It seems almost sacrilegious to attempt to write a review of a piano recital featuring Chopin and Liszt, when the pianist in question has just recently released a 13 CD set of the complete piano oeuvre of Chopin and completed a Chopin Marathon; and is obviously an authority on fellow countryman Liszt too. Gergely Bogányi studied at the famous Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and won the Gold Medal at the International Franz Liszt competition in 1996, and has been performing at Liszt tribute concerts all over the world in this his birth bicentenary year. His concert tour of India brought him to Angels Resort Porvorim Goa on 20 November 2011.

The first half of Bogányi’s concert was dedicated to Chopin. It opened with the Ballade no. 1 in G minor, Op. 23. Bogányi managed to eloquently convey with painful immediacy the profound, almost pathological sadness that haunted Chopin’s brief life. This continued to be reflected in the 4 Mazurkas, op. 24. Chopin’s mazurkas may be miniatures, but nevertheless contain some of his most subtle yet complex music, and it is all-too-easy to make them sound banal. Not so with Bogányi. Among the most striking aspects of his playing of Chopin is the extent to which he integrates passion and control, grief and discipline, anger and resignation. In the Nocturne op. 9, nr. 2, he combined in almost perfect balance the simplicity of utterance required of all great Chopin playing, and the inner turmoil behind it. Sparks certainly flew in the Waltz in E minor (posthumous) that closed the Chopin segment of the recital.

After the short interval, the spotlight fell fixedly on Liszt, beginning with his Hungarian Rhapsody no. 15. The rhapsodies were the composer’s salute to his native land, incorporating many themes he had heard there. Number 15 assimilates the famous Rákóczi march as well, often regarded as Hungary’s unofficial anthem. Bogányi brought sparkle and wit to Liszt’s flamboyant score. In the Transcendental Étude no. 7 (‘Eroica’) in E flat major (the same key as Beethoven’s symphony of the same name), we got the clarity and incisive attack worthy of good brass playing (the march-like theme is marked by the composer to be played quasi corni, quasi trombe ie like horns and trombones).

The two concert études that followed (Un Sospiro (A Sigh) and Gnomenreigen (Dance of the Gnomes)) highlighted contrasting moods yet each making technical demands of its own; hand-crossing while keeping the lyrical line flowing in the first case, and impish scurrying all across the register in the second.

When it comes to ending a piano recital with a crash, bang and wallop, few choices can rival Liszt’s second Hungarian Rhapsody. Its universally popular appeal has seen it immortalised even in children’s animated cartoons. Pianist Lang Lang remembers watching Tom and Jerry wage their never-ending feud to its catchy tunes when he was just two years old, and apparently this is what motivated him to take up the piano. Bogányi’s incandescent rendition of the solemn, dramatic lassan, followed by a dazzling friska, showcased his phenomenal arsenal of pianistic technique and virtuosity.

His choice of encore (Concert étude no. 2 in F minor, S144, “La leggeriezza” or “Lightness”) helped bring the audience gently back to earth again.