May 1, 2006
Joel Hastings' all-Liszt recital was absolutely stunning from the first note to the last. Hastings is a superhuman virtuoso with a massive sound and monumental technique. Hastings has extraordinary charisma that commands complete attention. But best of all, Hastings is a real musician, and his musicality makes an audience pay attention not to him but to the music he's playing....But, under Hastings's hands, it all worked. His performance of Liszt's more-or-less straight transcription of Wagner's Liebestod was especially transcendent. Through his control of balances and dynamics, through his command of tone color and pedaling, and especially through his imaginative, emotional, and even spiritual feel for the soul of the music, Hastings's performance achieved a kind of beatific rapture. If he can make glorious music with a fraudulent poetaster like Liszt, imagine how he will fare with the true poet of the piano.