Review of Liszt Transcending - Alan Becker, American Record Guide

May 4, 2007

Canadian-born Hastings is yet another young pianist involved in producing his own records. This one, recorded in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is very well engineered and includes notes on all of the pieces instead of the endless auditory paragraphs on the artist. Additional information can be found on his website www.joelhastings.com. If the "proof of the pudding" is to be found in the tasting, the pianist has given us much to savor and an appetite to hear more. . . .

Opening with the Concert Paraphrase of Rigoletto, Hastings immediately asserts himself as a natural in this repertory. His phrasing and his handling of the showy cadenzas fall spontaneously from his fingers without any obvious effort to beat us over the head with empty virtuosity. Another paraphrase, on Lucia Di Lammermoor is just as well done; the famous Sextet takes center stage. Wagner's 'Liebestod' from Tristan is a good deal more subtle than many other readings . . . . Four of Liszt's settings of the most popular Schubert songs, Schumann's well-known 'Soaring' and Mendelssohn's 'On Wings of Song' might seem potboiler territory; but they are extremely well done and fall on the ear gratefully when presented with such joy. Less known is a concert arrangement from Handel's opera Almira, consisting of the Sarabande and Chaconne. This is the longest selection by far, but holds the listener without resorting to forced display. Gluck's famous flute 'Melodie' from Orfeo et Euridice is the odd man out, being transcribed by Scambati, though the Italian did study with Liszt.