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Classical Music

Music In The Making: Santa’s Liszt

You better watch out, you better not cry! Festive Favorites with Franz.


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Santa’s making his Liszt, and checking it twice! Was Franz naughty or nice? We’ll find out on this week’s episode of Music in the Making!

Festive Franz
Anya Wilkening
Festive Franz

Verdi (arr. Liszt) – Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto for Piano
Alberto Reyes (piano)
Moores Opera House

In the world of music, Franz Liszt was something of a Renaissance man. A virtuoso pianist, composer, conductor, teacher, and transcriber, he contributed prolifically to the solo piano repertoire, and frequently performed his own arrangements and works. Quite often, he would borrow themes from other composers, using them as a foundation upon which to build a virtuosic display of pianistic prowess. The “Concert Paraphrase on Rigoletto” is no exception. Liszt bases his work on a single section from Verdi’s dramatic opera “Rigoletto,” the famous quartet heard at the beginning of the last act.

Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody for Cello and Piano (arr. Kostov/Valkov)
Kostov-Valkov Duo (Lachezar Kostov, cello; Viktor Valkov, piano)
Dudley Recital Hall

The Hungarian Rhapsodies, written over the span nearly forty years, are certainly some of Liszt’s most recognizable works. The composer, though, is a somewhat unusual champion for such a Nationalistic genre – though born in Hungary, the composer spent little time in his native country, having moved as a child and traveled extensively as a performer. In fact, he never truly learned Hungarian, instead, preferring to speak French and German. Liszt had intended these Rhapsodies to pay tribute to what he called “Gypsy epics,” immortalizing the folk music of his homeland. Ethnomusicologists, however, have now shown that to be incorrect. The music, however, remains indisputably impassioned and compelling.

Bach (arr. Liszt) – Prelude and Fugue for Organ in A Minor, BWV 543
Alberto Reyes (piano)
Moores Opera House

From an early age, Franz Liszt traveled extensively in Europe, living in Vienna, Paris, and touring in England, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Weimar, in particular, captured his interest in a number of ways; Liszt gave his first concert in Weimar in 1841, accepted the position of Kapellmeister the following year, and remained there for nearly twenty years. Weimar had a grand history of artists: Bach had worked there, and later, Goethe had resided in the city. It seems only natural, then, that Liszt looked back for inspiration, transcribing six of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues for Organ.

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Franz bListzen!
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Franz bListzen!

Liszt – Zweite Elegie
Fischer Duo
Duncan Recital Hall

Though a prolific composer for the solo piano, Franz Liszt did not contribute much in the way of chamber music. The "Zweite Elegie," (“Second Elegy”) is one of the two pieces composed in this genre. The two pieces are linked by more than just a shared name: the first was composed in memory of Marie Moukhanoff, a patroness of the arts who was a frequent correspondent of Liszt. The second was dedicated to another woman, Lina Ramann, who had written a lengthy and admiring article on the first Elegy.

Liszt – Reminiscences de Don Juan
Olga Kern
Moores Opera House

Like the first work on the program, "Réminiscences de Don Juan" is an operatic fantasy based on another composer's work, this time, Mozart's Don Giovanni. Unlike the "Paraphrase on Rigoletto," however, this work attempts to encapsulate the opera in miniature; Liszt draws from recitatives, arias, duets, and even the Overture found throughout Mozart's original work. In no way though, does Liszt merely copy his predecessor: Liszt elaborates and enriches Mozart's melodies, utilizing them as vehicles for not only virtuosity but also heightened drama. Of their technical demands, though, famed pianist Busoni did say that the work has "an almost symbolic significance as the highest point of pianism.”