John von Rhein, Chicago
Tribune, 19 September 2004
Few pianists have attempted all three volumes of Liszt's Years of Pilgrimage on recording, not only because of the fearsome tecchnical and musical demands on these 26 pieces, but also because many pianists are defeated by the dark-hued and introspective final book, which can sound turgid in ordinary hands.
There is nothing ordinary about the artistry produced here by the brilliant and, poetic pianist Muza Rubackyte. Her performances of the familiar sections (Vallee d'Obermann, the three Petrarch sonnets, the Dante Sonata) find her as subtle and refined, commanding as grand and multi-hued a sonority, as the best pianists who have ever committed them to disc. You won't hear the gloomy, Byronic Vallee d'Obermann played more eloquently. As for the strange, austere pieces of the third book, Rubackyte makes clear how closely she identifies with the music's pseudo-religious mysticism. The best known piece of the set, Les jeux d'eaux de la villa d'Este, is simply breathtaking, the pianism wonderfully well controlled, the sonority drenched in Italian sunlight, the impressionistic atmosphere so vividly drawn you can almost feel the fountain's spray against your face.
A Lithuanian-born pianist and multiple competition winner who is based in Paris, Rubacktye is one of today's most important pianists, known throughout the music world but hardly at all in Chicago, where Symphony Center has persistently ignored her. Perhaps the splendor of these handsomely recorded discs will set matters right. I urge you to hear them.