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Tag: Liszt

32 Variations in C Minor, WoO.80 – Beethoven


Variations in Violet and Grey – Market Place (1885) 

               James McNeill Whistler


strolling through my virtual musical park 
today, in, indeed, the very merry month 
of May, I was taken by surprise by, nearly 
tripped over, in fact, a Beethoven work
written in the very year, 1806, of the 

I’d overlooked it cause it is without an 
opus number, is listed, therefore, as 
WoO.80and is, consequently, easily 
lost in the wealth of Beethoven’s 
more prominently identified pieces,
but it is utterly miraculous, I think, 
and entirely indispensable 

I’d said something about it in an earlier
text, back when I was somewhat more 
of a nerd, it would appear, perhaps even 
a little inscrutable, though it’s 
nevertheless, I think, not uninformative, 
you might want to check it out, despite 
its platform difficulties

the 32 Variations in C Minor are shorter,
at an average of 11 minutes, than Chopin’s
“Minute Waltz”relatively, a variation every 
half minute, where Chopin’s nevertheless
magical invention takes twice that to 
complete its proposition

but in this brief span of time, this more 
or less 11 minutes, Beethoven takes 
you to the moon and back

a few things I could add to my earlier
evaluation, could even be reiterating, 
Beethoven in his variations explores a 
musical idea, turns it in every which
direction, not much different from what 
he does in the individual movements of 
his string quartets, his trios, his 
symphonies, concertos and sonatas, 
with their essential themes, motives, 
they’re all – if you’ll permit an idea I got
from Paganini’s “Caprices” – cadenzas,
individual musings inspirationally 
extrapolated, which, be they for 
technical brilliance, or for a yearning 
for more spiritual legacy, set the 
stage for a promise of forthcoming 

this dichotomy will define the 
essential bifurcated paths of the 
musical industry, during, incidentally, 
the very Industrial Revolution, their 
mutual history, confrontation, for the 
centuries to follow, which is to say, 
their balance between form and 
function, style versus substance, 
Glenn Gould versus Liberace, say,
or Chopin, Liszt 

before this, it’d been the more 
sedate, less assertive evenings at 
the Esterházys, to give you some 
perspective, mass markets were 
about to come up, not least in the 
matter of entertainment

Beethoven was, as it were, already  
putting on a show

R ! chard

psst: these alternate “Variations” put you in  
          the driver’s seat, a pilot explains the
          procedures, it’s completely absorbing, 
          insightful, listen

String Quartet in B flat, Opus 55, no 3 – Haydn


                      “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783) 

                                Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun


first of all, let me grievously repent an
egregious confusion I probably left
in my last diatribe, I said that the second
movement of the Opus 54, no 2 sounded 
to me like a minuet, I had, through 
embarrassing inattention, confused its,
however unmemorable, adagio with that
of this Opus 55, no 3, which I’d listened 
to in too quick succession, driven as I 
am by my thirst for epiphanies

the Opus 54, no 2 will do, but I’m not 
going back for seconds, nor to the 
Opus 55, no 3, though here’s where  
I flaunt nevertheless Haydn, not to 
mention Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, 
all the way to eventually Bruckner, 
Brahms, the extraordinary Richard
Wagner, passing through Schubert,
Mendelssohn, the Strausses, father
and son, and the unrelated Strauss,
Richard, another incontrovertible 
giant, and I nearly left out the 
unforgettable Liszt, all of them 
forefathers of our present music

you might have noticed that these 
are all Germanic names, obedient 
to the Hapsburg empire, with 
Vienna as its supreme cultural 
capital, and it was that 
Austro-Hungarian dynasty that
indeed nearly single-handedly 
secured our Western musical 

a few Italians are remembered,
from the 18th Century, Scarlatti 
maybe, Boccherini, Albinoni
but not many more 

no one from France, but they were 
about to have a revolution, not a 
good time for creative types,
though, incidentally, Haydn was 
getting Tost, to whom he was 
dedicating his string quartets for 
services rendered, to sell his stuff 
in very Paris 

then again, Marie Antoinette, I thought, 
was Austrian, an even archduchess, 
and would’ve loved some down-home 
music at nearby Versailles

so there you are, there would’ve been 

the English had Handel, of course,
who was, albeit, German, getting 
work where he could when you 
consider his competition, he was 
too solemn and plodding by half,
to my mind, for the more 
effervescent, admittedly Italianate, 
continentals, Italy having led the 
way earlier with especially its 
filigreed and unfettered operas

but here’s Haydn’s Opus 55, no 3
nevertheless, the best Europe had
to offer, socking it to them

Haydn’s having a hard time, I think, 
moving from music for at court to
recital hall music, music for a much
less genteel clientele, however 
socially aspiring, we still hear 
minuets, and obeisances all over 
the place, despite a desire to 
nevertheless dazzle, impress

then again, I’m not the final word, as
my mea culpa above might express, 
you’ll find what eventually turns 
your own crank, floats your own 
boat, as you listen

which, finally, is my greatest wish

R ! chard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov


Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been



at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – the program‏‏

"Beethoven, 1987" -  Andy Warhol

Beethoven, 1987 (1987)

Andy Warhol


you’ll probably have noted, if you’ve
been following the Tchaikovsky
, that, unlike the
Rubinstein, the selection of works
is much more constrained, though
the mighties nevertheless

after the third day and into the
fourth, only one contestant has
started with anything other than
Bach, a Tchaikovsky

but unfortunately none of them but
one had given us a Bach worthy of
his name, then followed through
with, not surprisingly, a quite
competent Mozart, the cultural
conditions being not yet all that
different, aristocrats were looking
for their own music instead of the
church’s, secular instead of
ecclesiastical, therefore a tune
rather than an oratorio, Beethoven
and the Revolution would change
all that

afterwards a sonata of Mozart,
Haydn or Beethoven, the Classical
triumvirate, after which Tchaikovsky,
appropriately at this competition,
then études, either “-tableaux”,
“transcendentales”, or plain and
simple, by Rachmaninov, Liszt, or
Chopin, that’s it, you get to hear
the “Appassionata” or the “Grandes
études de Paganini”
several times
that way, sharpening discernibly
your musical ear

one was riveting, Andrey Dubov‘s

another, Lukas Geniušas transfixed
me with his opus 2, no 3, of
Beethoven, a work I usually only
ever tolerate, sending it soaring
into the bard’s later mature, and
revelatory, period

others have been competent, even
admirable, several, however, not
ready for this trial, they’ve come
without adequate preparation for
the ball

though I’ve been watching it in
my pajamas, I should talk


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


Liszt – piano concerto no 2 in A major‏

since discovering Tamás Érdi, feral hands,
uncommonly hirsute, but uncovering the
soul of a poet, an angel in wolf’s clothing,
a satyr, without a flute but, at the piano,
I’ve been hooked, combined with Liszt he
is again irresistible, not to mention totally

you’ll find Liszt quite a bit like Beethoven,
but more bombastic than philosophical,
style trumps substance, Liszt was a
show-off, a pianistic Paganini

stylistic flourishes abound in the hands
of a deft, however uninformed might he
or she be, technical wizard, it doesn’t
take an Einstein, in other words, to be
a Puccini

and Liszt is a Puccini, who delivers
likewise, and for the very ages

note the same intensity as Beethoven
in Liszt, much of the same musical
idiosyncrasies, but with more dramatic,
late Romantic, alterations of tempo, he’ll
milk a phrase before returning to a more
Classical, which is to say, less elastic

his extemporisations are also less
ruminative, more serendipitously
motivated, like jazz, Liszt wants
primarily to dazzle, kick around,
not instruct

and he does, masterfully, just that

here’s Alfred Brendel doing an alternate,
wholly incandescent version
I couldn’t
at all leave out

here’s Julie Andrews giving her take on
the history of jazz