Liszt's Piano Work Interpreted With Power, Control in 1964 Performance

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Liszt's Piano Work Interpreted With Power, Control in 1964 Performance

"Song Without End" is a biographical film starring Dirk Bogarde as Franz Liszt, the Hungarian pianist and composer. It is punctuated with the sorrowful sound of orchestral music that makes viewers want to shed tears. Some fragments from Liszt's "Piano Sonata in B minor" were arranged into an orchestral piece for the movie to fit the romantic story of the piano virtuoso who fell in love with a married countess.

Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor is regarded as his finest work for the piano, and as one of the greatest achievements of Romantic piano music. It has steadily drawn attention since it was introduced in 1853. One of Liszt's biographers noted that the piano sonata was an autobiographical piece that summarized the composer's lifetime of success and failure. French pianist Alfred Cortot gave the piano sonata the nickname, "Faust Sonata," since its second theme sounded quite similar to the theme of Liszt's "Faust Symphony. " It is likely that Cortot's inspiration for the nickname came from the names of Liszt's other works, "Dante Sonata" and "Dante Symphony. "

In 1831, Liszt heard the brilliant violinist Niccolo Paganini play at the Paris Opera House. Inspired by the performance, Liszt vowed to be the Paganini of the piano and practiced for up to 14 hours a day. He went on concert tours around Europe to prove himself as the nineteenth century's great pianist. Meanwhile, he had an affair with a married countess and gradually, became tired of performing even though his renditions were invariably drew rave reviews from his audiences. Liszt finally abandoned performing and became a composer. He wanted to be remembered more as a great composer than as a pianist. It was around that time that Liszt composed the Piano Sonata in B minor, which is so full of rich themes that it reminds one of a symphony.

Liszt's brilliance shines by incorporating three movements into one continuous whole and by making the divisions between them ambiguous. He is also superb in concealing the opening themes in a variety of guises. In this 30-minute sonata, there are many note-splattered pages, but the self-conscious showing-off of the Hungarian Rhapsodies is nowhere in evidence. Here Liszt overcomes the shortcomings of his other works, which are full of flowery techniques and incorporate some of the popular tunes of his day. In the piano sonata, the composer takes a step back from boastful techniques and pays greater attention to his inner voice.

Emil Gilels, a Russian pianist admired for his superb technique and tonal control, recorded Liszt's Piano Sonata in B minor in 1964. The recording, produced in the RCA label, is a masterpiece created by layers of harmonic sound that overpower listeners. Gilels' playing reflects a meditative mood but is controlled enough not to become maudlin.


by Lee Jang-jik

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