Japanese virtuoso Minoru Nojima is a 1969 Van Cliburn competition winner who took on some of Franz Liszt’s most challenging solo pieces (see playlist below), recording this hour-long recital in celebration of the centenary of the composer’s death (1986):
- Mephisto Waltz: (11:08)
- La Campanella: (4:55)
- Harmonies du Soir: (9:06)
- Feux Follets: (3:42)
- Sonata in B Minor: (30:54)
You simply have not heard these pieces played with such a fine touch and total command until you start playback of this recital but more about that later. It is unfortunate that Nojima has concertized so little in the United States and has made but a handful of studio recordings.
Keith Johnson is an expert at managing the difficulties inherent in live piano recording. Listeners will get every single note so much so that a music student could probably recreate the actual score upon hearing this recording. Nojima’s deft handling of the massive chords and the more delicate moments is truly an audio marvel to behold. The overall piano image is big but places this fine instrument and its player in your listening room as you are occupying a great seat. Having both the previously issued vinyl record and the HDCD, I was able to perform side-by-side comparisons. Cutting to the chase, as good as the CD was, the download convincingly trumped it in terms of dynamics, soundstage size, and low frequencies. Matters were not so easily decided with the LP comparisons. There were many instances were, except for a touch of surface noise, I simply could not tell any two tracks apart. In sum, the LP had a smidge more bloom when the playback levels for both sources were the same.
Original liner notes by noted audio expert Robert E. Greene on Nojima and by Patrick Rucker on the composer make for an informative read. Original cover art is also included.
The Definitive Word
Nojima Plays Liszt is an auspicious start to what I hope will be a continuing effort by Reference Recordings to offer us some of their stupendous audio catalog in truly high resolution formats. For this repertory’s interpretations, piano aficionados will have their particular favorites, Vladimir Horowitz and Sviastoslav Richter for the senior citizens, Lang Lang and Marc-Andre Hamelin for the younger audiences. However, none of these noted and prolific artists have ever received the audio recording benefits of this RR hi-res download. My advice to potential buyers, just go to the Acoustic Sounds website, log in, and get your credit card ready. You are going to love this one and play it over and over (as I have done)!