Buffalo News: Listening Post: Liszt by O’Riley

May 5, 2013

Christopher O Rile#1093DA1

Liszt, O’Riley’s Liszt performed by pianist Christopher O’Riley (Oxingale, two discs). In one sense, this is a glorious – indeed, somewhat hilarious – anachronism, a throwback to the 19th and early 20th century age of the most outrageous virtuoso classical pianist, good taste be damned. It’s full of fortissimo pyrotechnics and no unseemly dawdling at the altar of digital (i.e. of the fingers) perfection. What we have here is Christopher O’Riley – a classical pianist who hasn’t been bashful about making adaptations of tunes by Nick Drake, Elliott Smith and Radiohead – having a two-disc field day with some piano transcriptions by Franz Liszt in what a large share of critics always thought of as Liszt’s mode of “vulgarity and claptrap.” On disc one, you’ve got Liszt’s adaptation of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” Schumann’s “Spring Song,” Wagner’s “Prelude and Liebestod” from “Tristan and Isolde” and two lieder of Schubert. The piece de resistance is the second disc. O’Riley plays Liszt’s adaptation of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” usually presumed to be one of the great masterworks of orchestration in the history of music but which O’Riley, with typical cheek, claims came from an orchestra that was “a really heavy metal band.” He also claims to prefer Liszt’s piano version, which you can find an utter absurdity of the first rank while still enjoying immensely O’Riley’s performance of it. With Earl Wild no longer among us, thank heaven for O’Riley.

O'Riley's Liszt - 2-CD Set

Three and a half stars.

by: Jeff Simon

read at: Buffalo News

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