American Record Guide

Mr Wright (no relation) has an assertive touch and lets the seams show sometimes in these transcriptions of opera music. It’s an inevitable and unavoidable hazard in these sometimes ungainly operatic fantasies; but other pianists, like Mark Viner on Piano Classics (M/A 2016), hide the seams better and with caressing touch make us forget that a piano has hammers and no real ability to sustain a note like singers and orchestras.

The composer-pianist transcribers here include famous names like Liszt, Saint-Saens, and Thalberg, plus relative unknowns like Alfred Jaëll, Theodore Leschitzsky, and Theodor Kullak, plus the pianist himself. Wright’s two Lisztian arrangements, of Bellini’s ‘Col sorriso de innocenza’ from II Pirata and a paraphrase on Verdi’s ‘Miserere’ from II Trovatore, are excellent—the most desirable nine minutes here. Bellini’s bland string arpeggios are transmuted into airy triadic chords oscillating through root, 2nd, and 1st inversions floating above the left hand’s tender cantilena. Wright’s Verdi cuts out the filler and exalts in the ecstatic heart of ‘Miserere’ with thrilling pianistic pyrotechnics spanning the key¬board’s breadth.

Though Mr Wright has the prodigious technique these arrangements require, I’m not enthusiastic; his transitions and touch are too rough for me. It might appeal to fanciers of operatic piano wanting to hear arrangements not by Liszt or Thalberg. Also, the Jaëll Reminiscences de Norma, Kullak Cavatine de Robert le Diable, and Saint-Saëns Paraphrase on La Mort de Thais are first recordings. Excellent sound.

—Stephen Wright