Thursday 06th May

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Jean Muller @ Cadogan Hall + New CD

| Music | 29/10/2014


From the start this was everything you’d expect from a Liszt recital. Simply staggering. Jean Muller imbued it all with his very special brand of magic. Needless to say, it was an immense privilege to watch and hear him perform the incredulously virtuosic Transcendental Études. The only pity this miracle does not seem exposed to a wider and more diverse audience.

Already with the Molto vivace the tension was building as you’d expect – though somehow as if you’d not heard it before. The beautiful Paysage (indicative of Liszt’s influence on the next generation of composers such as Ravel and Debussy) proved truly transcendental, with astounding subtlety in the left hand at close. It was one of many études to earn its own applause. Muller’s superb new CD of this same programme, Transcendence, will play no small part in the undercurrent of Liszt revivalism.


Mazeppa defied the term ‘staggering’ in performance with cartoony speed-of-light fingertips blurring before your eyes. Cascades of rhythmic motifs stitched together Liszt’s exquisite embroidery. Its dissolution echoed the more morbid strains of Chopin, the silence between notes never more potent. Feux Follets contrasted a lightness of touch with those familiar, heavier, runs in the lower registers, and Vision appeared so obviously heartfelt that no one missed the deeply personal relationship that Muller shares with the music. With Eroica came more of the gorgeously harmonised and rapid phrasing, perfectly executed. Wilde Jagd comprised spider-like passages weaving an intensely intricate web; gossamer illuminated by Muller’s blinding light.

Following a short interval (sipping an attractively priced £4 glass of rosé) the sequence of heady études recommenced. The delicate, trilling and playful Ricordanza made for the best restart, wistful and enticing, an almost balletic interpretation of a richly Romantic tone poem. Allegro agitato molto boasted the most confoundedly deft fingering, a masterwork that takes a master to perform. Then, Harmonies du soir, totally immersive, dynamics rendered with majestic control. Muller reined in the emotive resonance of its chromaticism to mesmerising effect. Finally, Chasse-neige, opulent and affecting, apt and beguiling. Aside those wildly demonstrative runs this most artful of finales remained somehow restrained: the art of leaving them wanting more.


The final item was Horowitz’s transcription of Busoni’s wondrous arrangement of Mephisto-Waltz No. 1. Bone jangling, mind tingling, dancey, waltzy, un-waltzy. Scooping you up, whirling you around the cerebral dance floor in quick successions of triple eighths. A double whammy of jaw dropping and breath taking. Superlatives exhausted.

As if all this wasn’t enough in encore the audience were treated to Scriabin’s Étude No. 2, Op. 1, another favourite of Horowitz’s and, clearly, of this most genteel and engaging of performers. Its sublime rendition earned a second ovation to be rewarded with what else but Muller’s knock-out version of Billy Joel’s Root Beer Rag. An unforgettable evening. 6-stars-out-of-5 for performance and CD. If the gods are with us, Jean Muller will grace our fair city again. And soon.

Jean Muller’s fantastic new CD, Transcendence, the ideal gift for any muso, is available now.


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