Whether it’s a concert or a disc, the critics are giving Alexandre Kantorow (born 1997) glowing reviews:
“Alexandre is Liszt reincarnated. I’ve never heard anyone play the piano the way he does” - Jerry Dubins (Fanfare Magazine January February 2016)
“The young Tsar of the piano” - Stéphane Friedrich (Classica Magazine 2017)
“Alexandre is already amongst the stars” Olivier Bellamy, Huffington Post.
At just 16 years old he was invited to play for « les folles journées « in Nantes and Warsaw with the Sinfonia Varsovia. Since then he has played with many orchestras, such as the Kansai philharmonic with A. Dumay, the National Symphonic Orchestra in Taipei, the ONPL, the Royal Philharmonic orchestra of Liège, the « Orquesta Sinfonico Nacional de Colombia »….
In 2015 Alexandre appeared in the opening season at the new« Philharmonic Hall » in Paris with the Pasdeloup Orchestra and he will be back in 2018 for the first concert of a tour with the Orchestre National d’Ile de France.
Alexandre gave his second recital at the Vuitton Foundation after a very successful recital of Russian music in 2016 which has since be recorded by BIS. This summer Alexandre has played at some of the most important piano festivals in France: “La Roque d’Anthéron, Piano aux Jacobins….
His last CD recording « A la russe » issued by BIS, has won many awards: among them, the choc of Classica magazine, Diapason d’or Découverte, Supersonic » of Pizzicato, record of the month in the German Pianonews and CHOC CLASSICA of the YEAR !
BIS has offered Alexandre a « carte blanche « for his choice in repertoire, and among his projects with them, all the works for Piano and Orchestra of Camille Saint-Saëns .
Future engagements will include a tour with the “Orchestre de Toulouse”, the recording for BIS of a recital Brahms / Bartok / Liszt, a concert tour with the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra starting with a performance at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam, and recitals in most of the major European capitals.
Alexandre is a laureate of the Safran foundation and he gets the help from pianos Yamaha at Ecole Normale de Musique de paris where he is studying in the class of Rena Shereshevskaya.
“Unhurried swagger, power held in confident reserve and then unleashed right when you want it, unanimity of vision—conductor, orchestra, and pianist of one mind, one heart—all captured by BIS in sound that’s clear, full, and rich, with deeply sonorous bass. This is one of the best discs I’ve heard all year and among the best ever from BIS—and that’s saying something, since BIS routinely pro- duces fantastic recordings.
The stereo program is excellent and the surround-sound SACD layer even better, enveloping the listener in a front-to-back three-dimensional halo that brings the Tapiola Hall into your listening room. And the bass is notably heftier. A phenomenal release in every way, and I hope these artists record the rest of Liszt’s works for piano and orchestra.”
WRIGHT, American Record Guide, January 2016
LISZT Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2. Malédiction • Alexandre Kantorow (pn); Jean-Jacques Kantorow, cond; Tapiola Sinfonietta . BIS 2100 (58:02)
With respect to the wishes of Robert von Bahr of BIS Records, who has requested that we re view downloads of his new releases only from high-res download files, this new BIS multichannel SACD was downloaded as a 24-bit FLAC file, courtesy of the label’s eClassical site.
Most readers, I’m sure, are familiar with Jean-Jacques Kantorow, known worldwide as a first rate violin virtuoso and conductor. Less well known, at least for now, is his son, Alexandre, who, as far I can determine, has made only one commercial recording prior to this, a duo recital of French violin sonatas with his father on the Nomad Music label. I think it’s safe to say, however, that Alexandre is featured here for the first time as piano soloist in three showpiece staples of the reper toire for piano and orchestra, and he is about to become a very bright star in the firmament.
Liszt’s works for piano and orchestra—several of them paraphrases on works by other com posers, as well as arrangements of his own solo piano pieces—are more numerous than one generally assumes, and that, I think, is mainly because it’s the two concertos on this recording that get the most play. The other “biggie,” of course, that’s not included here is Totentanz. The quasi-concerto Malédiction, on the other hand, which is on the present album, is scored for piano and strings rather than for full orchestra, and by a count of currently listed versions, it’s not one of Liszt’s more popular works. The two official concertos and Totentanz beat out Malédiction by a mile, as does the orchestral version of the Hungarian Fantasy, S 123, which is based on the composer’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14 and which, ironically, was not entirely orchestrated by Liszt; he had the help of Franz Doppler.
One will find no shortage of recordings of the two concertos, and some of them are very distin guished indeed. No serious collector should be without György Cziffra’s self-conducted 1971–72 EMI recording with the Paris Orchestra, a true classic, which includes both concertos, Totentanz, and the Hungarian Fantasy. Likewise, Martha Argerich’s No. 1 with Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra—I don’t believe she recorded a No. 2—is electrifying. Among today’s younger crop of keyboard artists, Yundi Li has really impressed me in a Liszt No. 1 with Andrew Davis and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The A-Major Second Concerto has had less attention paid to it, espe cially by the new generation of players, but I’ve always liked Alfred Brendel’s Liszt, and his No. 2 with Bernard Haitink and the London Philharmonic has its own special magic, even if it’s not of the most overtly virtuosic manner.
Malédiction, in contrast, is really quite low down in the numbers of recordings contest. For pianism extraordinaire, there’s the brilliant playing of Jerome Lowenthal, but neither the playing by the Vancouver Symphony led by Sergiu Comissiona nor the recording rise to Lowenthal’s level. Leslie Howard, whom I sometimes think has devoted his entire life and career to Liszt, recorded the piece for Hyperion with Karl Anton Rickenbacher and the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, but it doesn’t equal his efforts in Liszt’s solo piano music. One should not overlook Michel Béroff, Jorge Bolet, or Louis Lortie either, in Malédiction, but unfortunately, I’ve not heard their recordings of the piece.
And so we come to this new effort by Kantorow and Kantorow, père et fils. “My God!” I ex claimed out loud as the orchestra’s downbeat sounded with explosive force and Alexandre’s entrance resonated with every overtone his Steinway D is capable of producing. This recording is not just stunning, it’s shocking in its depth, dynamic range, and realistic sound; and Alexandre’s playing of these works is in the grand Romantic tradition. You can actually envision Liszt sitting at the key board, the charismatic wizard holding the gaping-mouthed audience simultaneously spellbound and shaken. When you hear Alexandre Kantorow’s Liszt, you will finally understand, as you never have before, what it must have been like to see and hear Liszt live, and what the irresistible allure of these works—which, frankly, aren’t great music-was.
Kantorow’s approach to these scores is freewheeling, technically and interpretively risky, and calculated to wring from them every last drop of drama. Some may even feel the performances are a bit over the top, but that’s what the great 19th- and early 20th-century virtuosos were all about. Their concerts were Events with a capital “E,” and they risked everything to put on an unforgettable show.
To no small degree I think our understanding of this music has been perverted by today’s stan dards of strict adherence to the written score, as if it were sacred writ. But Liszt continually arranged, revised, and rearranged his works, even deriving new ones from old ones, to the point where the idea of a definitive version lost its meaning. I am absolutely convinced that when Liszt sat down to play these works in public, he had only one eye on the score; the other was fixed on the audience, noting their reactions, and adjusting his performance to elicit maximum shock and awe.
That is the way Kantorow plays. If you’re a stickler for tempo and dynamic markings, and for conventional readings of this music, you’re apt to be taken aback by these performances, but I’m here to tell you that Alexandre Kantorow is Liszt reincarnated. I’ve never heard anyone play these 308 Fanfare January/February 2016
pieces, let alone play the piano, the way he does. And I also have to tell you that Jean-Jacques Kantorow leads the Tapiola Sinfonietta in playing of such visceral impact that more than once it re ally hit me in the solar plexus and scared the hell out of me.
As for the recording itself, I can honestly say I’ve never heard anything like it. Prepare to be left in a pool of profuse perspiration by the end of it.
Jerry Dubins Fanfare January/February 2016