Liszt: Dinara Klinton (piano), Royal Overseas League, London, 28.4.2016. (RB)
Liszt, Études d’exécution transcendante s139, Nos 1-5, 10-12
Dinara Klinton is a young Ukrainian pianist who has won prizes at a number of international piano competitions and was the first recipient of the Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship at the Royal College of Music. She has just released a critically acclaimed recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies (Genuin GEN16409) and she is one of only four women to record the complete set.
Prior to the recital, we listened to a short presentation on the Royal College of Music (RCM) including the work of the Philip Loubser Foundation which was set up by Michael Loubser and named after his father. We learned that, earlier this year, the RCM was ranked by the Guardian as the leading Higher Education Institution in the UK for studying music and third in the world overall – something of which I was unaware and a considerable achievement. The aforementioned Philip Loubser Foundation supports a number of scholarships including the Nadia Nerina Scholarship at the Royal Ballet School, the Sir Charles Mackerras Conducting Fellowship at the ENO and RCM’s Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship. The Foundation wanted to celebrate Britten’s gifts as a pianist – he studied piano with Arthur Benjamin at the RCM and he was an exceptional pianist and accompanist. The Benjamin Britten Piano Fellowship is awarded to the student gaining the highest mark on entering the Artist Diploma course at the RCM. One of the unique aspects of the Britten Fellowship is that the recipient gets to choose a major project which they would not have had the chance to undertake otherwise and Dinara Klinton’s recording of the Liszt Transcendental Studies is one such project.
Liszt’s Transcendental Studies are among the most technically demanding works in the repertoire. Liszt wrote three versions of the studies, publishing the final version in 1852. Aside from numbers 2 and 10, he gave all them programmatic titles in French or German and the fourth study, Mazeppa, was inspired by a Victor Hugo poem of the same name. There are many great performances of the Transcendental Studies (I particularly like Berman and Berezowsky) as well as inspired performances of individual studies (Richter in Feux Follets or Arrau in Chasse-Neige).
Dinara Klinton was completely on top of the technical demands throughout this excellent recital and she showed herself a consummate Lisztian. In the opening Preludio I was struck by the precision of her playing, scrupulous use of pedal and close attention to detail. The technical fireworks came thick and fast with the second étude marked molto vivace – the rising triplet oscillations and right hand leaps created a sense of visceral excitement and unbridled Lisztian diabolism. Liszt could be a poet as well as a virtuoso and Klinton gave us a very sensitive and expressive performance of Paysage displaying tasteful use of rubato. Mazeppa was an unbridled piece of playing and a tour de force – the technical difficulties were dispatched with virtuoso aplomb and I was struck by the enormous power Klinton was able to generate at the climaxes to the piece. While she brought enormous physicality to the playing, this was also a very musical performance with Klinton showing us her ability to make the piano sing in the central section and giving us some exquisite shaping of the line and tapering of the phrases
In Feux follets Klinton produced dazzling finger-work and played the notoriously difficult right hand double notes with enormous finesse and lightness of touch. I particularly liked the way she brought out the impish, slightly menacing quality of this piece. Klinton’s performance of étude No. 10 (sometimes given the title Appasionata after Busoni) was for my money the best playing of the evening. All of the material was seamlessly integrated and Klinton did a magnificent job bringing out the volatility and the swooning, soaring passions of the piece, using a wide range of dynamics and tonal colours. Klinton produced some luminous sonorities in Harmonies du Soir although I would have liked her to convey more of the breadth and stillness in the early section of the piece where Liszt uses experimental, pre-impressionistic harmonies. Chasse-Neige was a technically impressive and assured piece of playing with Klinton magnificently conjuring up Liszt’s howling snow storm. I particularly like the way in which Arrau projects bleak despair in this piece and his wonderful atmospheric tone painting. I wondered if there was scope for Klinton to refine her impressive interpretation even further to bring in more of these elements.
Overall, this was a magnificent performance of the Transcendental Studies which stands comparison with the very best interpretations.