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Franz Liszt

Friday, July 1, 2016


Classical iconoclast

June 23

James Gilchrist Sally Beamish premiere Wigmore Hall

Classical iconoclast James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook at the Wigmore Hall, London with  Sally Beamish's West Wind.  Gilchrist has been one of the most determined advocates of English song, almost from the beginning of his career.  Although his core repertoire is built on solid foundations of Handel, Purcell, RVW, Britten, and especially Gerald Finzi of whom he is a great exponent, Gilchrist has always made a point of promoting composers who should be more in the mainstream, like Hugh Wood, Lennox Berkeley and John Jeffreys and others whom he's performed live but not recorded. .  By commissioning Beamish, one of the most prominent British composers for voice, Gilchrist is again making a valuable contribution to British music.  Beamish's West Wind is based on Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind, which everyone knows as a poem, but which has hardly ever been set to music, at least not in full.  English poets dominate world literature - Shakespeare, the Restoration poets, Wordsworth, Keats - but this heritage is hardly reflected in music. History might explain things. The Industrial Revolution transformed British society, making it more urban and centralized than was the case elsewhere in Europe.  British and European Romanticism were very different, in ways too complex to describe here.  Furthermore,  the British choral tradition was so strong that other forms of music making didn't get much attention.  Perhaps the very nature of English Romantic poetry is relevant.  The style is fulsome and elegaic, lending itself to oratorio rather than to art song. It's significant that Hubert Parry was one of the first to create art song from English poetry.  Read here about the ground breaking series of Parry's songs to English texts from Somm Records  (Gilchrist, Roderick Williams and Susan Gritton.) Rolling, circular figures introduce Beamish's West Wind the voice entering from a distance as if it were being blown in by the "pestilence stricken multitudes".  Soon, though, the voice asserts itself.,  Gilchrist dings the words "Cold and low.....the corpse within its grave". A slow, penetrating chill descends, but, like the wind, the music changes direction, at turns capricious, rhen still, then rushing forth.  The third section is particularly beautiful. Delicate piano figures lead into curling, keening vocal phrases that seem to hover in the air, "Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams".   In the lower register of the piano, perhaps we can detect sonorous "lungs" . Suddenly lightness returns. "If I were a dead leaf", Gilchrist sings, almost unaccompanied, suggesting fragility.  His touch is delicate, yet perfectly poised. The phrasing suits his voice. Gilchrist has the strange esoteric timbre of a typical English tenor, but also direct, almost conversational  naturalness.  From vulnerable sensitivity to the ferocity of the last poem. "Make me thy lyre" Gilchrist growls at the bottom of his timbre. Now Tilbrook's playing flutters weightlessly, like falling leaves.  "Scatter, scatter, scatter" Gilchrist sings, each word on a slightly different level.  "O.. O...O " he sang, mimicking the sound of wind, the word "Wind" pitched and held  so high that it floated, rarified, into air.  Beamish's West Wind is quirky, underlining the disturbing undercurrents in a poem ostensibly about Nature, but too malign to be a "nature poem". I kept thinking of  Peter Warlock's The Curlew, another cycle well suited to Gilchrist's style.  I also remembered Gilchrist's  Die Schöne Müllerin. There are hundreds of recordings, but his stood out out from the competition because it was an interpretation derived as if from clinical observation of the miller's psychology.  In this Wigmore Hall recital, Gilchrist and Tilbrook included songs by Mendelssohn,and Liszt and Schumann's Liederkreis op 39. Eichendorff's poems are less overtly ironic than Heine's, which formed the basis of Schumann's Leiderkreis Op 24.  but are perhaps closer to,the spirit of the very early Romantic period. After hearing this performance, I've decided to grt Gilchrist's recent recording of the Schumann song cycles on Linn. photo credit operomnia.uk/Hazard Chase Management

Guardian

June 25

Franz Liszt, 13, delights Manchester audience: archive, 25 June 1825

25 June 1825: The performance of Master Liszt was received with a warmth of applause which must have been highly gratifying to his feelingsMessrs. Ward and Andrews’s second concert took place on Monday evening last, when the theatre was filled nearly in every part by one of the most respectable audiences we ever remember to have seen in it. The performance of Master Liszt on the piano-forte was received, as usual, with a warmth of applause which must have been highly gratifying to his feelings.Indeed, no one could possibly hear him without being delighted; it did not need an acquaintance with music to feel that he was a most extraordinary performer; and it is not necessary, in estimating his powers, to make any allowance on account of his youth; for his performance would be most extraordinary in a person of any age. Continue reading...




Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 9

A pianist for the rest of our lives

(Retrieved from file. Originally published on Slipped Disc on March 15, 2102) Daniil Trifonov, winner of the Arthur Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky competitions, gave his debut London recital last night. It was packed with people who had watched his competition performances and many, like me, will have steeled themselves against disappointment. A solo recital on a working night can lack the searing, competitive adrenalin of a cup final. Daniil’s first half was the Schubert Piano Sonata in B flat D960, preceded by two Liszt transcriptions of Schubert songs. Played on a Fazioli piano with a hardened glitter in the upper registers, Trifonov’s interpretation offered more brilliance than reflective substance. Depth may be too much to ask from a young man who turned 21 last week (we shared his birthday cake later) but Russians will be Russians and they need to show from the earliest age that they can hammer the Viennese masters and run rings around philosophy. The second half was another planet. A trickle of Tchaikovsky sentiments preceded one of the most profound and original accounts of the Chopin opus 10 Etudes I have ever been privileged to experience. Daniil reconceived the tricky pieces as a dramatic entity, micro-timing the pauses between one etude and the next to accentuate the attention and give a sense of how Chopin built the set to an explosive climax. Where other pianists pause to wipe their brow, Daniil used silence in the manner of John Cage and the total-serialists – as an element equal to music itself. One hardly dared to draw breath through the set. This is a major artist, phenomenally gifted and almost fully formed, with fresh ideas and a winning stage presence that is quite irresistible from the moment he bounds through the door and sits at the keyboard, unable to contain his need to share. The legend, too, is spreading like bushfire. Thousands claim to have been there the night the lights went out in Guildford and Trifonov carried on playing his concerto in total darkness. When the orchestra stopped, he played a Chopin waltz.



Tribuna musical

May 29

Admirable veteran pianist and Mahler´s overwhelming “Resurrection Symphony”

We have just lived a rich symphonic week, led by the Buenos Aires Philharmonic and the Teatro Argentino. The first, conducted by Enrique Arturo Diemecke, gave us the long-awaited return of Philippe Entremont, still active and technically in shape weeks away from his 82nd birthday, playing Beethoven´s First Concerto. And to boot, the hour-long magnificent Fourth Symphony ("Romantic") by Bruckner. As to the Argentino, their musical director Carlos Vieu tackled no less than the overwhelming "Resurrection Symphony" (Nº2) by Mahler. Entremont has had an enormous career, for this Frenchman born at Reims started at l8 when he played Jolivet and Liszt concerti at Carnegie Hall with great success. During the last thirty years he added conducting, and as such he came here at least twice at the front of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra ( he was also Chief Conductor of the Denver Symphony). When he was 80, a box of 19 CDs compiled all his recordings of concerti. I was lucky enough to hear him twice in recitals back in 1957 at Washington, where I was studying, but I don´t remember when he was here as a pianist; such information should be in his hand programme biography but it isn´t. He is still very much worth hearing: the playing was clean and stylish, with fine timbre and clever use of the pedal. A minor misadjustment at the coda of the last movement matters little. In the first movement he played the shorter of the three cadenzas left by Beethoven, but he added some extra music that might be his. Diemecke and the Phil accompanied well. Entremont ´s encore was Chopin, the brief and charming Three Écossaises that I used to relish when played by Brailowsky. Entremont´s interpretation was airy and rhythmically free. Diemecke has demonstrated before that the great symphonic challenges are for him; he has confronted Bruckner´s heavenly lengths before and has managed to give this controversial composer the necessary coherence, the care for its chamber moments and the immense power of the abundant climaxes. The Fourth, "Romantic", has been done often in our city and under first-rate maestros such as Moralt, Van Otterloo or Decker. In fact, it is the most often played, along with the Seventh and Eighth, and with good reason, for it has lovely melodies, stirring impact, feats of counterpoint, and an ambience of its own in Bruckner´s peculiar evocation from a Romantic point of view of Medieval castles, cities, knights and hunts. We generally hear the revised version; the original was heard here only once, by Rozhdestvensky and the Vienna Symphony. The Phil was at its very best, with unfailing work from that most dicey section, the horns, and a high degree of concentration from all concerned. And again there was that irritating contradiction in Diemecke´s personality: his inane and unnecessary comments and his world-class conducting. Again after the applause the orchestra protested with placards saying "carrera 2012?". To decode it, the players are showing their anger because they are claiming since 2012 that their "career" be recognised with money added to their salary; in other words, e.g., a first violin with 25 years of experience in the Phil deserves better payment than one that entered last year. Seems fair to me. Mahler´s Second has marked my musical life so stromngly that I have to declare my very special predilection for a score so elevated and masterful that it restores my faith in humanity...at least whilst I´m listening to it. It was one of my very early vinyl albums back in 1951, when I was twelve: the wonderful Klemperer/Vienna Symphony recording. But the first live performance in BA was only during the Illia presidency, led by A.C. Paita. From then on it was heard with some frequency: Calderón, Bodmer (at the Bombonera!), Decker, even Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic! (wonderful), and last year´s high point with Diemecke and the National Symphony at the Blue Whale. At La Plata Luis Gorelik did an interesting Nº2 some years ago. Currently the Argentino goes through a difficult period marked by budget restrictions and plans of building restoration. But there are stalwart facts in their concert life: a big orchestra of good standard conducted by Vieu, one of our most able artists; and a splendid chorus well prepared by Sánchez Arteaga. So the basic conditions are there, and if we add the positive spirit with which they worked, and an enthusiastic big audience, plus two talented soloists, mezzosoprano Florencia Machado and soprano Daniela Tabernig, things had to go well, and they did. Foremost, Vieu commanded the extremely complex and fascinating score, and had lucid phrasing ideas. Not all players were perfect but only one thing jarred, the ugly bells (they must be changed), after all not the fault of the instrumentalist. But so much was right that, after a tremendous First Movement (the huge Funeral March) and the fantasy of the following two, the mezzo sang "Urlicht" ("Original Light") from "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" as the moving interlude before the gigantic Fifth movement, and we were ready for the total catharsis of the greatest choral-symphonic music, on Klopstock´s Resurrection ode, but only after almost twenty minutes of traversing the most contrasting moods imaginable. The chorus enters "pianissimo" and from then on the music grows and grows (adding the two soloists) until the most glorious final minutes in history. For Buenos Aires Herald

Tribuna musical

May 29

The Rome Santa Cecilia Orchestra visits us for the first time

Italy has three main symphony orchestras. Two have come to BA in earlier seasons: Milan´s La Scala with Gavazzeni and later with Muti, and that of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Maazel. And now, to complete the trilogy, the Mozarteum Argentino brought us from Rome the Orchestra dell´Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano and with Beatrice Rana (piano). All made their local debuts. The three are of high quality and can compete internationally. La Scala´s has a special regime: during Autumn it is a concert orchestra, but come Winter they go to the pit for the operatic season. That of the MMF of course is the basis for the homonymous yearly Festival in which such great names as Bartoletti and Mehta have presented interesting opera programmes, but they also offer many concerts during the year and they are the pit orchestra for the Teatro Comunale´s opera season. The Santa Cecilia, instead, is a concert orchestra with weekly activity from October to June at the magnificent new Parco della Musica. Each concert is given three times. However, it has recently recorded "Aida" with a starry cast (Kaufmann/Harteros/Schrott) and "Madama Butterfly" with Gheorghiu. The Accademia also supports a Chorus, and so the choral-symphonic repertoire often appears during the season. It is the oldest Italian organism dedicated almost exclusively to concert music. It was founded in 1908 as Orchestra dell´Augusteo di Roma. Bernardino Molinari had a long tenure as Principal Conductor from 1912 to 1944. Later the Orchestra was called Santa Cecilia (she is the patroness of music) and had eminent Principal conductors: Fernando Previtali (1953-73), Igor Markevich (1973-5), Giuseppe Sinopoli (1983-7), Daniele Gatti (1992-7), Myung-Whun Chung (1997-2005) and now Pappano. To their appellation they later added Nazionale (I would have thought more adequate to add "di Roma"). The Academy was established by papal bull as "Congregazione" in 1585, and became Academy in the Nineteenth Century. Nowadays it also has a Conservatory, what they call a "Bibliomediateca" and a Museum of musical instruments. Vinyl lovers will recall that the orchestra, though a concert outfit, was employed in dozens of famous operatic recordings in the 1950s and 1960s. Anyway, I can vouchsafe that in concert the Santa Cecilia was first-rate even in the Fifties, when I heard in Rome a wonderful evening with Previtali and the greatest pianist in my experience, Wilhelm Backhaus, who played both Beethoven´s Concerto Nº4 and Brahms´ First in the same evening! (February 6, 1954). And now to Sir Antonio Pappano (why Antonio and not Anthony? He´s British!). Born 56 years ago, he studied in the United States, he was Musical Director of the Norwegian Opera at Oslo and at Brussels´ Théâtre de la Monnaie prior to taking over the main post at London´s Covent Garden in 2002. So he divides his time between opera and concerts. The programmes he brought over for the Mozarteum´s two cycles played safe, too safe. On the tour came Beatrice Rana, a 23-year-old Italian pianist who recorded Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto and Prokofiev´s Second with Pappano and the Santa Cecilia. If she had played Prokofiev on Tuesday 12 and Tchaikovsky on Wednesday 13, it would have been much better, but no, it was Tchaikovsky both days. Or if the Russian composer´s Fifth Symphony on the 12th would have been replaced by a symphony of, say, Shostakovich, there would have been a good balance. But no, we had both Tchaikovskys together on the first night, and one hopes to hear something more varied from a visiting orchestra, especially if it´s their first time here. But apart from that caveat, everything went swimmingly. The conductor was right in starting both evenings with Verdi: the Overture to "La Forza del destino" and the following day, the Sinfonia (another name for overture) to "Luisa Miller". The phrasing was unfailing, showing Pappano´s knack for dramatic music, and the Orchestra sounded admirable (as listed in the hand programme it is huge, 117 players, but surely fewer came). Rana is a find: a fantastic and effortless technique that combines a big sound without harshness and impeccable digitation at all speeds. Just one reservation: in the first movement she slowed down too much in certain passages, though generally she dazzled in the virtuosic passages. The accompaniment was very professional. Her encore on Wednesday was beautiful: a Schumann song from "Frauenliebe und Leben" as arranged admirably by Liszt. But on Tuesday her Gigue from Bach´s First Partita sounded like a perfectly executed cross-hands etude rather than a dance. The symphonies showed both Pappano´s mettle and the orchestra´s quality; except for some horn fluffs the playing was very firm, with attractive solos from the woodwinds and the strings and a warm, in tune, brilliant overall sound. The conductor was orthodox and gave sure readings of both the Tchaikovsky Fifth and that strange and fascinating symphony, Saint-Saëns´ Nº3. The final minutes of the latter were thrilling; organist Daniele Rossi played on the Colón electric organ placed on the avant-scène loge and it sounded good, though never replacing a true pipe organ (impossible at the Colón). Encores: on Tuesday, "Nimrod" from Elgar´s Enigma Variations, and the last part of Rossini´s "Guillaume Tell". On Wednesday, a marvelous interpretation of Puccini´s Intermezzo from "Manon Lescaut" and a romping close with the galop-like ending to Ponchielli´s "Dance of the Hours" from "La Gioconda". For Buenos Aires Herald

Franz Liszt
(1811 – 1886)

Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a 19th century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher. Liszt became renowned throughout Europe during the 19th century for his great skill as a performer. Liszt was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. Liszt was also an important and influential composer, a notable piano teacher, a conductor who contributed significantly to the modern development of the art, and a benefactor to other composers and performers, notably Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin. As a composer, Franz Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the New German School. He left behind an extensive and diverse body of work, in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of Liszt's most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form and making radical departures in harmony.



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