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I posted this work a few pages ago, but it has since become my favourite of the Funeral Odes and is becoming one of my favourite Liszt solo piano works overall, despite being almost completely unknown, so i'll put it here again. In its original version it's an orchestral postlude to one of his finest tone poems: Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo, and this is the piano transcription (which I prefer).


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[video:youtube]91gZiCXfCjM[/video]

It's not often I say this, but I believe this performance is almost genius. He brings out all these lines which just aren't there in other recordings!


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The third (and last) piece from one of Liszt's neglected little cycles, Glanes de Woronince (1847-48). It's my favourite of the three...Very simple, but very beautiful.



I don't like the other two pieces as much as some others seem to, but they are still nice; especially the Ballade Ukraine which is probably equal in quality with the contemporaneous 1st Ballade, but even more neglected.






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Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works? A masterful tone poem about the inevitability and relentlessness of death, a work that ought to be taken very seriously indeed. Pianistic writing that is as ingenious as any in the entire 19th century, masterful counterpoint in both the most traditional 'canonic' style as well as the most forward-looking (the fugue), wonderfully vivid, novel orchestration, and overall one of his most original and forward-looking works.

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I just finished reading Amy Fay's book. She had nothing but positive things to say about Liszt as a pianist, composer and teacher. She felt he was far above any other pianist of the day. His teaching style was affirming and positive as opposed to Tausig and Kullak who belittled their students.

Sounds like he was quite a man.


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Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works? A masterful tone poem about the inevitability and relentlessness of death, a work that ought to be taken very seriously indeed. Pianistic writing that is as ingenious as any in the entire 19th century, masterful counterpoint in both the most traditional 'canonic' style as well as the most forward-looking (the fugue), wonderfully vivid, novel orchestration, and overall one of his most original and forward-looking works.


You're not the only one. smile It is one of my favourite works of all... The piano writing is transcendental in every sense of the word, it is genius! And what he does with the Dies Irae is very imaginative.

My favourite recording which I've come across, with respect to both the piano and orchestra, is Joseph Banowetz with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra under Oliver Dohnanyi (on Naxos label). Many of the recordings I've heard of it are really rather meek in comparison.

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[video:youtube]7hSnfdYSN2E[/video]

While I'm here, I thought I'd share this. I recently stumbled upon a beautifully presented box-set CD of Berman's recording of the complete Annees de pelerinage. I've listened through it all several times now and am in awe. He makes a lot of these works, especially in the third book, really come alive like nobody else.

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One of the best recordings i've heard of his Grosses Konzertsolo, a work that has so many wonderful things in it, but unfortunately I find some of the repeated chords and tremolos to be a little tiresome (a vice that Liszt occasionally falls prey to). It is, however, a good and highly original work that I really enjoy.


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Originally Posted by Jolteon

[video:youtube]7hSnfdYSN2E[/video]

While I'm here, I thought I'd share this. I recently stumbled upon a beautifully presented box-set CD of Berman's recording of the complete Annees de pelerinage. I've listened through it all several times now and am in awe. He makes a lot of these works, especially in the third book, really come alive like nobody else.


Berman's is a great complete Annees, among my favourites for sure, and I agree that he is as good as it gets in the third book. I find he's so good throughout...except in the Dante Sonata where he is quite uneven. He is great for the first ten minutes or so (especially the presto agitato assai, which is just breathtaking), but -imo- he makes the rest sound quite discursive and disjointed through use of an unforgiveably slow tempo in some sections. Still, for a complete set he is essential.

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Originally Posted by pianojosh23
One of the best recordings i've heard of his Grosses Konzertsolo, a work that has so many wonderful things in it, but unfortunately I find some of the repeated chords and tremolos to be a little tiresome (a vice that Liszt occasionally falls prey to). It is, however, a good and highly original work that I really enjoy.



A long time ago I got a Guiseppe Andaloro CD with the 4 Mephisto Valses, Grosses Konzertsolo, and 2 other pieces I can't remember off the top of my head.

It's been a while since I've listened to the Grosses Konzertsolo, but the grandeur always moves me.

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Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works?


No, you aren't the only one (I see that Jolteon is also saying you aren't the only one). But that's not to say it's an altogether easy work to appreciate - there's something about it that can seem almost cruel and heartless, when done right, and that puts some people off. It's funny how that hard and steely tone almost completely disappeared out of his music for a long time, but it reappeared in full force towards the end of his life. At least that is the way it seems to me.

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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works?


there's something about it that can seem almost cruel and heartless, when done right, and that puts some people off.


I don't even think it's necessarily that. A recent amazon.com comment I read accused it as "offering such empty bombast it just blows the lid off of vulgarity." Obviously this is a bit extreme, but I see comments along similar lines often, denigrating it to the realm of a superficial showpiece of no true musical merit. This sort of thing isn't exclusive to the Totentanz in his output, mind you.

As for that hard and steely tone disappearing, what years are you thinking of here? It's an interesting observation.

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I think TaterTotz - I mean, Totentanz ( laugh ) - is a good piece!!

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Originally Posted by Jolteon

The piano writing is transcendental in every sense of the word, it is genius! And what he does with the Dies Irae is very imaginative.

Would very much tend to agree. And yet I've always felt the ending to be curiously unsatisfying. There's something rather perfunctory about it, as if Liszt all of sudden got distracted, then said 'oh yes, I need to finish this!'

Lewenthal's recording very effectively integrates passages from an earlier version of the work.


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Originally Posted by pianojosh23
One of the best recordings i've heard of his Grosses Konzertsolo, a work that has so many wonderful things in it, but unfortunately I find some of the repeated chords and tremolos to be a little tiresome (a vice that Liszt occasionally falls prey to). It is, however, a good and highly original work that I really enjoy.

That is a very fine recording. Thank-you for sharing it! Like most people I know (both in person and in cyberspace), I'm not the biggest fan of Leslie Howard, though his recording of the Grosses Konzertsolo is one of his best. (At several points, if you listen carefully, you can hear birds chirping outside the studio.)

In spite of any perceived weaknesses, Liszt's honest, outsized, over-the-top essay has alternately thrilled and caressed me. Alas, it is more of a work for a true Lisztian, but not the best example to gain any new converts to Liszt. (That's why he wrote the B minor Sonata. wink )


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Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works?


there's something about it that can seem almost cruel and heartless, when done right, and that puts some people off.


I don't even think it's necessarily that. A recent amazon.com comment I read accused it as "offering such empty bombast it just blows the lid off of vulgarity." Obviously this is a bit extreme, but I see comments along similar lines often, denigrating it to the realm of a superficial showpiece of no true musical merit. This sort of thing isn't exclusive to the Totentanz in his output, mind you.

As for that hard and steely tone disappearing, what years are you thinking of here? It's an interesting observation.



I guess I meant "in addition to the usual nonsense about empty bombast in Lizst", it can have a certain quality that puts people off. After all, a dance of death isn't "nice".

About that hard and steely thing - I meant it was more or less gone until it showed up in late pieces like the last Mephisto waltzes and the late Hungarian rhapsodies, which seem that way to me. But that's just my personal response - I realize others may not hear the music that way.


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Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works?


there's something about it that can seem almost cruel and heartless, when done right, and that puts some people off.


I don't even think it's necessarily that. A recent amazon.com comment I read accused it as "offering such empty bombast it just blows the lid off of vulgarity." Obviously this is a bit extreme, but I see comments along similar lines often, denigrating it to the realm of a superficial showpiece of no true musical merit. This sort of thing isn't exclusive to the Totentanz in his output, mind you.

As for that hard and steely tone disappearing, what years are you thinking of here? It's an interesting observation.



I guess I meant "in addition to the usual nonsense about empty bombast in Lizst", it can have a certain quality that puts people off. After all, a dance of death isn't "nice".

About that hard and steely thing - I meant it was more or less gone until it showed up in late pieces like the last Mephisto waltzes and the late Hungarian rhapsodies, which seem that way to me. But that's just my personal response - I realize others may not hear the music that way.



By 'hard and steely,' are you referring to this, sort of, darker music with a fixation on death and themes of this kind? I think he probably stopped once he became involved with religious activities in the way that he did. It then returned later, if the Wikipedia article is anything to go by, because:

"Liszt fell down the stairs of the Hotel in Weimar on July 2, 1881. Though friends and colleagues had noted swelling in his feet and legs when he had arrived in Weimar the previous month (an indication of possible congestive heart failure), he had been in good health up to that point and was still fit and active. He was left immobilized for eight weeks after the accident and never fully recovered from it. A number of ailments manifested—dropsy, asthma, insomnia, a cataract of the left eye and heart disease. The last-mentioned eventually contributed to Liszt's death. He became increasingly plagued by feelings of desolation, despair and preoccupation with death—feelings which he expressed in his works from this period. As he told Lina Ramann, "I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."

He was given several religious duties in 1865, by which time he had already finished the Totentanz (1859). But in the earlier period, I can't really think of many pieces, off the top of my head, that really had this fixation anyway; even though he is quite famous for this now. Apart from the Totentanz, there's, really, only the first Mephisto Waltz, and the Dante Sonata and Funerailles (unless I am missing something) - but maybe his fame for music of this nature can stem from the fact that these some of his most popular works; despite most of his (pianistic) output from the early period being etudes, transcriptions and the rhapsodies.


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Originally Posted by Jolteon
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Originally Posted by wr
Originally Posted by pianojosh23
Am I the only one that thinks his oft-criticized Totentanz is one of his greatest works?


there's something about it that can seem almost cruel and heartless, when done right, and that puts some people off.


I don't even think it's necessarily that. A recent amazon.com comment I read accused it as "offering such empty bombast it just blows the lid off of vulgarity." Obviously this is a bit extreme, but I see comments along similar lines often, denigrating it to the realm of a superficial showpiece of no true musical merit. This sort of thing isn't exclusive to the Totentanz in his output, mind you.

As for that hard and steely tone disappearing, what years are you thinking of here? It's an interesting observation.



I guess I meant "in addition to the usual nonsense about empty bombast in Lizst", it can have a certain quality that puts people off. After all, a dance of death isn't "nice".

About that hard and steely thing - I meant it was more or less gone until it showed up in late pieces like the last Mephisto waltzes and the late Hungarian rhapsodies, which seem that way to me. But that's just my personal response - I realize others may not hear the music that way.



By 'hard and steely,' are you referring to this, sort of, darker music with a fixation on death and themes of this kind? I think he probably stopped once he became involved with religious activities in the way that he did. It then returned later, if the Wikipedia article is anything to go by, because:

"Liszt fell down the stairs of the Hotel in Weimar on July 2, 1881. Though friends and colleagues had noted swelling in his feet and legs when he had arrived in Weimar the previous month (an indication of possible congestive heart failure), he had been in good health up to that point and was still fit and active. He was left immobilized for eight weeks after the accident and never fully recovered from it. A number of ailments manifested—dropsy, asthma, insomnia, a cataract of the left eye and heart disease. The last-mentioned eventually contributed to Liszt's death. He became increasingly plagued by feelings of desolation, despair and preoccupation with death—feelings which he expressed in his works from this period. As he told Lina Ramann, "I carry a deep sadness of the heart which must now and then break out in sound."

He was given several religious duties in 1865, by which time he had already finished the Totentanz (1859). But in the earlier period, I can't really think of many pieces, off the top of my head, that really had this fixation anyway; even though he is quite famous for this now. Apart from the Totentanz, there's, really, only the first Mephisto Waltz, and the Dante Sonata and Funerailles (unless I am missing something) - but maybe his fame for music of this nature can stem from the fact that these some of his most popular works; despite most of his (pianistic) output from the early period being etudes, transcriptions and the rhapsodies.


Before his late period (say, before 1863?) I can think of many works that are 'hard and steely.' Some examples:





^^Right on the threshold.





^That performance is, IMO, too slow (Pletnev is the only one who I feel does justice to the piece, one that's so easy to butcher), but he does do the climax pretty well (18:25 - 23:55), and that's the hardest/steeliest part smile.



There are some more, but i'm in a bit of a rush.

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Originally Posted by pianojosh23

There are some more...

As in this perhaps? (From 1855)


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Originally Posted by argerichfan
Originally Posted by pianojosh23

There are some more...

As in this perhaps?


Yes! Of course.

Another one is a lesser work, his early Malediction. It, along with the first version of Pensee des Morts, show I think the first fruits of this style (both written in around 1834).




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Originally Posted by pianojosh23

Before his late period (say, before 1863?) I can think of many works that are 'hard and steely.' Some examples:



But, to my sensibility, the examples you give are mostly displaying a somewhat different sort of hard and steely, perhaps just a degree or two warmer or maybe somehow a bit more human. But, like I said, it's just my individual response, and I don't really expect that others would necessarily hear the music in the same way.


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