Following my current work on Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt:
Franz (Ferenc) Liszt Born: October 22, 1811 (Raiding, Hungary)
Died: July 31, 1886 (Bayreuth, Germany)
Height: 1,85 m
First of all, thank you for accepting this interview. Please find my questions:
– How do you qualify Liszt’s piano works –
Liszt, Chopin and Schumann not only created the music which opened a new era of composition, but also, in a way, created us. They gave us a template that eventually lead to the foundation of contemporary Western civilization. Their contribution, in no small measure, has been the main influence of the present day Western European individual who is intelligent, very sensitive and highly sensual.
Separating Liszt’s body of piano works from his other instrumental compositions is futile and meaningless, if one’s aim is to truly evaluate his legacy. To begin with, the central core of his musical convictions are a platform intended to engender “human” freedom of expression. Upon closer examination one can clearly see the sexual overtones meant to revolutionize antiquated beliefs and customs (some might find this too radical a view however, a statement of fact nonetheless). These bold ideas are magically engraved in each note of his music language giving us a rich beauty of sound texture and colors, the heritage of which can be seen in everyday European democratic thinking of deep philosophy, elevated poetry and music painting.
We see In his piano works how he explored the instrument in its entirety, reaching proportions of development that have never been surpassed since his time. Be it either sound, technique, palette of expressions or dynamics, he probed to push the instrument to its limits and in the process transforming the piano and its “world” to our modern standards. His more likely appropriate title should be ” Franz Liszt, Music Aesthetic and Father Philosopher of Modern Performing World”
– And especially the two concertos ? –
The Concertos play a minor role and as compositions figure less prominently in Liszt’s art. They are more in line with a rather simplistic uncomplicated approach intended to reflect grass roots ideas which he recycled and adapted in other compositions ( the B minor Sonata for example – a corner stone of Western civilization, far more sophisticated in that it encompasses the true essence of his mind and soul). These Concertos are written as a vehicle for promoting the genre in a very accessible form.Lacking the higher refinement of the composer’s vision, they are spartan and simple in their layout and do not presume to aspire to his much more mature works.
– If we take the second one, how it is special? –
What makes it “special” are a few simple factors playing a major role in its texture. A compact form sharing the same musical message, as we have seen in all his other major compositions. One can easily hear his ideas of freedom and democracy, interwoven in an ” counterpoint narrative of simple philosophical reflections. Concepts good vs evil – personal vs “common” culminating in a high form of poetry, celebrating the modern individualistic “hero”. The background of which is a clear depiction of nature in all its beauty. Further Romantic inspiration is drawn on by Liszt from great Italian Art. He was especially influenced by awe inspiring Bay of Naples and surrounding area, which continues to influence many an Artist in different disciplines including music and literature from Liszt to Dostoevsky).
– Can you define me the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra in this concerto ? –
Define, in the true sense of the word cannot be applied in this case. A reasonable approach would be to perhaps explain the standard form of dialog between the so called “soloist” – which is nothing but the personification of the author-hero and the orchestra. The commonality of this relationship has its roots in the baroque period and one can follow its evolution through the decades. When taking this into consideration, we must avoid making the mistake of NOT SEEING that the format of the concerto, as a musical structure featuring soloist and orchestra, is not in anyway responsible for the content of compositional layout. It provides only a solid perfectly balanced platform upon which all characters are presented in dramatic fashion on a grand scale. Its pure theatre, where the “soloist” is cast as the dramatic hero and protagonist.
– There’s some kind of a “love affair” between the piano and the cello during the allegro moderato movement, isn’t it? –
The Cello, by its very nature is perhaps the most personal instrument. Its sound is unambiguous and effortless on the ear. This purity of tone has always represented the most intimate sides of the any composer. The instrument beautifully conveys the most emotionally byronic ideas from despair and suffering to ecstasy and rapture. A true embodiment of the “voice of the heart”. Composers have long been aware that each and every instrument represents certain musical reflex-emotions as they have been historically depicted in human society. Take the French horn, for instance: it has always been associated with the voice of heavenly purity, the call of God. Timpani– natural forces and so on. In this instance, the love language is developed as a dialogue between two protagonists: the piano ( hero) and cello ( voice of pure innocence) locked in intimate confession akin to a relationship of Man and Woman.
This deep exploration of human emotions as represented by the careful instrumentation is the composers attempt to achieve total consciousness, no doubt brought to music by a particular set of circumstances in his personal life. To those who endeavor to dig deeper, I would suggest that a thorough study of each period of the composer’s life would be necessary to adequately put all this in context.
– In this piece, more than another I think, there’s a mutual listening between the piano and the strings. What do you think about this idea ? –
Any music composition is nothing more than a reflection of the creator’s personality translated into sounds. It is a mirror of the soul. Sounds project waves that when they reach their intended audience it becomes a living breathing cosmos transmitting the composers emotions. In a way, it reincarnates his soul in pure thoughts and texture without further requirements of tonal dissection due to the fact that every tone is an essential building component to the work as a whole. Understanding these tonal building blocks is paramount to further understanding that a music score can be compared to a biological living organism, simply put, it has a life of its own.
– In your opinion, playing this concerto with a chamber orchestra give an added value ? –
No, one has to play without conductor and the needed intimacy would be achieved and easily established.
Answers of Andrei Gavrilov have been edited in English by Stephen Vaglica