The Best Dance of Death?

My friend the great Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire sent me this link a few days ago without comment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8SofSH-Whk&feature=share

Here’s my comment. As you can see, it’s an unpublished performance of Liszt’s Totentanz conducted by Rafael Kubelik with Freire as soloist. For  me this is the most thrilling, convincing performance of the work I have ever heard – and that includes superb recordings by Raymon Lewenthal, Shura Cherkassky, Sergio Tiempo and Freire himself (Berlin Classics coupled Totentanz with both of Liszt’s piano concertos conducted by Michel Plasson).

It’s a work that in some hands can sound merely shallow and bombastic. This one makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The music has a grim, sinister undertone to it. Freire adds menace and despair to the mix while tossing off the most challenging passagework as if it were child’s play. Stunning.

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