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Tag: Franz Liszt

“Lament From Epirus” – Christopher King


   “Blind Man’s Portion (1903) 

          Pablo Picasso


though you’ll have to actively listen 
to Christopher King rather than 
merely hear him hereas you might 
have been doing with many of my 
suggested musical pieces, should 
you be at all interested in the history 
of music, he is fascinatingdates his 
investigations back millennia to very 
Epirus, Ancient, nearly primordial, 
Greece, to mirologia there, ancient 
funerary chants

some have survived, and have been 
recorded for posterity, onein 1926, 
by Greek exile fled to New York City,
Alexis Zoumbas, a year laterhowever 
improbably, by an Americanblind 
man, his own story inspirational, akin 
to that of Epictetus, one of the two 
iconic Stoic philosophers, the other,
incidentally, an emperorthough the 
blind man here, Willie Johnson, was 
never himself slave, but only, by a 
historical whisker, the emancipations 
of the American Civil War

Christopher King‘s comparison
of an Epirotic miralogi with an 
American one brings up, for me,
the difference between Mozart 
and Beethoven, notice how the
Willie Johnson version is more
rhythmic, the cadence is much 
more pronounced than in the 
Greek one, Johnson would’ve
got that from the musical 
traditions Europeans had 
brought over from their native 
continent, probably also from
Africa, Africans

Beethoven would’ve been 
surroundedmeanwhile, by Roma, 
perhaps called gypsies then, their 
music ever resonant in his culture, 
not to mention later Liszt‘s, and 
the Johann Strausses’ even, for 
that matter, Paganini also seems 
to have been imbued with it, it 
having come up from Epirus 
through, notably, Hungary – not 
to mention, later still, that music’s 
influenceand I’ll stop there, on
late 19th-Century Brahms

Christopher King, incidentally,
sounds a lot like someone you 
already know, I think, from his 
eschewing Gesundheit – cell 
phones, for instance, to his 
enduring preoccupation with 
death, not to mention his 
endearing modesty, indeed 
his humility, his easy 
self-deprecationdespite his,
dare I say, incontestable, and 
delightful, erudition

makes one wonder why that 
other hasn’t become also 
famous yet

what do you think

R ! chard

the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition

Thomas Gainsborough - "The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall" (1770)

The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall) (1770)

Thomas Gainsborough


if you’ve missed me lately, it’s because I’ve been
in Tel Aviv for the past week, virtually of course,
taking in the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International
Piano Master Competition
, and they’re not kidding,
every challenger to date has been at the very least
astonishingly dextrous, sparkling even, though
some have been hampered by their own dire
program, with the unfortunate added condition
that, for all, they must integrate one of two
commissioned works that, to my mind, are
completely uninspired

other performers have been astounding, lots
of Beethoven of course, Chopin, Liszt, the
technically utterly daunting

among the moderns Ravel takes centre stage
as an option, with too many, to my mind, of his
tedious pieces,“Gaspard de la nuit”, yawn,
“La [, yawn again] valse”

but Bartok pops up, and Prokofiev, a great set
of variations by Szymanowski, unexpectedly,
and, at one point, a completely irresistible
Ligeti, more of which later

Nikolay Khozyainov starts with the only Ravel
I’ve been able to sit through without getting
impatient, “Gaspard de la nuit” to my mind
should stay there, “La valse” should
immediately stop, but Khozyainov‘s “Pavane
pour une infante défunte”
, or “Procession for
a Deceased Princess” was everything you
would want in a dirge, solemn, transcendental,

he follows up with a Liszt to knock your socks
off, “Feux follets”, “Fireflies”, fleet as the night
air, as mesmerizing

the final Rachmaninov sonata reminds us of
how wonderful Rachmaninov really was

watch, listen


“The Carnival of the Animals” – Saint-Saëns/Nash/Disney

in the same spirit of “music as literature” as in
Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage“, or Mussorgsky‘s
Pictures at an Exhibition especially, Camille
Saint-Saëns, composed his Le carnaval des
through an anthropomorphised menagerie 
where the description is impressionistic rather
than narrative, which is to say more painterly
he composes in patches of musical textures
instead of melodic and linear paragraphs,
incompatible with the original association
of music as melody, or song, one’s response
would become thereby more intellectual
than emotional, one does not swoon, or
even sway, in other words, as marvel at the
synesthetic imagination, which lets you see
sounds and hear pictures
you’ll hear here, or “hear, hear”, the turtles
doing their determined interpretation of the 
can-can, at an improbable crawl, in playful
reference to Offenbach‘s “Galop infernal”,
mad gallop, from his Orpheus in the  
Underworld, other such instances of 
compositional salutations follow, not at
all an unusual practice among composers,
great and small 
you’ll be enchanted by the shimmering
ethereality of the aquarium, by the grace
and majesty of the now mythic swan,
among other zoological bedazzlements, 
in 14 movements, in therefore essentially
a symphony, a piece for orchestra with
several movements
here they are        
I.      Introduction et marche royale du Lion
               (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion)
II.     Poules et Coqs 
               (Hens and Cocks)
III.    Hémiones (animaux véloces) 
               (Wild Asses)
IV.   Tortues
V.     L’Éléphant 
                (The Elephant)
VI.    Kangourous 
VII.   Aquarium
VIII.  Personnages à longues oreilles
                (Personages with Long Ears)
IX.    Le coucou au fond des bois 
                (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods)
X.     Volière
XI.    Pianistes
XII.   Fossiles
XIII.  Le Cygne
                (The Swan)
XIV.  Finale
you’ll want to read the poems that Ogden 
Nash later wrote about them, his very own
Carnival of the Animals“, that now often
accompany the piece, a mistake, I find, for
exposing two entirely idiosyncratic and 
incompatible sensibilities opposite each
other, thereby taking away from each 
but Walt Disney has, and you will too have,
a great deal of fun nevertheless with both
of them, though they’re somewhat in his
version abridged, no swan 

“Années de pèlerinage” – Franz Liszt

                                                                                                                                                      Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886)

    Années de pèlerinage 

         Première année: Suisse (published in 1855)

                1 Chapelle de Guillaume Tell
                2 Au lac de Wallenstadt
                3 Pastorale
                4 Au bord d’une source
                5 Orage
                6 Vallée d’Obermann
                7 Églogue
                8 Le mal du pays
                9 Les cloches de Genève

                                    Alfred Brendel, pianoforte
          Deuxième année – Italie (published in 1858)
                   1 Sposalizio
                   2 Il Pensieroso
                   3 Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 
                   4 Sonetto 47 del Petrarca
                   5 Sonetto 104 del Petrarca
                   6 Sonetto 123 del Petrarca
                   7 Après une lecture du Dante. Fantasia quasi una Sonata
                                           Lazar Berman, piano


         Troisième année  (published in 1883)
                1 Angélus! Prière aux anges gardiens
                2 Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este I 
                3 Aux cyprès de la Villa d’Este II
                4 Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este
                5 Sunt lacrymae rerum
                6 Marche funèbre
                7 Sursum corda

                                            Lazar Berman, piano

music as literature