Liszt on Beethoven

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Rach3
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Liszt on Beethoven

Post by Rach3 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:14 am

From Arbiter Records' Blog:

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) visited Russia a few times and helped their new music scene’s innovators get exposure abroad. One of their local instigators and gurus was Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov (1824-1906) who aimed to further Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Cui, and others. Pithy writings and access to rare books as a state librarian allowed him to obtain works that went into their pipeline, resulting in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko and Borodin’s central Asian exploits.

Stasov brought to light a letter of Liszt’s that offers a creator’s perspective on Beethoven. Before media brought music into people’s lives one had to attend a concert or try your luck at home with sheet music. Liszt could not resist transcribing Beethoven’s nine symphonies and making a second arrangement for two pianos to capture the chorus and more in the last work:

Liszt often played the “Hammerklavier” piano sonata (Op. 106) to astonished guests. Bear this in mind when reading what Stasov shared with his circle and how Liszt’s letter liberates his current entombment as a mere piano jockey:

“For us musicians the work of Beethoven is like the pillar of cloud and fire which guided the Israelites through the desert. Had I to classify the different periods of this great musician’s thought, as expressed in his sonatas, symphonies and quartets, I would not stop at dividing them into three styles, a procedure adopted by almost everyone nowadays, but, bearing in mind the questions raised thus far, I would weigh candidly the great question around which all musical criticism and aesthetics revolves at this point to which Beethoven has led us: namely, to what extent does traditional or conventional form determine the thought process.The answer to this question, implicit in Beethoven’s works themselves, would lead me to divide them not into three styles or periods (these terms are only vague and confusing) but into two categories: the first, that in which traditional and conventional form constricts and governs the composer’s thought; and the second, that in which the thought expands, breaks, recreates and forges the form and style to fit its needs and inspirations. To be sure, we thus come face to face with the eternal problems of authority and freedom. But why should they frighten us? In the realm of the liberal arts, they, fortunately, entail none of the dangers or disasters which occur as consequences of changes in the social and political world. “
Allan Evans ©2018

http://arbiterrecords.org/category/blog/

John F
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:34 am

Interesting. Liszt's insight corresponds with Charles Rosen's, that up to a point Beethoven's early works are imitations of the classical style as in Mozart and Haydn, but then develop and extend the classical style in original ways.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 5:45 pm

It is commonly thought that Liszt was a Wagnerian and in the anti-Brahms camp. In fact, he once wrote a letter to Brahms about his second piano concerto which went something like this: "I didn't appreciate your concerto at first, but now I recognize it as a profound masterpiece."

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Rach3
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by Rach3 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 6:43 pm

Per Wiki:

" During what was probably the first meeting of Brahms and Richard Wagner in January 1863, Brahms performed his Handel Variations. Despite the great differences between the two men in musical style and an underlying tension based on musical politics—Brahms championing a more conservative approach to music while Wagner, along with Franz Liszt, called for "the music of the future" with new forms and new tonalities—Wagner complimented the work graciously, if not wholeheartedly, saying, "One sees what still may be done in the old forms when someone comes along who knows how to use them".

Faint praise ?

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Aug 18, 2018 8:06 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 6:43 pm
Per Wiki:

" During what was probably the first meeting of Brahms and Richard Wagner in January 1863, Brahms performed his Handel Variations. Despite the great differences between the two men in musical style and an underlying tension based on musical politics—Brahms championing a more conservative approach to music while Wagner, along with Franz Liszt, called for "the music of the future" with new forms and new tonalities—Wagner complimented the work graciously, if not wholeheartedly, saying, "One sees what still may be done in the old forms when someone comes along who knows how to use them".

Faint praise ?
Well, as Donald Francis Tovey said, the Handel Variations are one of the three or four greatest of all time. (Obviously the first two are the Goldberg and the Diabelli, and I have no idea what else he might have had in mind.) The fugue alone is probably the only important one chronologically first written after Beethoven. On the other hand, Brahms also recognized Wagner's greatness. He wrote, "Do you think I am such a dolt as not to realize that Meistersinger is a masterpiece?" Then again, Brahms was the only important composer in Europe who did not attend the opening of the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Sun Aug 19, 2018 1:45 am

Brahms had a high opinion of "Die Meistersinger," ranking it with "The Marriage of Figaro," and he also thought well of "Der fliegende Holländer." Makes sense - these are Wagner's most conservative mature operas. He helped copy the orchestral parts of "Die Meistersinger" for a concert in Vienna and attended all three performances. It was Liszt whose music Brahms objected to publicly, while saying that whoever hasn't heard Liszt play, hasn't really heard piano playing. And whatever Wagner may have said about the Handel Variations, he generally had no use for Brahms's music.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by living_stradivarius » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:38 am

Rach3 wrote:
Sat Aug 18, 2018 9:14 am
Stasov brought to light a letter of Liszt’s that offers a creator’s perspective on Beethoven. Before media brought music into people’s lives one had to attend a concert or try your luck at home with sheet music. Liszt could not resist transcribing Beethoven’s nine symphonies and making a second arrangement for two pianos to capture the chorus and more in the last work:
Did Liszt ever write about Paganini? For a violinist, I would characterize Paganini as almost the musical opposite of Beethoven, at least when it comes to orchestral composition. Liszt, as we know, created some variations on Paganini's solo violin works.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:09 am

Living Stradivarius wrote:Liszt, as we know, created some variations on Paganini's solo violin works.
And so did Brahms, of course; both composers called them etudes or studies. Liszt heard Paganini play but I don't know if he wrote anything about it - maybe I can find out this afternoon.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:53 pm

Alan Walker's 3-volume book about Liszt's life and music has a chapter devoted to Paganini in vol. 1.
Alan Walker wrote:Paris heard Paganini again. It was April 1832,... and this time Liszt was present... The Paganini of the piano had still to appear. The galvanizing effect that this insight produced on Liszt is now a matter of history: that role he would carve out for himself. He wrote to his pupil Pierre Wolff: "For a whole fortnight my fingers have been working like two lost souls... I practice four to five hours of exercises (thirds, sixths, octaves, tremolos, repetition of notes, cadenzas, etc.) Ah! Provided I don't go mad you will find in me an artist! Yes, an artist...such as is required today."
Liszt was then 21. When Paganini died 8 years later, Liszt wrote what Walker calls a "generous necrology."
Alan Walker wrote:After paying tribute to Paganini's dazzling virtuosity ("a miracle which the kingdom of art has seen but once"), Liszt felt it necessary to utter some reservations. Ten years had elapsed since his youthful wave of enthusiasm, and the times had changed. Paganini's artistry, for all its magic, had been flawed by his egotism. "His god was never any other than his own gloomy, sad 'I.'" Paganini, in short, was a negative model. Art was more than self-serving virtuosity, Liszt continued; it was a "sacred power" that exercised a benevolent influence on humanity."May the artist of the future gladly and readily decline to play the conceited and egotistical role which we hope has had in Paganini its last brilliant representative. May he set his goal within, and not outside, himself, and be the means of virtuosity, and not its end. May he constantly keep in mind that, though the saying is 'Noblesse oblige!', in a far higher degree than nobility - 'Genie oblige!'"
As for Liszt and Beethoven, Liszt said he had played the Hammerklavier Sonata from the age of ten, "doubtless very badly, but with passion - without anyone being able to guide me in it." When he first performed it semi-privately for an invited audience, in Paris in 1836, Walker reports:
Alan Walker wrote:Berlioz was in the audience, score in hand, and came out with a glowing review...in which he hailed Liszt as "the pianist of the future." He was deeply impressed with Liszt's fidelity to the text of this sonata, which he dubbed "the riddle of the Sphinx." Warming to his metaphor, Berlioz went on: "A new Oedipus, Liszt has solved it in such a way that had the composer himself returned from the grave, a paroxysm of joy and pride would have swept over him. Not a note was left out, not one added...no inflection was effaced, no change of tempo permitted. Liszt, in thus making comprehensible a work not yet comprehended, has proved that he is the pianist of the future."
In public performances he was often not so scrupulous, at least in his earlier years. According to Walker, "Charles Halle once heard him tack the finale of Beethoven's C-sharp minor sonata (op. 27) onto the Variations of the one in A-flat major (op. 26) without any break. But as Liszt matured, his attitude towards nterpretation modified. We have the testimony of such witnesses as Berlioz, Wagner, and von Bulow that once Liszt was out of earshot of the great public, his Beethoven performances were faithful marvels of re-creative beauty."
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by Belle » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:10 pm

My husband read the first of the Walker books on Liszt while we were living in Vienna (with every single footnote!) and the remaining two when we returned home. He wasn't a fan of serious music until I got him to Vienna and now that he's read the Walker trilogy he's a die-hard Liszt fan. Actually he was profoundly moved by what he read about Liszt the man, having a huge admiration for his modesty (yes!) and his generosity to others.

Having read Swafford's bio of Brahms where he and Clara Schumann detested Liszt and talked appallingly about him - and yet the latter was always so generous to Clara - I found that had to swallow from both of them, to be honest. Johannes could be a cantankerous handful, that's for sure. I didn't see him rushing to Clara's side when Robert died and she had 7 children to raise all alone. That woman tolerated a lot from Brahms and I believe this is because she loved him unconditionally for most of her life.

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by living_stradivarius » Mon Aug 20, 2018 4:26 pm

John F wrote:
Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:53 pm
Alan Walker's 3-volume book about Liszt's life and music has a chapter devoted to Paganini in vol. 1.
Alan Walker wrote:Paris heard Paganini again. It was April 1832,... and this time Liszt was present... The Paganini of the piano had still to appear. The galvanizing effect that this insight produced on Liszt is now a matter of history: that role he would carve out for himself. He wrote to his pupil Pierre Wolff: "For a whole fortnight my fingers have been working like two lost souls... I practice four to five hours of exercises (thirds, sixths, octaves, tremolos, repetition of notes, cadenzas, etc.) Ah! Provided I don't go mad you will find in me an artist! Yes, an artist...such as is required today."
Liszt was then 21. When Paganini died 8 years later, Liszt wrote what Walker calls a "generous necrology."
Alan Walker wrote:After paying tribute to Paganini's dazzling virtuosity ("a miracle which the kingdom of art has seen but once"), Liszt felt it necessary to utter some reservations. Ten years had elapsed since his youthful wave of enthusiasm, and the times had changed. Paganini's artistry, for all its magic, had been flawed by his egotism. "His god was never any other than his own gloomy, sad 'I.'" Paganini, in short, was a negative model. Art was more than self-serving virtuosity, Liszt continued; it was a "sacred power" that exercised a benevolent influence on humanity."May the artist of the future gladly and readily decline to play the conceited and egotistical role which we hope has had in Paganini its last brilliant representative. May he set his goal within, and not outside, himself, and be the means of virtuosity, and not its end. May he constantly keep in mind that, though the saying is 'Noblesse oblige!', in a far higher degree than nobility - 'Genie oblige!'"
As for Liszt and Beethoven, Liszt said he had played the Hammerklavier Sonata from the age of ten, "doubtless very badly, but with passion - without anyone being able to guide me in it." When he first performed it semi-privately for an invited audience, in Paris in 1836, Walker reports:
Alan Walker wrote:Berlioz was in the audience, score in hand, and came out with a glowing review...in which he hailed Liszt as "the pianist of the future." He was deeply impressed with Liszt's fidelity to the text of this sonata, which he dubbed "the riddle of the Sphinx." Warming to his metaphor, Berlioz went on: "A new Oedipus, Liszt has solved it in such a way that had the composer himself returned from the grave, a paroxysm of joy and pride would have swept over him. Not a note was left out, not one added...no inflection was effaced, no change of tempo permitted. Liszt, in thus making comprehensible a work not yet comprehended, has proved that he is the pianist of the future."
In public performances he was often not so scrupulous, at least in his earlier years. According to Walker, "Charles Halle once heard him tack the finale of Beethoven's C-sharp minor sonata (op. 27) onto the Variations of the one in A-flat major (op. 26) without any break. But as Liszt matured, his attitude towards nterpretation modified. We have the testimony of such witnesses as Berlioz, Wagner, and von Bulow that once Liszt was out of earshot of the great public, his Beethoven performances were faithful marvels of re-creative beauty."
Amazing, thank you. :idea: Certainly in line with what one would expect based on his opinion of Beethoven in his later years. Young artists who appreciate music deeply would understand this as they grow. Violinists should take this to heart, especially those who understand the balance of mastering both the technicality of the left hand and the musicality of the right hand ;)
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 12:47 am

I realize that this is all translation, but the level of erudition of Liszt's prose is beyond belief. This from a man who once said that he had no real native language. (Yes, I know he was Hungarian, but you get the point.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Wed Aug 22, 2018 3:06 am

In Liszt's time, Hungary was a province of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and German was the language of official and intellectual matters. Liszt was bilingual from childhood, and later added French to the languages he was fluent in.

Liszt was indeed an extraordinary man as well as an extraordinary musician and composer. His music ranges from the showy popular Hungarian Rhapsodies to the harmonically outré "Lugubre Gondola" and "Nuages Gris," more advanced than Debussy. And yet, little of his music is really first-rate - the piano sonata of course, much though not all of the Faust Symphony, a few other pieces, are all I can think of.

Most of us Anglophones (Americans, Brits, Aussies, etc.) have only our native language and expect everybody to use in English; now and then right-wingers here make noises about making this a legal requirement. Fortunately for us, English is the second language most places in the world; if it weren't, traveling would have been much harder for me than it was, and I wouldn't be able to converse with German- and Swedish-speaking friends.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by Belle » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:22 am

John F wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 3:06 am
In Liszt's time, Hungary was a province of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and German was the language of official and intellectual matters. Liszt was bilingual from childhood, and later added French to the languages he was fluent in.

Liszt was indeed an extraordinary man as well as an extraordinary musician and composer. His music ranges from the showy popular Hungarian Rhapsodies to the harmonically outré "Lugubre Gondola" and "Nuages Gris," more advanced than Debussy. And yet, little of his music is really first-rate - the piano sonata of course, much though not all of the Faust Symphony, a few other pieces, are all I can think of.

Most of us Anglophones (Americans, Brits, Aussies, etc.) have only our native language and expect everybody to use in English; now and then right-wingers here make noises about making this a legal requirement. Fortunately for us, English is the second language most places in the world; if it weren't, traveling would have been much harder for me than it was, and I wouldn't be able to converse with German- and Swedish-speaking friends.
After living in Europe for a time I came home thinking that people should all have to learn a second language. I felt it was just impolite expecting people to speak English to me all the time so I learned German for a year before leaving and did the very best I could to respect them by attempting to speak to them in their own language. Though I often failed, the gesture was appreciated most of the time. And I learned a lot by listening. This is one of the ways I learned their pronunciations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH7YOvu1bio

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by John F » Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:53 am

That gives me an opening to boast a little. Listening to operas from an early age with the librettos gave me a start, and French and Latin in school and German in a summer school course took me a little further - but being stationed in Germany with the Army for two years made a difference.

I rarely had to speak any other language than English, but when necessary I could summon up enough French or German. (I was rarely called on to speak Latin.) Once in Berlin I was running late for a performance at the Deutsches Theater and had to take a taxi. The driver didn't know English and didn't know where the theatre was, so I had to give him directions in German. We got there. The play was "Faust Part I" and I could make out what they were saying fairly well, likewise Brecht's "Arturo Ui" by the Berliner Ensemble, but I already knew both plays in English.

Mainly, though, I use these languages for reading and have a fair number of German books on the shelves (not so many in French). I wanted to know more about Wieland Wagner and postwar Bayreuth than had been published in English, so on a trip to Berlin I looked into some bookstores and found what I wanted.
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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by barney » Fri Aug 24, 2018 3:12 am

Well, as an American lady once said, if English was good enough for St Paul (in the King James Bible), it's good enough for everyone!

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Re: Liszt on Beethoven

Post by Belle » Fri Aug 24, 2018 6:21 pm

John F wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:53 am
That gives me an opening to boast a little. Listening to operas from an early age with the librettos gave me a start, and French and Latin in school and German in a summer school course took me a little further - but being stationed in Germany with the Army for two years made a difference.

I rarely had to speak any other language than English, but when necessary I could summon up enough French or German. (I was rarely called on to speak Latin.) Once in Berlin I was running late for a performance at the Deutsches Theater and had to take a taxi. The driver didn't know English and didn't know where the theatre was, so I had to give him directions in German. We got there. The play was "Faust Part I" and I could make out what they were saying fairly well, likewise Brecht's "Arturo Ui" by the Berliner Ensemble, but I already knew both plays in English.

Mainly, though, I use these languages for reading and have a fair number of German books on the shelves (not so many in French). I wanted to know more about Wieland Wagner and postwar Bayreuth than had been published in English, so on a trip to Berlin I looked into some bookstores and found what I wanted.
I definitely do not have adequate German enough to read a book!! And I'm patiently waiting for Alexander Werner's biography of Carlos Kleiber to be translated into English. When I contacted him by email he replied that it wasn't likely!!

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