Études d'exécution transcendante (12 Transcendental Etudes), for piano, S. 139 (LW A172)
Franz Liszt's "Transcendental Etudes" have enjoyed renewed interest among pianists who wish to showcase the composer in all his aspects as a virtuoso performer, mystic, and innovator of piano techniques. This collection of visionary pieces is much more than a group of challenging exercises, rather, more a summation of Romantic thinking, both musical and poetic. Liszt was one of the great creators of evocative character pieces, of which "Feux follets" and "Harmonies du soir" have become representative examples. But the whole work is an excellent vehicle for Kirill Gerstein's bravura abilities and his deeply reflective expressions, which make this performance a worthy addition to the growing catalog. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Gerstein's playing is his subtle displays of color, even in the midst of fiendishly difficult passages. Gerstein's prismatic timbres and shadings of articulation are fascinating to explore on listening, and his exceptional artistry makes this recording of the "Transcendental Etudes" a must-have for any collection. The hybrid SACD gives Gerstein a great sound advantage, and the spacious ambience of the Siemens Villa in Berlin gives the performance an appealing balance of physical presence and resonance.