The Franciscan Works

SOL 1002CD SOL 1002CD

It came as a surprise to many when pianist Sandro Ivo Bartoli, one of Italy's most charismatic and willful musicians, moved from London to a small farm in Tuscany, producing his own food and withdrawing to the countryside. Instead of ending his career, however, the decision provided him with the time and calm required to focus on his studies and typically untypical interests. This recording is the first result of this move. Bringing together the mysterious Franciscan repertoire of Franz Liszt on one disc for the very first time, Bartoli awards his personal touch to the work of one of the most misunderstood composers -- you have never heard these pieces performed like this. The 13th album of a recording career that began in 1996 sees Bartoli diving headlong into the darkest period in Liszt's life. Faced with the death of his daughter and flirting with suicide; battling with illness and out of grace with the critics, it was faith alone that kept the composer afloat. In what many perceived to be a publicity stunt, Liszt put on the robes of a Franciscan monk, gave away most of his fortune to charity, and began writing in a daring and utterly unique style, somewhere at the cusp between order and chaos; tonal tradition and sonic freedom. Blending passages of massive sound clusters with breathtaking beauty and impressionist color painting, many of these pieces left even some of his closest friends and supporters lost. To 21st-century ears, meanwhile, they appear entirely original and fresh, from the sequencer-like arpeggios of "Les jeux d'eau à la Villa d'Este" to the ten-minute epic "St. Francis Walking on the Water." Recorded at the legendary Reitstadel concert hall near Nuremberg in a single day, the album strikingly marries years of experience with the spontaneity and intensity of a live performance. He may be dealing with darkness here -- but Bartoli has never sounded more alive.