Author Topic: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.  (Read 9855 times)

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Offline Josquin des Prez

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Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« on: September 11, 2007, 04:42:39 PM »
Did he ever actually compose something or did he just hacked away on the piano until something decent emerged despite of himself?

karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2007, 04:54:44 PM »
Well, a query like that does seem to suggest that you want one answer, and not another.

But yes, Liszt composed a great deal of very fine music.  Even a great fan of Liszt would acknowledge that not all his work is of uniform excellence;  but you are letting that fact mislead you into condemning the whole.

A short list of excellent Liszt must IMHO include:

Orpheus
Missa choralis
Via Crucis
The Hungarian Fantasy for piano & orchestra
The Faust-Symphony
Aus dem Wiege bus zum Grabe
Années de pélérinage
La lugubre gondola
Romance oubliée
The Mephisto-Waltzes


Mark G. Simon

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2007, 07:00:10 PM »
There's some really gorgeous stuff in Christus. I'm especially fond of the orchestral prelude and the "Stabat Mater Dolorosa".

Offline Holden

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2007, 11:38:46 PM »
Well, a query like that does seem to suggest that you want one answer, and not another.

But yes, Liszt composed a great deal of very fine music.  Even a great fan of Liszt would acknowledge that not all his work is of uniform excellence;  but you are letting that fact mislead you into condemning the whole.

A short list of excellent Liszt must IMHO include:

Orpheus
Missa choralis
Via Crucis
The Hungarian Fantasy for piano & orchestra
The Faust-Symphony
Aus dem Wiege bus zum Grabe
Années de pélérinage
La lugubre gondola
Romance oubliée
The Mephisto-Waltzes



Add to that the 1st PC, the incredible Transcendental Etudes, some great songs and I think you have a compser who did just a little bit more than hack away at the piano.
Cheers

Holden

Offline val

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2007, 11:44:25 PM »
Quote
Josquin des Prez

Did he ever actually compose something or did he just hacked away on the piano until something decent emerged despite of himself?


Liszt is not one of my favorite composers. But he has some great works: the piano Sonata, some excerpts from Années de Pelerinage (La vallée d'Oberman is a masterpiece), the choral work Via Crucis, the Psalms (in special the 13), the Dante Symphony. But, regarding the large number of his compositions, I think that most of them is not very inspired.

Harry

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2007, 11:52:50 PM »
The same for me really. His piano works, at least part of it, I like very much. I have a box with 9 cd's, played by Jorge Bolet, on Decca, who's performance is very good, at least to my ears.
Not so long ago I bought a very cheap Brilliant box with 5 cd's, filled with Orchestral works, played by the Budapest SO, under Arpad Joo. Decent performances, decent sound, and good enough for me, to understand, that this collection combined its enough from this composer. Somehow I never connected with Liszt.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2007, 12:40:36 AM »
The only truly weak Liszt that I have heard is the tone poems (the "symphonies" are strong), and even they are full of good moments. With Liszt the showmanship in some pieces (such as the Etudes) put many people off, but I find that there is musical substance alongside the technicality, and both combined make them exhilarating. Even his transcriptions are interesting - the opera paraphrases, and songs.

There's some really gorgeous stuff in Christus. I'm especially fond of the orchestral prelude and the "Stabat Mater Dolorosa".

Christus is superb. I assume that many people look at its length and don't even bother to listen, assuming that it will be full of weak moments. But it barely flags IMO.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2007, 02:41:51 AM »
Some of the tone poems are hackneyed  ("Battle of the Huns" is pretty awful), but in general the Abbe Liszt hits more homeruns than foul balls.

The Faust Symphony's opening theme is even a kind of 12-tone row: Liszt is always doing something to keep you guessing.  One of the best un-Ritalined composers ever!

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karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2007, 02:49:20 AM »
Liszt did indeed have an admirable faculty for taking musical risks;  so naturally, he made more "mistakes" than many another composer whose self-regard resulted partly in playing things ultra-safe.

But his method of play also resulted in signal successes.

Hector

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2007, 03:08:02 AM »
Well, a query like that does seem to suggest that you want one answer, and not another.

But yes, Liszt composed a great deal of very fine music.  Even a great fan of Liszt would acknowledge that not all his work is of uniform excellence;  but you are letting that fact mislead you into condemning the whole.

A short list of excellent Liszt must IMHO include:

Orpheus
Missa choralis
Via Crucis
The Hungarian Fantasy for piano & orchestra
The Faust-Symphony
Aus dem Wiege bus zum Grabe
Années de pélérinage
La lugubre gondola
Romance oubliée
The Mephisto-Waltzes



No Piano Concertos?

I would include the B flat Piano Sonata as essential listening.

He invented the tone poem and Humphrey Searle was a great admirer and catalogued his ouevre.

I quite enjoy tosh like 'Hunnenschlacht' and 'Les Preludes' was a concert mainstay at one time.

The best of them, 'From the Cradle to the Grave,' is quite innovatory but he had that bombast that so afflicted some nineteenth century composers.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2007, 03:16:42 AM »
No Piano Concertos?

No love for Totentanz from anybody either :( It's not "deep" but it's melodic and very engaging :)
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karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2007, 03:18:49 AM »
My list was in no canonically exclusive, Lethe & Hector; I glady endorse the Totentanz and both concerti, as well.

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2007, 03:31:23 AM »
My list was in no canonically exclusive, Lethe & Hector; I glady endorse the Totentanz and both concerti, as well.

*cheer*

This thread made me go through everything I knew by him. While some (the etudes) are highly virtuosic, I've yet to find any banging. Tons of sublime stuff though: Années de Pèlerinage, Via Crucis, Liebestraum No.3, Mephisto Waltz No.1, Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses...

Edit: A good example of Liszt's musicality as well as his virtuosity can be found by comparing his piano concerti to contemporaries such as Henri Herz. Herz's concerti are enjoyable, but they're just not on the same level as Liszt, neither as dazzling or melodic. Then, there is the less showy Liszt beyond those concertos, a level which similar virtuosos I have heard don't seem to have - while they wrote entertaining salon music, while Liszt was perculiarly spiritual and delicate in many works.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2007, 03:37:39 AM by Lethe »
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Offline Florestan

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2007, 03:39:37 AM »
I think the most inspired themes and melodies of Liszt are scattered through Wagner's scores...  ;D
“I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.”  --- Rachmaninoff

lukeottevanger

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2007, 03:40:21 AM »
...I've yet to find any banging...Années de Pèlerinage

IMO Orage, from the first book of the Annees. is pretty much banging all the way, although, given the subject matter, that's probably appropriate. Anyway, it's highly polished banging.

At his best, Liszt is an extremely subtle and adventurous composer. I tend to stay shy of his more virtuosic works but even there is much of great value. For me, however, it is late Liszt and, often, early Liszt, where the real gems are to be unearthed. Late Liszt needs no advertising, I'd have hope, but essentially it is a small corpus of works for piano, small chamber groups - the first Elegy!  :o - or organ which do things never done before and in a way never done since. Early Liszt is sometimes equally adventurous, in a more extravagant way. The Apparitions, for instance, explore rhythmic dislocations in a way no other 19th century composer ever did (at least, not until the end of the century) in order to create their fantastical, ephemeral mood. Wonderful stuff.

karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #15 on: September 12, 2007, 03:44:04 AM »
I think the most inspired themes and melodies of Liszt are scattered through Wagner's scores...  ;D

Why, Andrei! How could you even suggest that a supreme genius could possibly be influenced by mere mortals?!??  8)

Offline Florestan

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #16 on: September 12, 2007, 03:50:08 AM »
Why, Andrei! How could you even suggest that a supreme genius could possibly be influenced by mere mortals?!??  8)

Why, Karl! What's Wagner got to do with supreme genius;D
“I compose music because I must give expression to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts.”  --- Rachmaninoff

karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2007, 03:51:39 AM »
The only truly weak Liszt that I have heard is the tone poems

But, I won't permit this as anything like a generalization! :-)

Tasso and Orpheus, at the very least, deserve better.  Nor do I necessarily think the worse of Les Préludes or Mazeppa for being somewhat 'lighter'.

karlhenning

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #18 on: September 12, 2007, 03:52:05 AM »
Why, Karl! What's Wagner got to do with supreme genius;D

All right, there you've got me  ;D

Harry

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Re: Somebody explain to me what's so special about Liszt.
« Reply #19 on: September 12, 2007, 03:52:44 AM »
What's Wagner got to do with supreme genius;D


 ;D ;D ;D