Liszt Florilegium

…(from another thread)

Here’s a website I stumbled upon a few days ago with a rich collection of quotes about Liszt:

Several of these were new to me, notably Clara Schumann’s remark that “Sometimes you think it’s a spirit sitting there at the piano”, which I found especially… thought worthy.

The one I was thinking about in the other thread was Liszt’s own remark that “I am sure that for many years I never practiced less than ten hours a day.”

A revealing remark (Robert Schumann): “But he must be heard - and also seen; for if Liszt played behind the scenes, a great deal of the poetry of his playing would be lost.” That could be said also for Richter.

This is my favourite quote from Liszt (in French but you all know it):

The most famous part is bolded, but the rest is so poetic, beautiful, passionate and intense, and sums up what piano means to us who love it above all else. I can tell you that I lost my life’s purpose when I had to give it up, and 4 years later have not managed to find another.

Hahaha, have to agree with that :ziff: :rectum: :ho: :rock: :orgy:

poor tm! :tm:

It’s a declaration of commitment for sure. My favourites nowadays tend to be ones about Liszt rather than from him, and especially his playing. In lack of recordings I want to build the best picture possible of who this musician was and what he sounded like - and if you piece the bits of info we have together and take his personality in to account I think what emerges is a fairly clear and consistent view, if also perhaps a deceptive one since what keeps nagging me is that I know that no decade is the other alike; this would have continued back through the 19th century when Liszt was active, from which we have no record. I’ve been thinking about if whether you can get an idea by looking at art of the time, but I don’t think you can, since I don’t find that connection in the early decades of the 20th C. In composition yes, in performance style no. If anything I in that case rather think it reflects society at large, plus the ongoing influence and evolution of styles and ideas coming from other performing musicians - meaning that if you want to understand Liszt, you also need to understand his time.

Did you see Richter live Franco? Or do you mean from videos?

This is interesting actually, I think Wang is another from the current crop who you “get” much better when sitting in the audience yourself. Horowitz was apparently another - when I researched him in the early years of the century I talked to lots of people who had attended his concerts, and I kept hearing that if you weren’t there yourself you don’t know what the fuss was about. He was a “special case”, etc. Then there are other musicians who are just the other way around. Every time I’ve heard Kissin live for instance I’ve thought it was just about the most ugly playing imaginable, but when listening to the recording afterwards it normally actually isn’t as bad as I remembered it.

I’m not sure that I’ve gotten a clear view about what Liszt’s playing sounded like so much as the psychological and emotional impact it had on the people listening to it. The comments from his students are more enlightening, but I still am not able to imagine how he approached interpretation, particularly after he ended his performing career. I think his textual embellishments in his early days would’ve probably bugged the shit out of me.

Kissin’s an interesting case because he managed to convince me despite the ugly sound and my being negatively predisposed to his playing. That takes a strong personality.

I have to disagree somewhat here with alfaman. I heard Richter live twice, both times in Holland, only a few years before his death. He was an old man and lacked the power and energy that is so characteristic of his earlier recordings, but still there was magic (AND poetry!) in his playing.
However there was no trace of the “personality cult” - quite the contrary I’d say. He also prefered it at that stage of his career to have the hall as dark as possible so the audience wouldn’t be “distracted” by his hard work and movements at the piano. There was not a trace of theatrical gestures in his playing, everything was in the service of music. I always had the impression with Richter that he wanted to efface himself - but at the same time his presence on stage effectuated a rare form of intense communication with the audience.

I’ve read that in later years, during his Weimar lessons, he could be very strict, even pedantic, in following the indications in the printed text.

I’m not sure that is it… Neither Horowitz or Wang were/are very flamboyant in their manners either. They sit down and play. And yet…? I don’t know? UFO science?

Sokolov for instance, conversely, can be quite mesmerizing to watch the hands of, but I’ve never felt anything special as such when attending his concerts. I think he comes across in much the same way in the hall as he does through recordings home in your living room.

As was Rubinstein FWIW if we are to believe Hofmann. “First you play as written, then you may do what I do” (if you can :wood: :wood: :wood: etc).

That doesn’t really tell us how he played though, but rather what he wanted from his students. Also, the Rubinstein quote implies he did not strictly follow the indications. I am most curious to know how Liszt structured his interpretations, for example even if we didn’t have recordings from Rachmaninoff, we would know that he built his interpretations around a “point”. I don’t think we have any similar statements on/from Liszt. Was he a detail orientated pianist like Hofmann or a “big picture” one like Richter? These are the things I would like to know.

A big picture one like Richter.

Hehe, more seriously then - I don’t think one should make too definitive statements about something we don’t have any concrete proof of, and I’m definitely open to input from others (though I don’t promise I’ll listen…), but I definitely think you can say quite a lot about his playing from his character and the large amount of testimonies which have been penned down.

The first thing to note is that Liszt is perhaps the most universally admired and accepted pianist in history. By young and old alike, classicist to romantic, from Clementi and Cramer to Schumann and Rubinstein. There’s almost no controversy about him, which tells me that his playing must have been natural, intuitive and likely tremendously powerful - in some sense - and that he was not an eccentric pianist like Pogorelich, or one who easily divides listeners like Cziffra or Horowitz. To me, that means we’re dealing with something more akin to Richter, to Cortot (minus the wrong notes), to Volodos, etc. If you then look at how Liszt himself discusses music, it’s practically invariably the intuitive, spiritual side of it he brings up, which furthermore tells me he was more concerned with character, essence, analogy and the larger picture than details, art for art’s sake and pianistic craftsmanship. I think this is further brought out by listening to what the people who heard him choose to highlight from his playing. There’s never any talk about how he brought out nifty hidden voices etc, but you have people in the site here above talking about a dreamland you’d never want to leave, about how his feelings extended to the very tip of his fingers, about how all their pains were translated in to poetry, the instincts elevated, etc. This is not how you’d describe the young Pletnev for instance, or Horowitz, or Hofmann, Schnabel, Lhevinne, etc. Boissier’s diary from the early 30s also describe Liszt analyzing music almost entirely in psychological terms, I think it was Lachmund who summed up his playing as centering around mysticism, and Göllerich who philosophized about how Liszt drew the dark, contemplative tone from the piano in the final variations from Schumann’s Op.13. It’s again character, aura, symbolism, communication - it’s not about how he phrases melodies, brings out bass lines, created beautiful sounds or whatever. This is more debatable, and also something I think changed during Liszt’s life, but another thing relating to this I find interesting is that, in spite of Liszt’s by all accounts truly unbelievable technical prowess and the vehicles he composed to display it (which must have seemed like music from outer space to the audiences of the time), you hardly ever hear people rave about what blazing octaves he had, the speed of his runs, etc. It is there, and everyone alludes to it, but what they bring out first - before all that, and much more strongly - is the musical experience, which also leads me to believe he might not have been as obviously flashy as Cziffra for instance in his playing where attention is really drawn to the mechanical feats, but maybe more akin to a Richter type of pianist - who can be equally stunning - but where it’s more naturally embedded in the music.

Richter comes up a lot above - I don’t think Liszt’s playing would have resembled Richter’s a whole lot, but that is the name which keeps being a convenient example to use, and who I think in terms of “type” of the pianist Liszt would have resembled. I think Liszt was a completely different personality at the piano however, who likely was much more open, vivid, instinctive and “social” in his playing - but who nonetheless had a similarly magnetic personality, natural approach to music, and ability to lead his audience and transform the score in to soulful, deeply communicative and deeply powerful experiences for his listeners.

I smoke crack.

This is the truth.

I think so too!!
At least in his prime.

Apparently, towards the end of his life, he played in an exquisite salon style like Rosenthal…

da PRIME PIMP bazically

HO tech in RECTUM interp wiz DONGAH level actin

da ovahall m*zical experience tru 8)

No, of course not…probably much more agogics, rubato, freedom and theatrical elements in Liszt’s playing…totally different aesthetics, too.
I think that many modern pianists would be somewhat disappointed if they had the chance to hear Liszt play, that is: disappointed in the purely technical-mechanical aspect of his playing. Levels of virtuosity and methods of practising have raised enormously in the last 100 years or so after Liszt - with older pianists constantly complaining that the younger generation plays too fast and too loud. I’ve read accounts that Liszt, when playing his own pieces, often prefered more moderate tempos. He’d impress more with his taste, his spirituality and his deep musical understanding.