The focus of this challengingly virtuosic disc is Andrew Wright, a lover and exponent of the Romantic era, and one whose appreciation of nineteenth-century piano transcription saturates the programme. There’s something of the Klaviertiger about him, something too of an element of the pianistic throwback. Given his espoused repertoire and his contribution to it, one feels as if he is situating himself in the continuum of that tradition; thus hyphenated Wright takes its place alongside hyphenated Liszt and Thalberg, and that represents something of a Himalayan challenge to Wright’s credentials. It’s a measure of his aplomb that his own transcriptions fail to wilt even in the glare of such declamatory historic precedent.
He finds the drama and pathos in Martucci’s concert paraphrase on Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, complete with a fine admixture of filigree and Lisztian panache. This is, apparently, its first commercial recording. Thalberg’s transcriptions of the two Bellini pieces are interesting, revealing different sides to his musical personality. A te, o cara from I Puritani is the first in Thalberg’s instructive set of vocal melodies rearranged for piano, called L’art du chant appliqué au piano , Op.70 The Casta diva paraphrase is a lovely, warmly hued work and receives a commensurately fine performance. It too derives from the Op.70 set but is more intricately deployed with the melody lines skittering from hand to hand. The La Traviata concert fantasy is a later work, cross-pollinated by Lisztian influence but containing gravity and refinement as well as virtuosic power.
Wright plays the Wagner-Liszt O, du mein holder Abendstern from Tannhäuser with dynamism, respecting Liszt’s unusually non-interventionist approach but for all the bravura there is also an awareness of the sheer musical refinement involved, qualities amplified in the Liebestod . Andrew Wright’s own fantasies sit co-operatively in the genre. The Fantasy on Bellini’s La Sonnambula bows to both Liszt and Thalberg as inspirations and fuses them into a conception that relishes the powerhouse drama as well as the refined moments of elegance enshrined in it. The bass detonations are certainly vivid. Stand by! Thalbergiana is a tribute to the great man which was partly inspired by Earl Wild’s recording of Thalberg’s Don Pasquale fantasy. And lastly there is the verve and panache to be relished in Wright’s unbridled Concert Fantasy on Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable .
These spirited readings receive good recorded sound and Wright’s own notes cap his recital with insightful commentary.