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Considered to be the greatest piano composer in the history of Western music, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) also made a name for himself by transcribing for orchestra other composers' works for the instrument or vice-versa. Liszt's orchestration of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy, arranged in 1852 and published in 1868, transformed the amazing original from 1822 into an unusual early-yet-late Romantic piano concerto. The result is indeed astounding. A concerto that is wholly unfamiliar - and yet we can hum along at every bar. It's baffling how eerily well the orchestration works. Not only do we know the piece at once, but we cannot imagine, in the moment, as ever having heard it as anything other than an orchestral composition.
Listen — Liszt (after Schubert): Allegro con fuoco (Wanderer Fantasy)
(track 1, 0:01-0:57) © 2014 Norddeutche Rundfunk, 2020 Capriccio :
Schubert's Sonata No 13 in A, Op posth, or D 664, in Mitsuko Uchida's words 'an ingenious piece', is thought to be a later work than it probably is. An untroubled and serene sonata 'à la Mozart', it finds its place between his earlier pre-1819 works and his later oeuvre, when Schubert's sonata-writing picked up again around 1825, only to reach its zenith in the trio of great late sonatas from 1828, the year of his demise. This 'quasi sonatina' is dedicated to Josefine Koller, daughter of a local iron merchant from the wealthy Upper Austrian Steyr, where Schubert was holidaying to enjoy not only the beautiful landscape but also the charms of this eighteen-year old, who was very proficient on the piano as well as singing Schubert's songs at the musical gatherings of her father. The Sonata does have its troubled moments and tonal ambiguities but, by far and large, it is a light-hearted work that casts away doubt and invites hope.
Listen — Schubert: Allegro (Piano Sonata No 13 in A)
(track 7, 0:00-0:57) © 2014 Norddeutche Rundfunk, 2020 Capriccio :
Brahms' Handel Variations were written in 1861 when the composer was twenty-eight years old. This work can be said to have come about by chance, when Brahms stumbled on the last movement, 'Aria con Variazioni', of Handel's Harpsichord Suite No 1 when he was editing the former's Suites for Harpsichord. Indeed, this Aria con Variazioni is so lovely that Brahms was completely taken in, and he could not stop. So off he went, adding another twenty-five variations of his own and a fugue to complete it. The final result was the finest piano piece Brahms had created until then. He dedicated these variations to Clara Schumann on her birthday, and took them with him to Vienna with the hope of making a good impression. Up to this day, the Handel Variations are still considered to be the outstanding piece for piano solo from the early part of Brahms' illustrious career. Sophisticated, light in texture and a kaleidoscope of colour, they are an integral part of every pianist's repertoire.
Listen — Brahms: Fuga (Handel Variations)
(track 34, 4:06-5:05) © 2014 Norddeutche Rundfunk, 2020 Capriccio :
Christopher Park's near flawless interpretations have a broad structural vision, and his exquisite and intimate phrasing, while not over-romanticised, makes these works sound even more impressive. The Liszt/Schubert piece is particularly stirring, even more so through the sympathetic support of Eschenbach and his players. Enjoyable stuff, with some pristine sound quality as an added bonus.
Copyright © 13 June 2020
CD INFORMATION: LISZT, SCHUBERT, BRAHMS, PARK, ESCHENBACH
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