Franz Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes

Many of the criticisms of Liszt stick, but you can't judge these pieces by the standards of a Bach fugue.  If there's anything in classical music that comes close to the ecstasy of The Clash, or the beauty of Brian Eno, it is these works.  The Etudes are also nearly impossible to play and as monomaniacal works they try to contain everything pianistic.  A new version of the Etudes has appeared, by Miroslav Kultyshev.  It starts slow but by Mazeppa (YouTube here) the listener takes notice.  There are many bad or unlistenable versions of the Etudes but the recordings by Freddy Kempf (download here), Kemal Gekic,(YouTube here) and Vladimir Ovchinikov are of note.  Nikolai Lugansky (YouTube only) is good with the dynamics.  It is somehow appropriate that none of these talented pianists has met with major success more generally, as if other music is somehow "too little" for them.  Or they sold their souls to the devil to play the Etudes and they are, underneath the surface, shattered empty men.


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