Charles T. Downey, Review: Franz Liszt Bicentenary Project (The Washingtonian, October 21):
In honor of the 200th anniversary of Franz Liszt’s birthday, which officially falls on Saturday, the Library of Congress is hosting a Franz Liszt Bicentenary Project. Canadian pianist Louis Lortie opened the festival on Wednesday night with a performance of the second and third volumes of Liszt’s autobiographical cycle Années de pèlerinage. The three “years” of the cycle recount various stages of Liszt’s travels through Europe; the lessons of his “apprenticeship” (a loving reference to Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister); and, in particular, the artwork and cultural sites he saw, the literature he read, and the music he heard. That Liszt described himself as being on a “pilgrimage” is not just because he moved about so much, but also that he was, like Dante (who is given a major tribute in the second volume), on what ultimately became a spiritual journey back to God.
Liszt, Années de pèlerinage,
(released on March 29, 2011)
CHAN 10662(2) | 161'20"
Born in Montreal, Lortie is a much-lauded virtuoso, although his performances have alternately thrilled me and left me disappointed. While his concert was one of my picks for the best in the Library of Congress’s current season, my enthusiasm was not as keen as it could have been, because of some mixed feelings about his playing. But this recital reestablished Lortie in my estimation as one of the most gifted colorists at the piano and placed him at the top of my list of the best interpreters of Liszt’s keyboard music. He took Liszt’s often over-the-top romanticism at face value, giving the music its full drama without letting it descend into vulgarity. [Continue reading]
Robert Battey, Louis Lortie deftly plays Liszt on Library of Congress's new piano (Washington Post, October 21)
Colin Eatock, A feast of Liszt served up by Louis Lortie (Toronto Globe and Mail, October 17)