In Praise of Liszt-Annual day and International Piano Competition of the Liszt Society
Liszt Society Annual Day
A whole day dedicated to Liszt and as Leslie Howard,President of the Liszt Society, said where else could you have heard on the same day or on any day come to that : Faribolo,Chanson tiree du Poeme de Franconnetto de Jasmin,the Fourth Mephisto Waltz or the Heroischer Marsch in ungarischen Stil.
All this preceeded by the Polonaise n.1 S.223/1 in Edward Leung‘s superb lunchtime recital and after four hours of competitor recitals the day closed by Mark Viner and Ronald Cavaye with a very rare performance of Der Traurige Monch for recitation and piano .
The day began with an inspired recital by one of last years prizewinners of the Liszt Society Competition Edward Leung.
A young american pianist graduate of Princeton University was inspired and encouraged in his discovery of Liszt by Leslie Howard as a thirteen year old boy and is now nine years later studying at the Birmingham Conservatoire with Pascal Nemirovski.
A real poet of the piano he gave a very mellifluous reading of Beethoven’s Sonata op 101.Maybe the edges a little too smoothly shaped in the Lebhaft marshmasssig second movement but perfect in the Allegretto ma non troppo opening .
He just seemed to miss that contrast and ragged edges that are so much part of Beethoven’s later character.
However suddenly springing to life in the fugato last movement which was played with great command and created just the rhythmic sense that was needed.
This was obviously the intention in his overall grasp and interpretation of Beethoven’s elusively pastoral forebear to the Hammerklavier .
It was just this sense of urgency and total command of the instrument that was so apparent in his superb Liszt performances.
A Totentanz for solo piano ,as Edward explained inspired by his hearing Leslie Howard all those years ago,that seemed to personify that famous cartoon of Liszt devouring the keys.
A tiger of the keys indeed and infact earned a standing ovation from a very discerning audience .
The contestants noticeably rather sheep faced realising they would be following that superb demonstration of transcendental piano playing .
A very fine Steinway too that managed to withstand and respond to Edward Leung‘s refined virtuosity.
A piano chosen by Emilie Capulet,head of Classical Performance Studies at the University of West London She has obviously found the ideal venue for their activities in this church in the round blessed with an unusually fine acoustic.
Edward Leung before the onslaught that Liszt calls for gave a very intelligent and poetic performance of the rarely heard Polonaise melancolique and the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin that I must confess took me by surprise as I am used to hearing in concert the Pabst paraphrase- it was infact a favourite of Cherkassky.
Slightly running overtime he was given two minutes for an encore.
Throwing himself into the piano with a really overwhelming performance of the last movement of Prokofiev’s 7th Sonata and almost keeping to the two minutes that were alotted.
Eight contestants followed with half hourly recitals including some rarely heard works of Liszt.
A very rare Faribolo Pasteur S.236/1 from Keishi Suzuki eventual winner of first prize and a Heroischer Marsch S.231 from Luca Monachino winner of second prize.
But also some fine performances including Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony from Daniele Buccio;a well shaped Trauergondol from Vincent Letourmy; a refined Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude from Zhu Sun;a well prepared Fourth Mephisto and fourth Hungarian Rhapsody from Vincenzo Gambuzza;a poetic Aux cypres de la Villa d’Este from Svaroslav Antipov and a heroic Norma Fantasy from Giosue de Vincenti.
All this intermingled with the inevitable 12th Rhapsody ,Dante Sonata and Liebestod.
A short commercial break from the publisher of the remarkable editions of the Liszt Society edited by Leslie Howard and a reminder from this unique authority on Liszt about the annual Liszt Society Journal with all the latest discoveries of that absolute revolutionary Franz Liszt.
It is good to see the link up of the Alkan Society in the person of Mark Viner with the oldest Liszt Society in existence.
That great Liszt scholar Humphrey Searle had founded the Society in 1950 and is now presided over by that equally remarkable Liszt scholar Leslie Howard having taken over the reigns from Louis Kentner.
So much still to discover about Liszt but also Alkan and Thalberg and who better to delve into the archives that Leslie Howard and Mark Viner. Both obviously part of the jury together with Niel Immelman, Melvyn Cooperand Elgin Ronayne. Elgin Ronayne handing over the reigns as chairman of the Liszt Society today to Mark Viner .
In collaboration with the Keyboard Charitable Trust Mark Viner will be on tour in January in Rome,Venice,Padua,Vicenza and Naples culminating in a Wigmore Hall recital on the 2nd March with a programme dedicated to Alkan,Thalberg and Liszt .
Today he was happy to give a performance after a busy day on jury duty .
Der Traurige Monch S.348 for reciter and piano
In the English traslation the poetry of Lenau came over very well with the very expressive voice of Ronald Cavaye creating the effect it must have had in Liszt’s day.
It was the perfect prelude to the announcement of the winners of the competition.
Keishi Suzuki from Japan and Luca Monachino from Italy.
It was nice to have Tyler Hay ,last years winner with us for the entire day. Generously partecipating in the proceedings that he must have well remembered a year later