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Summiting a Keyboard Everest – The Boston Musical Intelligencer – Lyric Say

(BMInt workers photograph)

Minsoo Sohn carried out within the Basis for Chinese language Performing Arts live performance sequence on Friday, lastly delivering a much-anticipated all-Liszt program four-years after its authentic 2020 live performance date, a sufferer of Covid shutdowns. With two-thirds of the seats taken, an excellent crowd for any such occasion, Jordan Corridor  buzzed with curiosity in regards to the pianist who helped form the most recent worldwide pianistic sensation Yunchan Lim, at 18 the youngest-ever Van Cliburn winner. Simply three weeks earlier, Lim performed the “Rach 3” with the BSO in 4 triumphant sold-out performances, some critics hailing Lim’s performances of Rachmaninoff’s iconic 3rd piano concerto because the “best ever.” 

Minsoo Sohn, a really good-looking man, entered stage proper with grace and dignity, a sublime film star model of a pianist, a lot as one imagines Franz Liszt from two centuries earlier. 

The Consolations are uncommon for Liszt. Lyrical and melodic, they pose no technical challenges. The trick is to play them with musicality, to search out profound depth of emotion of their simplicity. Sohn’s mastery is clear, his enjoying nuanced, his dynamic management beautiful, particularly within the p to ppp vary, his shaping of phrases clear, using rubato considerate. Comfort No. 3 (Lento placido) in E Main/C-sharp minor, in a favourite most individuals acknowledge, harking back to Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2, and relies on a folksong which Liszt used later in his Hungarian Rhapsody No. 1. Sohn’s fingers discover the ephemeral fantastic thing about the melody and delicate LH accompaniment.

So what’s a comfort? Pianists know nocturnes, waltzes and sonatas, however the time period comfort is nebulous. Liszt’s rationalization to his writer was cheeky however revealed nothing: “six fantasy pieces [that] can provide consolation for those benevolent pianists who have tortured themselves with their other pieces.” Equally to h0w murder is a pale euphemism for homicide, to console (or worse, consolation) is a feeble translation of Trösten, a German phrase that conjures photographs of grieving widows and crying kids. Linguistic siblings, Trösten and Tränen (tears) look and sound alike, and a greater translation of Trösten could be “to mop up tears.” As well as, within the 1800’s, in an period when life was onerous, dying and illness lurked in all places and other people sought solace in Christ and God, the phrase carried robust Christian overtones, and is ubiquitous in sacred music. Not solely in hymns. however in Brahms German Requiem: “Ich will euch trösten,” “Nun Herr, wess soll ich mich trösten? Ich hoffe auf dich,” “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen, denn sie sollen getröstet werden.” And naturally Bach cantatas: “Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt” (Cantata 151) in addition to within the Saint Matthew Ardour. That E Main, a key that Liszt typically reserved for his non secular works, pervades the six Consolations, factors to their sacred nature. 

It’s well-known that Liszt was non secular, late in life ordained as an abbot. Much less well-known is that as a younger man he wished to attend seminary college, a purpose his mom fortunately squashed. A quote from Janie Burdeti’s handout essay attributed to Vladimir Feltsman is illuminating: “Franz Liszt carried a walking stick with the faces of St. Francis of Assisi, Faust’s Gretchen, and Mephistopheles carved on it. Apparently, he longed for the Divine, craved women and worldly pleasures, and was fascinated by the diabolical.” Regardless of Liszt’s generosity, the charity occasions, monetary help and free classes to aspiring musicians, maybe makes an attempt to purchase his means into heaven, Liszt’s private life was a prepare wreck. His many romantic escapades ruined ladies’s reputations, their marriages, and typically even their lives. He was the rock star of his period, the 4 Beatles rolled into one individual. “Song without End,” which depicts the extent of adulation of Liszt’s followers, is nicely value watching. The movie spans the interval when Liszt’s Consolations and Etudes had been printed; Jorge Bolet is heard on the soundtrack. 

Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes comprised the second half of this system. Wha Kyang Byun, good pianist and teacher, got here from Korea to make Boston her house, very similar to Sohn and Lim, and was Sohn’s instructor for 12 years at NEC. She described these etudes as Mount Everest. Taking part in all of them without delay is a Herculean effort, requiring not solely bodily endurance, however the psychological problem of maintaining one’s focus for one hour and 5 minutes of brutally tough repertoire. The late Russell Sherman, to whose remembrance this recital was devoted, was married to Wha Kyung Byun and his 1976 recording of those etudes [HERE] is simply wonderful, and clearly influenced Sohn’s efficiency. And simply as Russell Sherman handed the baton of the Liszt etudes to Sohn, so Sohn handed it to his pupil Lim, who recorded the etudes dwell in Ft. Price in 2022. In one other recording by a neighborhood pianist, Janice Weber performs the 1837 model [HERE]; she is going to carry out the Beethoven Emperor concerto with the Cape Ann Symphony on March 17th.

Liszt first began writing these etudes at age 14, dedicating them to Czerny, revising them in 1837, when Schumann apparently commented, “they are wonderful, a shame that only Liszt will be able to play them and they won’t live on.” Nicely, Schumann was flawed. Liszt revised the etudes once more in 1861, simplifying some passages by eliminating repeated notes and allotting with intervals better than a tenth; this third model that’s the one typically performed these days.

The Preludio begins with a loud chord, adopted by a sequence of arpeggios. Solely 25 measures lengthy, it’s playful and charming. The Etude No. 2 Molto vivace relies on a repeated-note determine, constructing in tempo and depth, with plenty of arpeggios, damaged chords and fixed leaps. Paysage (Panorama) is essentially the most tranquil of the set, offering serenity sandwiched between two tumultuous compositions.

Etude No. 4, Mazeppa, is called after a 17th -century Ukrainian navy chief. After studying that Tsar Peter I used to be going to alleviate him of his command of the Zaparozhian military, Mazeppa defected and sided with King Charles XII of Sweden. Anti-Russian parts in Ukraine from the 18thcentury onwards had been derogatorily known as Mazepintsy. His legend is alive to today, as a monument to Mazeppa was to be erected in Slava Sq. in Kiev in 2010, and his picture is on the 10-Hryvnya Ukrainian forex be aware. 

Liszt included a Victor Hugo poem about Mazeppa in his rating. The story goes that as punishment for an affair with a Polish depend’s spouse, he was tied bare to a wild horse and the horse was set free, and Mazeppa was solely launched when the horse died of exhaustion. Maybe this was a state of affairs that gave Liszt nightmares in regard to his personal life. This etude is sort of a ballade, telling a vivid story, a beautiful jewel. Sohn’s enjoying was visceral, as he introduced the galloping horse alive and rendered its dying throes tragic and graphic with abrupt staccatos. 

Etude No. 5 Feux follets  (Will-o’-the-wisps), or fireplace of the goblins as a extra literal translation, refers back to the mild that may be seen over swampy bogs at evening, the parable being that goblins lure unwary vacationers who adopted these lights to their dying. The pianist’s fingers flew over the keyboard with a fragile contact, creating an eerie, sinister temper. Etude No. 6, “Vision” has a funereal character, the Dies irae (day of wrath) motif outstanding all through. Etude No. 7 Eroica is a march, and in the identical key signature as Beethoven’s Symphony.

Etude No. 8 Wilde Jagd (wild hunt), the time period popularized by Jacob Grimm, writer of well-known fairy tales, referring to a Germanic legend, the place fairies or valkyries hunt human souls and convey them to the underworld, yet one more instance of Liszt’s fascination with the diabolical. A candy interlude of innocence, harking back to the Mephisto Waltz No. 1., Etude No. 9 Ricordanza offered a canvas for Sohn to shine, creating colours and textures, a musical portrait of nostalgia.

Etude No. 10 Allegro agitato molto is the head of the set, an absolute masterpiece. Busoni named it Appasionata, and it’s in the identical F minor key as Beethoven sonata. There’s an intense longing, desperation and tenderness in these notes. One can image a younger lover, out in a storm, proclaiming his love solely to have the phrases disappear within the wind, the place they die a lonely dying, by no means to resonate in his beloved’s ear. Russell Sherman’s rendition stays my absolute favourite.

The ultimate two etudes, Harmonies du soir (Night harmonies) and Chasse-neige (Blizzard) are well-known competitors items. Whereas the primary is peaceable and beautiful, the second begins with a mushy snowfall and shortly grows into swirling scales that race up and down the keyboard, making a blizzard impact that showcases how far forward of his time Liszt was, with the textures getting progressively darker till the snow covers every part.

One downside many individuals have with Liszt is that ultimately all of it sounds the identical, there are such a lot of notes, they merely overwhelm and exhaust the listener’s means to soak up extra. However this didn’t occur on this recital, and the query is why?

Particular person gadgets in a live performance will be pushed to the max, and with Liszt typically to the purpose the place one feels an impulse to say, “Please sir, no, you’ll break the piano”. When these etudes are performed in a set nonetheless, there’s a particular have to take the foot off the gasoline, which Sohn properly did. So when a forte does seem, it’s surprising in its depth. One other profit from this method is that it extra carefully resembles what Liszt would have seemed like in 1835, on his most popular Erard piano, which didn’t have the facility or quantity of recent Steinways.

Sohn is a superb ambassador for Franz Liszt. Many individuals within the viewers who weren’t nice followers, will probably be after this live performance, due to Sohn’s virtuosity, creativity and perception.

Taking his bows, the pianist was inundated in flowers, and his encore was a quiet adieu within the type of a lullaby Wiegenlied, by Liszt.

Sibylle Barrasso is a long-time piano pupil of Robert Poli. She has performed in piano competitions in Pickman Corridor and Chicago, is on the board of administrators of the Boston Piano Amateurs Affiliation and has performed for audiences within the Boston Symphony Cafe since 2010.

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