Alexandre Kantorow performs Brahms, Liszt, and Schubert

Philharmonie de Paris

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Program notes

Since he burst onto the scene by winning the 2019 Tchaikovsky Competition, French pianist Alexandre Kantorow has distinguished himself on the concert stage as a deeply thoughtful artist of steely intensity with a canny eye and ear for brilliant, lesser-heard repertoire. In this riveting solo recital from the Philharmonie de Paris, Kantorow takes on works by Brahms (of whom he is one of the finest living interpreters) and Schubert (including virtuosic Lieder transcriptions by Liszt).

Though actually written after the Op. 2 sonata, Brahms's Piano Sonata No. 1 in C is the ambitious product of a 20-year-old composer with something to prove: incredibly difficult and reminiscent of Beethoven's Hammerklavier, it was called "a veiled symphony" by an admiring Robert Schumann. Kantorow moves on from this rarely-heard early masterpiece to a selection of Schubert's Lieder as arranged by Franz Liszt, whose remarkable gift for transcription maintains Schubert's delicate vocal lines within a rich and complex pianistic framework. The piano star concludes with a purely Schubertian work also inspired by one of his most famous Lieder: the Wanderer Fantasy, four nonstop movements of stormy virtuosity that even the composer himself struggled to perform and which find a more-than-worthy interpreter in Kantorow.

Photo © Sasha Gusov

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