Rinaldo Zhok dedicates a disc honoring Verdi’s bicentenary with Liszt’s complete operatic transcriptions and paraphrases, which he brings together for the first time on CD in their entirety.
Building on from Liszt adaptations, Rinaldo highlights what one might define the Verdian spirituality, projects the dramatic force of the personages of the arias, and creates a theater without words and without images, suggested only by the sounds of the piano.
The resulting exchange is quite wonderful: Liszt giving Verdi his hands, Verdi giving Liszt his voice.
“The Italian elicits from the piano beautiful singing tones, shaping every phrase of every piece with care -- and communicating with unfailing intensity. Thus, Liszt’s elaborations of these opera passages come across not as the empty display pieces they are often assumed to be, but as expressions of a genuinely deep affinity with Verdi’s work.”
Sunday Times Stephen Pettit 9 March 2014
“Italian pianist Rinaldo Zhok’s first recording for Odradek features Liszt’s complete Verdi operatic transcriptions and paraphrases. An auspicious beginning.”
Northern Echo Gavin Engelbrecht 27 March 2014
“Unlike most composer anniversaries, Liszt’s 20th bicentenary seems actually to have done some good. The longstanding misconception, that about 90 per cent of Liszt's music was worthless, was shown to be so obviously ridiculous that a steady stream of fine recordings has been materialising ever since — such as this one by Trieste-born Rinaldo Zhok, which breathes quality in every department. As Zhok himself puts it, describing these masterly transcriptions: ‘[Liszt] builds on what one might define the Verdian spirituality... I believe that what emerges is a wonderful exchange: Liszt gives Verdi his hands. Verdi gives Liszt his voice.’
Zhok plays the music like that, with technical command to spare. He conveys each work's capacity to conjure the world of the opera concerned, and without a trace of meretriciousness in the keyboard virtuosity... Zhok excels in the dark broodings of II Trovatore’s 'Miserere', and reveals Réminiscences de Boccanegra as a true late-Liszt masterwork. The piano here is a Steinway Model B, whose warm, rounded tone is beautifully captured. And the Requiem's ‘Agnus Dei', which wouldn't fit on the CD itself, is available as a free download from the Odradek website.”
PERFORMANCE **** RECORDING *****
BBC Music Magazine Malcolm Hayes May 2014