This is what great Liszt records are made of. A selection of his finest piano music, with his most important piano work coupled with less well-known masterpieces, played by a pianist who combines all the necessary fire and virtuosity with ultra-sensitivity and refinement.
The B minor Sonata is one of the most important contributions to sonata form since Beethoven. Written as a single, expansive movement, utilizing Liszt's technique of thematic transformation, the Sonata is bold and forward-looking, and integrates enormous pianistic virtuosity into a profoundly original musical argument. Unusually for a composer who lavished poetic titles on so many of his works, revealing his literary or pictorial source of inspiration, Liszt said nothing about the B minor Sonata. Many believe it to be a portrayal of the characters in Goethe's Faust, others think it represents the different facets of Liszt's character. Truly great music can sustain a variety of interpretative responses, and Liszt's Sonata—one of the most powerful works to come out of the nineteenth century—is no exception.
The remaining works, although their titles are inextricably associated with Chopin, are most striking for Liszt's daring originality. The Second Polonaise, which was recorded by Rachmaninov, used to be a great favourite, while the Second Ballade is one of Liszt's finest works, with a magnificent sense of narrative drive and some of Liszt's most opulent rhetoric.
Stephen Hough needs little introduction as a Liszt pianist of extraordinary flair, passion and intelligence.