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Monday, April 18, 2005
  Trois √©tudes de concert, No. 3: Un sospiro (A Sigh)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 9 Track 20-24

Whenever I hear mention of Franz Liszt I think of the poem The New Jules Verne in which Joesph Brodsky described a ship as having a "Franz Liszt" profile.

I would like to dislike Maestro Liszt. After listening to Chopin, Liszt's personality seems overblown. However, of the composers that most heavily influenced his formative years--Berlioz, Paganini, and Chopin--it is Chopin, an opposite of Liszt, that may have saved Liszt from being little more than unhealthy fluff. And, unlike many talented pianists today, Liszt played Chopin's tunes, as Chopin played them, not as an end but as a revelation of the possibility of writing more and different music.

As Heather points out in her fantastic fictional breakfast scene (thanks to Robert Gable for the link), many a modern pianist can play Chopin's music really well and yet, unlike Liszt, they seem to feel no inspiration to compose something new. Perhaps it is because the piano, as a genre, is no longer young as it was under Franz's fingers. And, perhaps, being a composer in our modern times is a little confusing. But what impresses me about Liszt is not his virtuosity but his willingness to let the content of his music decide the form. And this approach, so influential in the music to come after him, is, to my ears, a part of his attitude toward music as a constant stream of ideas rather than a collection of immovable masterpieces to be admired from a distance. 
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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