Thursday, July 7, 2011

Liszt's 200th

In the Wall Street Journal this morning an article on Franz Liszt. The WSJ has some surprisingly good arts coverage from time to time. I've never been a big admirer of Liszt. I can't think of one piece of his that has really captured me to the point where I had to listen to it again and again. Let's figure out why.

A popular piano piece by the young virtuoso:

It's not Mozart! Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this show exactly those things that Liszt was criticized for during his life: flashy pianism without much substance? Honestly, it reminds me very much of this, especially towards the end:

All right, I know, unfair! I'll update this later by looking at some of Liszt's more serious music from his later life.

UPDATE: Here is a much-admired piece from his later years, "Les jeux d'eaux a la Villa d'Este"

Tricky arpeggios followed by more tricky arpeggios for eight minutes? Some lovely sounds, sure, but nothing that makes me want to hear it again. Is it just me, or is Liszt's reputation for superficial, flashy pianism well-earned? For really compelling writing for the piano I would rather turn to these two gentlemen:

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