in Reviews

Insightful and intense Liszt and Schubert

by Mats Liljeroos

Marin’s performance points up the intricate voice-leading and ensures that everything is heard, lucid and emotionally vivid. Indeed, emotional flow might be described as the scarlet thread of this entire album.

Risto-Matti Marin has so far preferred recording little-known works, arrangements and transcriptions, but on his eighth album he rather surprisingly opts for standard repertoire. Liszt’s arrangement of the Fantasia and Fugue in G minor by Bach (BWV 542) may not be a favourite on recital programmes, but like all of Liszt’s arrangements it shows a profound understanding of the underlying aesthetic.

One could of course ask whether the world really needs yet another recording of Schubert’s Impromptu D. 899 or of Liszt’s Sonata in B minor. But in Marin’s case the question is irrelevant, and instead we should ask: does this make the world a better or a worse place? In my case, this album made the world that much more tolerable despite the extreme competition.

In the opening Impromptu in C minor, Marin takes a dangerously slow basic tempo, but his vision carries throughout. The performance is uncontrived and insightful, and Marin has nothing to be ashamed of in comparison with, say, a master interpreter of Schubert such as Maria João Pires.

Similarly, he can with confidence be pitted against any number of legends of the keyboard in the case of Liszt’s Sonata. Marin has been compared to Marc-André Hamelin, also a pianist with a fierce technical focus, and like Marin seemingly born to perform Liszt.

Hamelin’s recording is quite a natural comparison here, because for him as for Marin technique is a tool in his mission to lay bare the innermost dramaturgy and emotional substance of the music. Hamelin may take more liberties with rubato and in shaping the emotional shifts in the music, but Marin’s performance comes across as more intense and to the point.

An impressive achievement, in short, and although for myself I would have preferred to have Liszt’s Sonata paired with its direct predecessor in structural conception, Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasia, this is an album to be grateful for.


Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi

Risto-Matti Marin: Gateways Bach-Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue; Schubert: Four Impromptus; Liszt: Sonata in B Minor
Alba ABCD 398