Composers: Liszt 
Compositions: Années de Pèlerinage II
Performers: Tristan Lee p
Catalogue Number: MOVE MCD593

Young Australian pianist Tristan Lee certainly sets his cap high with an all-Liszt program concentrating on the Second Book of The Years of Pilgrimage (Italy). All the music here sees the composer at his most intensely romantic as well as technically challenging.

In the first piece, Sposalizio, depicting Raphael’s The Marriage of the Virgin, Lee depicts Liszt as the poet and dreamer and successfully instils the reverence appropriate to the subject, with a perfect calibration of the bell motive initially heard quietly then thunderously, swelling to an organ-like texture before retreating to the upper registers of the keyboard. Similarly, in Il Penseroso, the tone is one of Byronic melancholy and the chromatic harmonies conjure an anticipation of the chromatic harmonies of Tristan and Isolde, decades before Wagner. The Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa is a portrait of a colourful 17th-century figure which Lee invests with the  charming simplicity of a bagatelle.

In the three Petrarch Sonnets, Liszt runs the entire gamut of the agony and ecstasy of the lover. He handles the composer’s digression from the main subject to rhapsodise in a cadenza or extended embellishment seamlessly. The longest work, by far, is the Dante Sonata. Here Lee successfully sublimates Liszt’s instinct for self-dramatisation in a vortex of despair, tragedy, hope and ultimately victorious love. A brilliant and mature recital of some of Liszt’s most difficult and demanding music.