Yesterday was the 200th birthday of Franz Liszt

I don’t usually like to reprise previous posts, but here goes:

1. Franz Liszt: The “late, serious” pieces are important but I don’t think they are much fun to listen to.  I recommend the Transcendental Etudes, performance preferences here.  “Funerailles,” played by the young Lazar Berman.   “Years of Pilgrimage, the Swiss years,” by Aldo Ciccolini.  The Hungarian Rhapsodies, played by Cziffa or Robert Szidon.  Many of the opera transcriptions are subtler than they are made out to be, as creative examples of early mash-ups.  The B Minor Sonata is a bit too long but Clifford Curzon has a lovely version.  The organ music remains undervalued and the instrument well suited the composer’s chromatic tendencies.

The Alan Walker biography of Liszt is an excellent look at the nineteenth century and they are among my favorite biographies.  Has anyone written the book — in any language — on what the career of Liszt shows about the decline of mainstream classical liberalism?

I very much like the recent Liszt CD by Haiou Zhang; amazing that we can have such a pianist and hardly anyone has heard of him.


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