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Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2111460
07/02/13 09:55 AM
07/02/13 09:55 AM
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a list of pieces that I play(ed) and I think are/were exceptionally hard:

Liszt Feux follets
Lyapunov Sonata
Schumann Toccata
Ligeti Fanfares/Automne a Varsovie
Bach Goldbergvariations



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Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2111473
07/02/13 10:21 AM
07/02/13 10:21 AM
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Gaspard
Iberia, taken as a whole
Vingt Regards, for length and technical difficulty
A bunch of Liszt stuff. Seems like Don Juan is reallllllly tricky.
A bunch of Godowsky, the Java Suite is a great choice though.

A note on Scarbo - it is such a different kind of virtuosity than other pieces. There are no flashy octave interludes. Sure there are fast repeated notes, but it serves the image of the piece. All of the difficulties serve the overall message of the piece. Boy do I love Scarbo, and Gaspard as a whole.


Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Scordatura] #2111731
07/02/13 05:12 PM
07/02/13 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: jeffreyjones] #2111785
07/02/13 07:17 PM
07/02/13 07:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Great article, Scordatura! And Jeff, I've always maintained the same thing: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've yet to discover anything truly "new" about human nature.

I had to chuckle at this quote: "For me the most difficult of piano pieces is whatever piece I happen to be playing while I am playing it." I read the exact same quote in another piano forum, and have been waiting patiently to see it pop up here ever since I started the thread. How refreshing to know that PW members are willing to subordinate cleverness to thoughtfulness. smile (MarkC, don't even think about it!) laugh

Thanks, everyone!

Last edited by Old Man; 07/02/13 07:18 PM.
Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: jeffreyjones] #2111810
07/02/13 08:14 PM
07/02/13 08:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


Great article especially this part:
The other Beethoven sonata that figures in the list of the 16 most difficult compositions, opus 57, the familiar “Sonata Appassionata,” is in the repertoire of about every professional pianist. Opus 106 is very seldom played in public. As practical proof of its difficulty it may be mentioned that Von Bulow once publicly broke down in it while playing it from memory, some years ago, at Chickering Hall. The break-down was covered up, the audience being given to understand that something had gone wrong with the instrument. The tuner in attendance was sent on the stage with instructions to spend 15 or 20 minutes in ostensibly putting the piano to rights, while Von Bulow, out of earshot of the audience, utilized the time thus gained by furiously practicing, on an upright piano, the passage that had baffled him.

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2111814
07/02/13 08:17 PM
07/02/13 08:17 PM
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1. Liszt: Concert Etude Un Sospiro in Db Major.

2. Rachmaninoff: Prelude in Bb Major Op. 23, No. 2.

3. Rachmaninoff: Moment Musical Op. 16, No. 4, E minor.

4. Stravinsky: Petruschka 1. Danse Russe. Transcription for piano.

5. Prokofiev: Toccata in D minor, Op. 11.


Bob W.
Piano Technician (Retired since 2006)
Conway, Arkansas
www.pianotechno.blogspot.com
Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: pianoloverus] #2111816
07/02/13 08:21 PM
07/02/13 08:21 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


Great article especially this part:
The other Beethoven sonata that figures in the list of the 16 most difficult compositions, opus 57, the familiar “Sonata Appassionata,” is in the repertoire of about every professional pianist. Opus 106 is very seldom played in public. As practical proof of its difficulty it may be mentioned that Von Bulow once publicly broke down in it while playing it from memory, some years ago, at Chickering Hall. The break-down was covered up, the audience being given to understand that something had gone wrong with the instrument. The tuner in attendance was sent on the stage with instructions to spend 15 or 20 minutes in ostensibly putting the piano to rights, while Von Bulow, out of earshot of the audience, utilized the time thus gained by furiously practicing, on an upright piano, the passage that had baffled him.


I'm gonna save that bit!

I've never had a breakdown on stage, though (and I don't plan on it!)

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: jeffreyjones] #2112037
07/03/13 07:39 AM
07/03/13 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..


Except that there is not that much overlap of the actual lists of pieces, then and now. I have trouble imagining anybody today putting the Bach Chromatic F&F on their list of most difficult pieces.

I did enjoy reading that Alkan's son said the most difficult piece was whatever he was playing at the moment - I can identify with that kind of thinking.


Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2112040
07/03/13 07:56 AM
07/03/13 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Great article, Scordatura! And Jeff, I've always maintained the same thing: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've yet to discover anything truly "new" about human nature.



The article isn't about human nature, it's about difficult piano music.

But, since you brought up your experience of human nature - if you have yet to discover anything new, that might be more about your own perspective than it is about some fixed attribute of human nature. Just sayin'...


Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: wr] #2112055
07/03/13 08:51 AM
07/03/13 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Great article, Scordatura! And Jeff, I've always maintained the same thing: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've yet to discover anything truly "new" about human nature.



The article isn't about human nature, it's about difficult piano music.

Yes, I had that much figured out. I was responding to jeffreyjones. And the standard interpretation of the adage he quoted is that despite changes in our environment and circumstances, we humans really don't change that much over time. In terms of this thread, I thought Jeff was pointing out that the arguments about what pieces of music are difficult remain pretty much the same today as they were when the article was published.

Originally Posted by wr

But, since you brought up your experience of human nature - if you have yet to discover anything new, that might be more about your own perspective than it is about some fixed attribute of human nature. Just sayin'...

Can I sit, or should I lie on the couch? wink

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2112155
07/03/13 11:48 AM
07/03/13 11:48 AM
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I'm not particularly accustomed to the "most difficult pieces ever" mainly due to the fact that I am only 14, but I have played through Gaspard de la Nuit and found Scarbo easier the Ondine (probably just a personal thing) but a couple of transcriptions I am playing I am finding devilishly tricky The Schulz Evler "Arabeske on the blue danube" being one of them and the other Cziffra's arrangement of the Tristch-Trastch polka. Finally before I forget the Chopin op.10 No.4 etude is incessantly annoying and difficult at full (albeit Richter) speed

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2112441
07/03/13 09:14 PM
07/03/13 09:14 PM
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Land of the never-ending music
Hammerklavier
Gaspard
definitely some Alkan
Rachmaninoff 3rd
Schumann Toccata (particularly if you have small hands)



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Music is my best friend.


Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Brendan] #2112506
07/03/13 11:43 PM
07/03/13 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Brendan
Originally Posted by Old Man

In fact, here's a post from that other internet piano site that certainly bolsters your statement about Xenakis.

Quote
The most difficult piece of music is unarguably, and I MEAN unarguably, as in any pianist with experience in these fields, or even seeing the sheets ought to prove it for you, is XENAKIS EVRYALI. Compared to Herma even, Xenakis HIMSELF says he wrote it to be difficult, and when Xenakis writes to be difficult...... well you know what that means. Only lasting about 10 minutes, Evryali is more difficult that Stockhausen Klavierstucke XII, Sorabji Opus Clavicembalisticum, Barrett Tracks, Finnissy's History of Sound in Photography or even the infamous piece "Trinity". Ian Pace, who plays the COMPLETE WORKS OF FINNISSY says that Evryali is the most rediculous and nearly-impossible piece of music to ever play. I have only heard what the sheets look like and I desperately want to see them; I have an MP3 so if anyone wants it I can send it.

Anyways... the lesson is when Xenakis writes something to be "a marathon for both the mind and body" you better get scared.

This guy's got me scared just reading about it. shocked


It's hard because the notation is stupid. Had Xenakis written it on two staves instead of four, it would be manageable. As is, it's just hard to visually decipher.

I'm always amazed by these "hardest anything ever" threads because while I've played most of the stuff that typically gets listed (Petrushka, Prokofiev Eight, Brahms 2, The People United, the Liszt Sonata) it's more challenging for me to play Bach well. Even when I originally learned those pieces, I still found them more manageable and comfortable to perform than an English Suite, Partita, or even a Prelude and Fugue. I dunno, maybe I just suck on some fundamental level!


Completely agree. I've had some big pieces in my fingers--Alkan Symphony, Chopin 3, even some Godowsky etudes--but last time I performed Bach, it scared me to death. I am always stunned when people seem to imply that somehow Bach is easier or simpler than some of those pieces...I think they're missing a lot! Then again, maybe I'm also sucking on a fundamental level.

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2112527
07/04/13 12:30 AM
07/04/13 12:30 AM
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Difficulty seems like it's to some degree subjective, because of how many different kinds of difficulties a piece can present. Often 'difficult pieces' lists contain pieces of insane length and stamina, but some very simple and delicate things can be an absolute nightmare to properly balance.

Nevertheless, the most objective criteria are probably length, stamina, register use, texture (thicker is pretty much always harder), rhythmic complexity, and difficulties in interpretation. Here is my list:


Beethoven's Symphony Transcriptions, Liszt
Studies on Chopin's Etudes, Chopin-Godowsky
Piano Concerto in C Major, Ferrucio Busoni
Concerto for Solo Piano, C.V. Alkan
Grand Sonata - The Four Ages, C.V. Alkan

Originally Posted by Goldberg
I am always stunned when people seem to imply that somehow Bach is easier or simpler than some of those pieces...I think they're missing a lot! Then again, maybe I'm also sucking on a fundamental level.


Bach is a great example of something that would appear easy to someone only familiar with late romantic works of ridiculously thick texture, but Bach is a whole world of separate difficulties of totally unique character. Instead you have a thick texture of multiple independent lines shared between a mere two hands, without the liberty of a pedal (it can be used as an adjunct in some cases, but can't be the crutch it became later). I have a transcription of a song from the Clavier-Büchlein by Siloti - a prelude in B minor. It's extremely simple - just a repeating right hand figure against rolled chords in the left hand. However, it requires a technique you don't often see in piano music anymore - sempre pianissimo with all motions done by the smallest joints of the fingers and therefore the most delicate touch possible. Even the slightest agitation in the playing of the figure ruins the balance and ruins the whole piece. Meanwhile the chords are intended to be much louder, with the higher note representing an independent and more powerful line. Something that is so easy on sheet music is actually quite difficult to play well, and is a piece respected and performed by many concert pianists. It is also stunningly beautiful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=IPyVMDgcjxw#t=28s

Here is a performance - the video starts after the intro.

Last edited by Roland The Beagle; 07/04/13 12:45 AM.

Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frdric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2112567
07/04/13 02:39 AM
07/04/13 02:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Great article, Scordatura! And Jeff, I've always maintained the same thing: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've yet to discover anything truly "new" about human nature.



The article isn't about human nature, it's about difficult piano music.

Yes, I had that much figured out. I was responding to jeffreyjones. And the standard interpretation of the adage he quoted is that despite changes in our environment and circumstances, we humans really don't change that much over time. In terms of this thread, I thought Jeff was pointing out that the arguments about what pieces of music are difficult remain pretty much the same today as they were when the article was published.



It's not at all clear what is being referred to as the "more things change" element. It seems that the "the more it stays the same" part might be that there's little agreement about what the most difficult pieces are. That doesn't seem to be much about human nature to me, but about the nature of piano music and playing the instrument.

Thinking about it some more, the saying might be modified to read "the more things stay the same, the more they change", since the framing element - difficulty of piano pieces - has stayed the same and the listing of pieces themselves is quite a bit different.

Quote

Originally Posted by wr

But, since you brought up your experience of human nature - if you have yet to discover anything new, that might be more about your own perspective than it is about some fixed attribute of human nature. Just sayin'...

Can I sit, or should I lie on the couch? wink


You should sit; at your age, getting up again might be difficult if you lie down. I know about these things, since I am older than you (at least in physical years).


Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: wr] #2112759
07/04/13 11:43 AM
07/04/13 11:43 AM
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Old Man Offline OP
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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by Old Man
Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
Originally Posted by Scordatura
Returning to the OP, I dug out this article from The Etude magazine which offers a list from 1895, in an era when popular involvement in piano-playing was at a peak:

http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1895/10/the-hardest-piano-piece.html

Just for the record.


The more things change, the more they stay the same? Reads a lot like PW..

Great article, Scordatura! And Jeff, I've always maintained the same thing: "The more things change, the more they stay the same." I've yet to discover anything truly "new" about human nature.



The article isn't about human nature, it's about difficult piano music.

Yes, I had that much figured out. I was responding to jeffreyjones. And the standard interpretation of the adage he quoted is that despite changes in our environment and circumstances, we humans really don't change that much over time. In terms of this thread, I thought Jeff was pointing out that the arguments about what pieces of music are difficult remain pretty much the same today as they were when the article was published.



It's not at all clear what is being referred to as the "more things change" element. It seems that the "the more it stays the same" part might be that there's little agreement about what the most difficult pieces are. That doesn't seem to be much about human nature to me, but about the nature of piano music and playing the instrument.

Thinking about it some more, the saying might be modified to read "the more things stay the same, the more they change", since the framing element - difficulty of piano pieces - has stayed the same and the listing of pieces themselves is quite a bit different.

Quote

Originally Posted by wr

But, since you brought up your experience of human nature - if you have yet to discover anything new, that might be more about your own perspective than it is about some fixed attribute of human nature. Just sayin'...

Can I sit, or should I lie on the couch? wink


You should sit; at your age, getting up again might be difficult if you lie down. I know about these things, since I am older than you (at least in physical years).



ha thumb thumb

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2591132
11/30/16 02:59 AM
11/30/16 02:59 AM
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Hello,

your topic interested me so much that I finally did register to the pianoworld smile step 1) excuse me for my "not-the-native-speaker-level-like" english, I'm Czech. I study maths and statistics at the Faculty of Nuclear Science and Physical Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague, but I consider myself more a musician than a mathematician, as I love music and don't like the maths too much anymore. I love playing the piano, I'm 22 years old and I play it for last 17 years, but studied it only at basic schools of art, never something like a conservatory - I will probably change that in the future smile I developed a strong relationship with music, that in fact, nowadays it's probably one of the very few things that can make me cry.
Now that you know something about me, I can proceed to my personal list - I have certain opinions that hold well with my personal experience, so I'm gonna split this list into the theoretical and empirical halves, the T one "what I think is really challenging", the E one "what was for me so far the most challenging". I do have to mention one key factor, unfortunately, that quite prevents me from achieving my goals faster, and most recently causes me to lose my patience and mood, and that is the technical condition of my piano - it's action is not very balanced, it's quite slow and puts high demands on me to force it to play the way I want, but forcing it to play means I am adjusting to it, which is probably not good - whenever I play on a good instrument, it's like being in heaven, everything is so easy, so smooth, I can "find" the sound of the new piano in minutes, thanks to mastering my much worse instrument, but this advantage feels quite contraproductive in my technicality.

I will start with the empirical list:

1) Sergei Rachmaninov - Études-Tableaux, op. 39, no. 9 in D minor.

To be exact, I've been practising this one for maybe 4 years now

2) F. F. Chopin - Étude op. 10, no. 5 in G flat major

Guess no words needed, Chopin études definitely won't top the theoretical list, but they are challenging for every amateur. I love Perahia's recordings

3) F. F. Chopin - Scherzo B flat minor, op. 31

This is the music of my heart. I'm close to finishing it, after some 6 years of [:practise-let it be:]. Now I think it's not that difficult, Chopin's pieces are quite well learnable I think, he pursued the beauty more than the difficulty, and his use of difficulty made his pieces exponentially more beautiful smile

4) Bedřich Smetana - Czech Dances - Furiant in A minor

Smetana is probably one of 2 most famous Czech composers, Antonín Dvořák surely the better known of this duo. Smetana's works are often overlooked or just little known, but he composed beautiful things and pretty difficult often as well. This piece, the Furiant, is a bomb, marvellous but at the same time, very demanding, at least for me. I recommend you the interpretations of probably the most famous Czech pianist of all time, who is Rudolf Firkušný. A lot of his recordings are available on the youtube, he's ingenious in performing any composer.

5) Antonín Dvořák - The "Dumky" Trio, op. 90

Again from the empirical point of view, I couldn't ommit a piano trio. I love this genre (or what is it called), I enjoyed playing piano trios probably even more than playing the most intriguing solo pieces of my repertoire. Not only you can enjoy the rich colours of piano+cello+violin, but the connection to another 2 people, the same crazy musicians as you are, via the music, unbelievable, you have the feeling of telepathy. To the difficulty - of course it's not even close to the Étude-Tableaux, but Dvořák is always quite uncomfortable to play, that's different point of view on difficulty, piano was not his first instrument - interestingly though, he premiered his piano trios when playing the piano part.

Theoretical list:

1) Sergei Rachmaninov: Études-Tableaux op. 39

Complete opus. I think his Études are the most challenging ever composed, for one single fact - they are probably the most complex and most beautiful. They demand a mature pianist with deep soul, and from the technical point of view, they always demand you to master multiple techniques for any of those Études. E.g. 39/5 is not only technically challenging, but also makes you feel naked. For me, more difficult to play than Transcendental Études by Liszt.

2) A.-C. Debussy: Études

Also very challenging, different from normal études, I mention them also for the fact they aren't regularly played and I think it's a pitty, maybe even a shame.

3) Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit

No comment needed

4) Balakirev: Islamey

Again, no comment needed

5) Sergei Rachmaninov: Sonata op. 36, no. 2

For me the most beautiful solo piece for piano, and probably the most difficult at the same time, don't ask me why, I just admire Nikolai Lugansky for his playing of anything monsieur Rachmaninov has composed.

This is it, both lists are strongly subjective, in the theoretical I mentioned only pieces I would be willing to learn smile

Looking forward your replies.

Regards,

Radim_Quiet.

Re: Five Most Difficult Piano Pieces (Classical) [Re: Old Man] #2591151
11/30/16 06:22 AM
11/30/16 06:22 AM
Joined: Apr 2015
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DiarmuidD Offline
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DiarmuidD  Offline
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Joined: Apr 2015
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Liszt - Tarantella di Bravura d'après La muette de Portici

i.e. not the one from the Années de pèlerinage (Italy). I've never heard a recording of this (and there are hardly any) where the pianist didn't cop out at some stage.

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