Sophia Agranovich is a multi-award-winning pianist and one of the preeminent torch-bearers of Romantic-era piano. After emigrating from Ukraine when she was fifteen, she completed 6 years of study at Juilliard, where she went on to teach piano. Franz Liszt: Rhapsodies, Études and Transcriptions is her tenth solo album and is a tribute to the 19th-century composer, and virtuosic pianist, Franz Liszt. It features recitals of some of his most technical and revered works and consists of three sections; each of which demonstrates a different style of composition or arrangement.
In the first section, Agranovich tackles two of the 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies that Liszt wrote between 1846 and 1853. Her performance of No.6 in D-Flat Minor is particularly impressive. This piece is comprised of two alternating passages; one that is dominated by jaunty, staccato runs, and another that is slower, darker, and characterized by heavy trills and breathtaking scale ascensions/descensions.
The second rhapsody: No.13 in A minor, begins with a haunting melody and its use of dominant seventh chords gives it a brooding, seductive quality. Bright melodic bursts provide a counterpoint before the opening melody is reprised. The second half of the piece employs energetic, gypsy rhythms, and was likely written with traditional Hungarian dance in mind. Agranovich’s left-hand control in these bass-heavy movements is splendid. Her playing is precise and rhythmically conscious; aptly making use of dynamics.
Ständchen is the first of three recitals of Franz Schubert compositions (as arranged by Liszt for solo piano). The tempo of this piece is slower but that’s not to say that Agranovich’s performance is any less compelling. Her considered touch emphasizes the poetic nature of the melody and a heavier touch during the more dissonant phrases gives way to soft resolutions. Agranovich’s trill work is again sublime; exuding a deceptive effortlessness.
Die Forelle is another Schubert composition and features some of Agranovich’s most awe-inspiring playing on the record. There is a repetitive, triplet motif throughout the melody and the quick arpeggios that she has to play span multiple octaves. Her sweeping scale runs punctuate the rhythmic passages, and especially impressive is the harmonized, diminished line that she plays towards the finale.
Agranovich also performs two of Liszt’s Transcendental Études. Mazeppa begins with a cascading sequence of augmented chord stacks; setting the scene for an exquisitely ominous piece. There is some demanding left-hand work again, with syncopated bass stabs and deftly sustained drone notes reinforcing the melody. The piece also includes a challenging waltz section that constantly modulates and changes in tempo. Her engagement with these rhythmic movements is masterful and her execution perfectly balances rigidity and dynamism.
Liszt would most certainly be proud of Sophia Agranovich’s efforts here. Her playing is faultless throughout a record that features some of the most complex arrangements ever written for the piano. Her resonance with the music of Liszt is remarkable and this will no doubt be recognized as one of the definitive presentations of his work. This is a compulsory listen for fans of Liszt and lovers of the piano in general.
BELOW: Check out our full artist interview with Sophia Agranovich, listen to Franz Liszt: Rhapsodies, Études and Transcriptions and connect with her website and social media platforms, watch her music video, check out her live show/tour schedule, and find her booking & contact information. Please support Sophia Agranovich by visiting her online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing her music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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