Awesome Combination of Poetry and Pianism



Hamamatsu winner Can Çakmur’s most recent CD for BIS is mostly the seldom played or recorded transcription of Schubert’s eclectic song cycle Scwanengesang. There is much more than only Liszt or Schubert in this ingenious approach to one of Liszt’s most truly underrated transcriptions. Liszt was a virtuoso and this you can easily here in most of his transcriptions. Yet he was always true to his source, in his own way, but mostly with Schubert rather than, say Beethoven or Wagner or Verdi where he had different musical ideas. In his Schubert transcriptions one can see a Liszt whose quest for virtuosity wanders around the subtle touch, tone and colouring with a latent ambition to reach Schubert’s inner world. A world that was miles away from Liszt’s. It is this ambition that Çakmur captures so passionately. It is precisely the road Liszt walked on, that insurmountable gap, which Çakmur strives to understand. The gap becomes the romantic ideal itself.

Liebesbotschaft, the first lied of the cycle is Schubert’s romantic ideal that Çakmur combines with Liszt’s spirit in his delicate articulation. Krieger’s Ahnung, the next song, is where Çakmur turns the tables towards Liszt, approaching the transcription as if it was one of Liszt’s operatic paraphrases, he captures the terror of death in archaic fashion. Never, however, does he let go of the reveries that death brings, this time in pure Schubertian romance, as in the middle section of the lied. The contrast of the two worlds. Ihr Bild is where sonorities of Liszt soar over a Schubertian landscape and as the cycle progresses one can understand the duality that Çakmur has succeeded to bring here on so many different levels. Frühlingssehnsucht, with its joyous Schubert, sounding like a mockery already, clashes with the melancholy through libertine harmonies. By Abschied it is plain to see that Çakmur’s duality is far from being black and white. On whatever criteria of pianism one thinks about, there is plenty of conflict as well as rejoicing and Çakmur seems to enjoy ths Schubert and Liszt riddle, as if he is amongst the company of Florestan and Eusebius. That he chooses to combine, rather than distinguish, is his success. In der Ferne sounds dark and uncompromising and becomes the first of the cycle where Çakmur is able to demonstrate a Lisztain virtuosity without reservation. St
ändchen, the best known piece of the set, both in its original and transcribed version, enjoys a simple and transparent reading. Here Çakmur’s decision to provide the distinction between the vocal line and accompaniment more than in the other lieds is apt, as this becomes the pivot of the cycle, as if a journey begins hereafter. Der Atlas is the beginning of that journey and Çakmur’s frightful and menacing soundscape, reminiscent more of “Erlkönig” rather than Mephisto, is a top performance on the CD. Der Fischermadchen comes not as a relief but as a damnation in Çakmur’s, now apparent, romantic narration, becoming increasingly Schumann-esque in his treatment of the inner voices. Whereas in Am Meer Çakmur fills the silences with abundantly resonating chords, in Auftenhalt it is the breathless restlessness that he brings up and his control of the keyboard is no less than his captivating of the audience. Die Stadt becomes the most impressionistic of the cycle and Çakmur’s varying colouring of the arpeggios and the depiction of a laboriously driven boat create yet another contrast that soon merges into a dark grey landscape. One of the best performances of the set and my favorite… Whilst Die Taubenpost closes the cycle, it is actually the horrors of Der Doppelganger that haunts us still; the duality reaches its summit in idiom, expression, sound and Çakmur’s vision.
One should definitely not compare this cycle with the original. Similar to most of Liszt’s transcriptions, his eagerness to have the piano sing and then roar, to create a complex romantic humane sound is the essence of Çakmur’s philosophical take. This extends to tinkering on duality between centuries, pianism and transference of the romantic ideal on this road. On its own, as pianistic compositions, the cycle is interestingly composed and even better executed at the hands of Turkey’s young talent.

How does on approach Liszt’s Valses Oubliees apres Schubert? The question would not spring to anyone’s mind had Çakmur not innovatively couples the four waltzes with Schubert’s cycle? This elegant set, championed by the likes of Richter and Andsnes in the past, carries with it the fragility of the Viennese style that Schubert is associated with. I still have my doubts as to the success of the coupling; does typical Liszt harm the deep associations of romanticism one happily makes in the romantic set of Schubert? Not too much, but does it enhance it? Again, I would respond not too much and would opt for a different selection to end the CD. Yet, the point of Çakmur, I seem to get. It is not only the essence and philosophy of romanticism that he wants to capture and reveal, but also the pianistic expression of it. Remember, as we said at the beginning, that Liszt was a virtuoso, perhaps first and foremost, and Çakmur finishes the CD with a commentary on the pianistic reflections that are a century apart. The bridge, as Liszt looked backwards, and the closed gap as he reflected on the forgotten waltzes. As said in the beginning, there is more to this CD than Schubert and Liszt and Çakmur’s journey on the romantic idiom and ideal is a lovely one to dive into.
A CD that all piano lovers should not miss. Ideal for those who want to think after listening, because Çakmur both wants and leads you to.




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