Franz Liszt, the father of modern piano performance
If you walk up and tell any pianist that you are playing Liszt, you will see a variety of reactions on their face, ranging from awe, to solemn acknowledgement, to sympathy.
That is because Liszt's compositions are known to be extremely challenging , adorned with crazy runs and scales to chords that only people with Rachmaninoff-sized hands can reach. Being able to hit all the correct notes is a feat in itself that requires nearly flawless technique, before tackling the issue of musicality: what is the melody? Where does the line go? What kind of mood or feeling should I convey with the chord progressions and changes in key? Needless to say, playing works by Liszt requires every ounce of energy and focus from the performer.
For those of you who are not familiar with Franz Liszt: he was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and conductor, among many other roles he took on during his life. He was the first to coin the term “recital”, and define what a solo pianist could do on stage. Although it may be hard to imagine a classical pianist tossing his hair around in dramatic passages, and sophisticated ladies fangirling over him while clutching bits of his clothing that were torn off, Liszt opened a world of opportunities for solo piano performance, captivating audiences all over Europe.
As a seasoned pianist and avid performer, I have played a fair amount of Liszt, who has become one of my favorite composers of all time. Below are several of my favorite pieces, including one of my own performances, listen and see what you think!
Evgeny Kissin’s performance of La Campanella, “The little bell,” a delightful piece to listen to but exhausting to perform!
Hamelin’s interpretation of Un Sospiro, “A Sigh,” a beautiful, lyrical piece with dramatic flourishes.
My performance of a Concert Étude Gnomenreigen, “Dance of the Gnomes”. I hope I did the piece justice!
Piece submitted by Audrey Lee, Beijing Office.