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  Founder: Len Mullenger


Franz LISZT (1811 - 1886)
Sonetto del Petrarca 47 (1858) [5.54]
Sonetto del Petrarca 104 (1858) [6.02]
Sonetto del Petrarca 123 (1858) [6.27]
Au lac de Wallenstadt (1855) [3.12]
Pastorale (1855) [2.07]
Épilogue (1855) [3.40]
Les cloches de Genève (1855) [6.04]
Valse Oubliée (1885) [3.01]
Transcendental etude No. 11 "Harmonies du soir" (1852) [5.14]
Un Sospiro (1849) [5.14]
Liebestraum No. 3 (1850) [4.30]
Consolation No. 3 (1850) [4.19]
Brian Hanke, Yamaha piano
Notes in English. Photo of composer and artist. Texts.
Recorded 8 March 2003, Calabasas, California, USA
BRIAN HANKE (private label) [58.45]

Mr. Hanke is a talented pianist. He plays much better than I ever could; he gets all the notes right which is something some virtuosi do not; however, compared to the usual virtuoso who plays Liszt, these performances are timid, graceless and texturally monotonous.

How can I fault him for playing inauthentically when I have elsewhere in my reviews praised other pianists for their "fresh viewpoint?" First, the Liszt who wrote these works really was a flamboyant showman and a performer. His written works had a particular kind of performance in mind. Playing Liszt as though it were early Mozart is not only historically and stylistically erroneous, it also doesnít work. To cite another example, playing Granados as though he were Brahms may be (or may not be) stylistically inauthentic, but it works, and that is the final criterion. Some people didnít like Liszt the showman and perhaps they would like to pretend he was other than he was and play his early music as though it were not showy and colourful. This is wishful thinking. It wonít work.

Liszt was a difficult personality, a mixture of the sacred and flamboyant; if I had not known a similar such person in school I might never have been able to understand Liszt who could be completely sincere, profoundly spiritual and playfully deceptive, vulgar, even deceitful, at almost the same time. But Mr. Hanke may be right. Perhaps Liszt at an odd moment may have played these pieces this way. But he didnít play them this way in public and didnít allow his students to do so either.

Another argument is that Liszt ó Liszt the elderly mystic ó did write music that should be played quietly and carefully, much of it is his finest work. If Mr. Hanke wants to play this way, why doesnít he play the later Liszt works?

At least one other critic disagrees with me and feels this recording is valuable and insightful. You may agree with him. If you have a personal reason for wanting this record ó say to remind you of a concert you attended or as a record of teacherís playing ó then be assured that the disk is professionally competent in recording quality and packaging. A nice touch is that the liner notes include the words to the songs of which some of these pieces are (Lisztís) arrangements.

Paul Shoemaker

Dear Mr. Shoemaker,

Len Mullenger recently forwarded me your review of my all-Liszt CD. I feel you have unfairly criticized my interpretations, and I believe that a number of your points do not bear close scrutiny.

Before I begin, let me say immediately that I absolutely support your right to follow your own personal taste in music, and that I do not hope or wish to change your mind. I do however want to raise several points that will shed some light on my artistic choices, and may I hope appeal to more objective values outside of our own personal likes and dislikes.

Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, I must point out that the entire CD consists only of Liszt's most poetic works, and does not include any of his showy or flashy pieces. The program notes included in the CD booklet I believe make that clear. Of course I am well aware of "Liszt the Showman", but I chose not to focus my attention on those particular works. Of the 12 Transcendental Etudes, you will notice that I chose to play Harmonies du Soir, perhaps the most poetic, beautiful and majestic work in Liszt's body of work. This is not a work of bombast, sentimentality or vulgarity, all adjectives that are frequently (and most often erroneously) used when describing Liszt's music. I could just have easily played #2, #4 or God knows #8 if I was interested in showcasing the diablerie that was such a part of Liszt's character. I fully agree with you that Liszt, perhaps more than any other composer, had a certain, fascinating, Mephistophelian side to his personality. However, I would be very, very interested to know exactly how to apply this character to works such as Au Lac de Wallenstadt, Un Sospiro, Consolation #3 or any of the Petrarch Sonnets. In fact, I would be very interested to hear any of the works I played on my disc approached from a "flamboyant", "playfully deceptive", "vulgar" or even "deceitful" perspective. I will save anyone who wishes to engage in such a project the trouble, and right away state that it is not possible for these pieces to played in such a way. Moreover, it would be artistically bankrupt to do so.

Secondly, I believe you are in error in bringing up the point that some people wish Liszt's early music was not "showy and colorful". While this may or may not be true, I don't see how it applies to the situation at hand. None of the works on the present disc are "early". Only such pieces as the Grand Fantasie sur le Clochette de Paganini, the 12 Grand Etudes, a few of the opera fantasies, or the Grand Galop Chromatique might qualify as as such. Indeed, many of the sections in Years of Pilgrimage and the Transcendental Etudes have their roots in earlier compositions. These versions often are more showy and colorful, but they are also not as great. Liszt was remarkable in that he often took his earlier works and refined them musically and technically into complete masterpieces. The very first, nascent, version of the Transcendental Etudes is fairly banal, but after all, Liszt was only a teenager. How much more amazing it is then that after many years and two revisions Liszt achieved the greatest artistic heights, melding poetry and deep feeling with the most colorful and effective pianistic techniques, using the same musical material that he first produced in his teens.

The version of Harmonies du Soir found in the 12 Grand Etudes (revision #1 of this material) truly is more showy, more colorful and maybe even a little bit vulgar. It is also not very good, compared with its final incarnation. The latter is profound, spiritual and possesses multitudinous poetic and psychological depths. The former is merely pretty and pianistically effective. Surely these qualities have their place in the creative pantheon, but given the choice I will almost always go with poetic meaning over flash.

Finally, I want to take issue with your comparing my Liszt interpretations to "early Mozart". I would be fascinated to hear you elaborate further on this point, since I'm truly at a loss to understand what you mean. I can easily see Granados being played like Brahms (well, maybe not easily, but it's less of a stretch) because the two occupied vaguely similar pianistic and harmonic worlds. Liszt and Mozart, though? I just don't see it. You might as well say that someone played Wagner in the style of Scarlatti, just to stretch the absurdity to a breaking point.

In closing, I hope that I have been able to explain to you of few of the guiding reasons behind the artistic choices I made on my disc. I would hope that as a result you might put the CD on again at another time and perhaps listen to my work in a different light.


Brian Hanke

Los Angeles, California


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