Liszt’s Thematic Transformation

I was unable to attend last weekend’s performance, but was glad I could tune in to WQED-FM which broadcast the concert live. I managed to catch the second half including Liszt’s Piano Concerto Number 2.

Out of interest I read Matt Campbell’s post and how this was to be a new experience for him. I, on the other hand, have heard this concerto many times — I purchased a CD years ago because I love Liszt, and I’ve literally heard it perhaps a hundred times in my car. So with that in mind I listened intently on Friday night. The tempo used by conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was somewhat slower than I was accustomed to, but it seemed to fit well. Pianist Jorge Federico Osorio played very well, and the audio quality of the broadcast came through very clearly. However I wished I was at Heinz Hall, where I could listen to the subtleties of the orchestra. Nevertheless, I was pleased to be able to listen to this stimulating composition by Liszt performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

What I didn’t know was that this was a concerto in one long part, instead of three movements. Even though I had the CD, it never occurred to me that this music was always moving forward, ever changing, without interruptions. Indeed, my new discovery of the idea behind this “thematic transformation”, was a thrilling addition to the obvious adoration I have always had for this piece. And even on Friday night when I was listening, I was only mesmerized by the emotion and thrilling aspects of the music, and not concentrating on the details of movements.

The following paragraph is a concise description of Liszt the composer :

Liszt is music’s misunderstood genius. When Robert Schumann heard Liszt play, he was struck most of all by the young musician’s “tenderness and boldness of emotion.” Clara Schumann, an important pianist herself, told her husband, “When I heard Liszt for the first time in Vienna, I just couldn’t control myself, I sobbed freely with emotion.” Although his popularity as a pianist was nearly unrivaled in the nineteenth century, his ultimate importance to music history is as a serious, boldly original, and even revolutionary composer.

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