In a recital a few years ago, I programmed a Liszt work, mentioning to a friend that it seemed a good idea to feature the piece as it was 120 years since it was written.
‘Ah – but, for you, it’s any excuse to play Liszt!’ she replied. And she was right. So the 2011 season gives me the best of all excuses, being the bicentenary of Liszt’s birth.
It started subliminally as a child, hearing my mother practise the Wagner/Liszt transcription of the Pilgrim’s March from Tannhauser. Later, when invited to choose a new piece to learn by my then teacher, Roy Shepherd, I tentatively asked if it could be Liszt’s Au lac de Wallenstadt. He gave me one of the Paganini /Liszt Etudes instead.
Filigree cadenzas, pages of normal octaves, interlocking octaves, pianistic humour, huge contrasts and the exciting command ‘strepitoso’ – this was new territory, and challenging stuff. But it was a way into repertoire which, in its diversity, depth and musical imagination, has provided endless fascination and reward.
This post is premature, being written in October 2010, and it comes even as I am preparing to add to my pre-existent blog about Chopin. But preparations for Liszt’s year are already advanced and concerts are planned. As the musical world embarks on a year of pilgrimage through Liszt’s music, this blog will be a record of my part of the journey.