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Liszt: Harmonies Poetiques Et Religieuses / Jenny Lin, Adam Tendler

Release Date: 10/01/2021
Label: Steinway & Sons Catalog #: 30189
Composer:  Franz Liszt Performer:  Adam Tendler ,  Jenny Lin Number of Discs: 1

Performed by pianists Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler, Liszt’s rarely heard Harmonies poétiques et religieuses is a sublime example of Liszt’s early compositions.

Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler alternate the movements of this monumental piano cycle. 

“We’re raised on this stuff. It’s in our bones. And now we can come at this music with a different kind of lens.”
— Adam Tendler

“This is definitely a very private Liszt, one who’s retreated to his inner self.”
— Jenny Lin

“Few performers are willing to take on not only its daunting scale, but also its grueling restraint —A cohesion held together in a delicate tension of wild Romanticism and controlled
Read more transparency. Mr. Tendler and Ms. Lin aren’t typically associated with Liszt, or 19th-century music at all. But, to them, that’s part of the fun. It didn’t take long for them to see just how modern Harmonies poétiques et religieuses can be.”
— New York Times

Album Credits:
Recorded September 19, 2019 at Steinway Hall, New York City.
Producer: Jon Feidner
Engineer: Lauren Sclafani
Assistant Engineer: Melody Nieun Hwang
Mixing and Mastering: Daniel Shores

Executive Producer: Jon Feidner
Art Direction: Jackie Fugere
Design: Cover to Cover Design, Anilda Carrasquillo
Photo of Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler: Kevin Condon
Production Assistant: Renée Oakford
Piano Technician: Lauren Sclafani
Piano: Steinway Model D # 610511 (Hamburg)

"Here are a couple of recent releases characterized by beautifully considered and emotive piano playing combined with some peculiar presentation decisions. Liszt’s complete, 80-minute-plus set of Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (1847) is not heard particularly frequently, which is a shame: inspired by the poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine, whose work also underlies the famous symphonic poem Les Préludes, these 10 pieces go beyond virtuosity to bring out tonal color and harmonic experimentation in ways quite different from what the composer did elsewhere. They are more inward-looking than the superficially similar but more-popular, more-externally-focused first two books of Années de Pèlerinage (1848-1854 and 1837-1849) and less dark-hued than the third book of Années (1867-1877). The dates of composition (not publication) are noteworthy, because they show that although Harmonies poétiques et religieuses is a comparatively early work, it was created when Liszt had already attained the same mastery of form and technique put on display in the first two Années, but without the near-mystical darkness of the third of those suites. Harmonies poétiques et religieuses is intensely personal Liszt with pervasive spiritual underpinnings, not solely in the overtly religious Ave Maria, Pater Noster and Funérailles (the most-often-heard piece from this set), but throughout. It is a very difficult suite to perform complete and in some ways a difficult one to hear from start to finish: there is just so much going on, with such great intensity of feeling. It is nevertheless rather peculiar that the new Steinway & Sons release of Harmonies poétiques et religieuses splits the 10 pieces between two pianists, giving five apiece to Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler. Both performers are quite fine, certainly equal to the suite’s numerous technical challenges and equally well attuned both to Liszt’s expressiveness and to his structural creativity. But Liszt did not write Harmonies poétiques et religieuses to be played as a collaborative exercise, and although there is nothing particularly jarring here when one pianist is succeeded by the other on the next track, the whole performance-mixture concept comes across as more than a little strange. Tendler plays Nos. 1 (Invocation), 4 (Pensée des Morts), 5 (Pater Noster), 8 (Miserere d’après Palestrina), and 9 (Andante lagrimoso), which means, among other things, that he handles the intense lament in No. 4 but does not get to compare and contrast it with the mood of No. 7, Funérailles. Jenny Lin handles No. 7 along with Nos. 2 (Ave Maria), 3 (Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude), 6 (Hymne de l’enfant à son réveil), and 10 (Cantique d’amour). Thus, Lin presents the simple beauties of Ave Maria, but Tendler handles the expanded versions of older forms in Pater Noster and Miserere d’après Palestrina. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of this, and in fact the playing throughout is first-rate, the performers in such close emotional harmony with the music and each other that this recording is an easy one to recommend with enthusiasm. It is nevertheless inescapable that if either Lin or Tendler had recorded Harmonies poétiques et religieuses in its entirety, there would have been differences of style and emphasis from what is heard here – most likely subtle ones, true, but ones that would have provided additional insight into the way a single pianist, either Lin or Tendler, had accompanied Liszt on a journey more inward than that of the first two books of Années de Pèlerinage..."
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