Liszt' (The Daily Telegraph)

'It takes a conductor's vision for the 'whole' to stand back from the work, and I invite those unfamiliar with its more inscrutable corners to immerse themselves in Milne's sincere and entirely intelligible account … Milne handles the work [Liszt] with courage and sensitivity, drawing much of substance from the long-breathed melodies while allowing the work's cathedral-like charisma to rise up, too … the customary glow and clarity to the Hyperion sound, allied with performances of weight and integrity, makes this an indispensable disc for Busoni lovers' (International Record Review)

'Arrangements of Liszt and a slow movement from a Mozart Piano Concerto are joined by his mammoth Fantasia Contrappentistica, the 32 minutes of which are dispatched with immense panache by Hamish Milne' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'Hamish Milne, of course, is no stranger to mammoth-sized pianism. He channels his big, colorful sonority toward line rather than mass, and balances the music's thick textures as if they were varied organ registrations … Milne emphasizes clarity through and through. He takes special care to articulate short, detached phrasings differently from longer legato lines and manages to evoke a wide tonal spectrum with little help from the sustain pedal' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

Fantasie und Fuge über den Choral Ad nos, ad salutarem undam, S259
composer
1850; based on a theme from Meyerbeer's Le prophète of 1849; No 4 of Illustrations du Prophète, S414
arranger

Fantasy  [9'34]
Adagio  [10'45]
Fugue  [9'00]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Liszt’s Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’ for organ was composed in 1850 and first published the following year together with a somewhat perfunctory arrangement for piano duet, presumably to make it more accessible (and saleable). The theme is taken from the chorale of the Anabaptists in the first act of Meyerbeer’s immensely successful opera Le prophète, premiered in Paris the previous year; but unlike Liszt’s three previous Illustrations from the same opera, the Fantasy and Fugue seems to spring as much from his religious side as the theatrical. The Fantasy, the first of the work’s three clearly defined sections, is a rhapsodic improvisation, challenging, emotional and dramatic, but the second (Adagio) is more of a devout meditation in the remote key of F sharp major which, paradoxically, is often associated in Liszt with both sacred and profane love. A thunderous cadenza links to the final Fugue which has all the rhythmical and dramatic traits of his so-called ‘Mephisto style’, and it is likely that the ultimate triumphant blaze of C major represents the defeat of those forces. Saint-Saëns, who played the work with great success in the 1870s (once in the presence of Liszt), declared it ‘the most extraordinary organ work in existence’. And yet Liszt himself never took the obvious step of transcribing it for the piano, as he did with his other organ masterpiece, the Prelude and Fugue on B–A–C–H. So pianists are fortunate that Busoni remedied this omission with such magnificent aplomb.

Certainly it is hard to think of anyone else who could have accomplished a concert transcription of such ringing authenticity. There are passages where Busoni’s own distinctive palette is clearly discernible but, equally, the lessons assimilated from his immersion in Liszt’s keyboard writing are uncannily fruitful and convincing. Perhaps this is a rare instance of the transcription actually being an improvement on the original; a contentious statement, no doubt, but Busoni’s pianistic ingenuity ensures that none of the grandeur, even bombast, of Liszt’s conception is lost or diluted while achieving a clarity and brilliance that is often lost in the cavernous acoustics where great romantic organs generally reside.

from notes by Hamish Milne © 2008

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