LISZT: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 / Totentanz
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Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E Flat Major
Piano Concerto No.2 in A MajorTotentanz
Franz Lisztwas born at Raiding, in Hungary, in 1811, the son of a steward employed by Haydn's formerpatrons, the Esterhazy family. As a boy he showed extraordinary musical ability, andmoney was raised, after he had played to the Hungarian nobility in Pressburg (the modernBratislava), to send him to Vienna, where he took lessons from Czerny and was kissed byBeethoven, impressed by the boy's playing, in spite of the fact that he was almost stonedeaf. In 1823 the family moved to Paris, a city that Liszt was later to regard asessentially his home. From here he undertook concert tours as a pianist and it was here,in 1831, that he heard the violinist Paganini, and resolved to follow his example.
Lisztbecame one of the most remarkable pianists of his time, fascinating audiences in a waythat has its modern parallel in the adulation accorded to much less worthy popularperformers. A liaison with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult, the mother of histhree children, led to extensive travel abroad, and after their separation to an importantchange of direction, when, in 1848, he settled in Weimar as Director of Music to the GrandDuchy, solaced there by the presence of Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, estranged wife of aRussian prince. Here he turned his attention to the creation of a new form of orchestralwork, the symphonic poem, and it was here that he wrote the final versions of his twopiano concertos.
The last 25years of his life Liszt described as a vie trifurqu?¬e, largely divided, as time went on,between Rome, Weimar and Budapest. In 1860 Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein had gone to Rome,hoping to have a first marriage annulled, as it had already been by the Russian OrthodoxChurch, and thus to be able to marry Liszt. He followed, in October 1861 reaching Rome,where he expected to marry. Permission, however, was not granted. Liszt settled in thecity, lodging with a religious order, although not without material comforts, and turninghis attention to church music, while the Princess continued her 24-volume study of theinterior causes of the exterior weakness of the Catholic Church, living elsewhere in Rome.
In 1869 he undertook to return from time to time to Weimar to teach and in 1871 he made asimilar undertaking to Budapest, where he was regarded as something of a national hero. Hedied in 1886during the course of a visit to Bayreuth, where his unforgiving daughterCosima, the widow of Richard Wagner, continued the festival of her husband's works.
Liszt'slegacy as a composer is a remarkable one. As a performer he led the way to new feats ofvirtuosity, a fact that has led some to regard his work as nothing more than facileshowmanship. Yet even in those popular transcriptions where an element of the meretriciousmay seem to predominate, there is evidence of a strong and extraordinary musicalintelligence and originality. His influence on his contemporaries was considerable:subsequent generations have found in his music some justification for claims that he andWagner put forward as propagators of the music of the future.
PianoConcerto No.1 in E Flat Major was completed in 1849 withthe assistance of Joachim Raft, who claimed a considerable share in Liszt's earlyorchestral compositions. It was twice revised, in 1853 and 1856.
PianoConcerto No.2 in A major was written in 1839 andrevised during the Weimar years, to be published in 1863. Liszt played it in public forthe first time in Weimar in 1857, two years after the first performance of the earlierconcerto there under Berlioz. The concerto is structurally in one continuous movement.
The sourceof Liszt's Totentanz, a work described inits published sub-title as a paraphrase of the >Diesirae, the great hymn for the dead in the Requiem Mass, was pictorial ratherthan literary. In 1839 Liszt had visited Pisa with Marie d'Agoult and their threechildren, accompanied by the two children that the countess had had by her husband. Therehe had seen the fresco of the Last Judgement by Orcagna and it was this experience thatled him, ten years later, to write the first version of his own Dance of Death, music thathe dedicated to his son-in-law, the pianist and conductor Hans von B??low, so soon to bedeserted by his unfaithful wife Cosima. The work was first written in 1849, to be revisedin the following years. It was first performed in The Hague in 1865.
JosephBanowetz is internationally recognized as an artist whose performances of the Romanticliterature of the piano have earned the highest critical acclaim. Fanfare Record Magazine(U.S.A.) termed him one of "the pre-eminent 'three B's' of Liszt playing."
Born in theUnited States, part of Banowetz's early training was received in New York City with CarlFriedberg, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After continuing his studies at Vienna's Hochschulefuer Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Banowetz's career was launched upon his graduating witha First Prize in piano. He was then sent by the Austrian government on an extendedEuropean concert tour. Subsequently he has performed throughout North America, Europe,Russia, and Asia. In 1966 he was awarded the Pan American Prize by the Organization ofAmerican States in Washington, D.C.
Followinghis first appearances in the Orient in 1981, Banowetz's tours there have receivedever-increasing enthusiastic response. He is the first foreign artist ever to be invitedby the Chinese Ministry of Culture both to record and to give world premiere performancesof a contemporary Chinese piano concerto (Huang An-lunPiano Concerto, Op. 25b). Banowetz has recorded with the CSR SymphonyOrchestra, the Budapest Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Central OperaOrchestra of Beijing.
Czechoslovak Radio SymphonyOrchestra (Bratislava)
The Czechoslovak Radio SymphonyOrchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 atthe instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere ofmusic. Ondrej lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 itsconductor-in-chief. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad,in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, and GreatBritain.
Oliver Dohnanyi was born in 1955and studied the violin, composition and conducting at the Bratislava Conservatory, in theSlovakian capital, pursuing further studies in Prague under Vaclav Neumann and others,and in Vienna under Otmar Suitner. He graduated in 1980 but had already establishedhimself as artistic director of the Charles University Art Ensemble and the Canticorumlubilo chamber ensemble in Prague. He has won distinction in various competitions,including the Respighi Competition in Italy and international competitions in Budapest andPrague. From 1979to 1986 Oliver Dohnanyi was conductor of the Czech Radio SymphonyOrchestra in Bratislava and has appeared with major orchestras there, in Prague and inHungary, as well as with the West Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and since 1986 has beenprincipal conductor of the opera of the Slovak National Theatre. In addition to work withthe Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, he has appeared as a guest conductor in the concerthall and in opera in France, Italy, Austria, the USSR, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria,Switzerland and elsewhere.