MUSIC WEB INTERNATIONAL
After her excellent recent debut CD entitled 'Virtuoso Piano Music' (see review), young Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell has returned almost immediately to the studio for Brilliant Classics for this all-Liszt follow-up.
Pianistically, this recording is every bit as thrilling as the first. Benelli Mosell's sculptured programme - styled after a Liszt recital - surrounds four of the Hungarian Rhapsodies with a miscellany of other pieces, both 'light' and virtuosic. What is particularly interesting about the works Benelli Mosell has chosen is, on the one hand, the fact that they all come from Liszt's earlier years, and on the other, that none of the four Rhapsodies is the Second! The point is that Benelli Mosell could easily have followed the route favoured by every big-label 'superstar', which is to play Liszt's original No.2 and include a meretricious cadenza, or more usually to play the over-the-top arrangement vulgarised - in more senses than one - by Vladimir Horowitz. Instead she has elected not to spotlight directly her own personal brilliance, but rather to be a conduit for Liszt. In an online interview in Italian last year she explained how she had come to understand - from her study with Stockhausen of his Klavierstücke, no less - that the pianist's role is to communicate the composer's ideas to audiences, not his or her own.
Benelli Mosell has already demonstrated, in her debut disc, that Liszt is bread and butter to her, making astonishingly light work of his electric Rhapsodie Espagnole. Here she picks up where she left off, dazzling with her technique and surprising with her emotional maturity. There is no call for much in the way of pathos in her programme, to be sure, although Benelli Mosell's Liebestraum in A flat is markedly poetic. But when it comes to virtuosity, sensibility, panache, however, she has what it takes. Her articulation in particular is outstanding, with every note - Liszt permitting! - clean and precise.
According to Brilliant's own blurb, Pascal Rogé has described Benelli Mosell as "the most natural musical talent I have encountered in my entire life as a musician and teacher". Substantial praise indeed, but not necessarily helpful - in a market of virtuosos, such words, however accurate, tend to ring insincere. Rather surprisingly perhaps, given her instantly obvious talent, Benelli Mosell's own website seems to emphasise not her pianistic ability, but her nubililty - all pages are divided in two, one side providing a carousel of photos of her in various costumes posing sultrily for the camera.
There is more hyperbole to be found in Gerald Larner's booklet notes, which strike a provocative note from the first line: "It is no exaggeration to claim Liszt as the greatest of all 19th-century musicians." Has he forgotten Beethoven? Mendelssohn? Schubert?
Engineering quality is very high - an improvement on the first album in every regard. At Brilliant's bargain price - now considerably cheaper than Naxos - this is a recital worthy of wider attention.