A carefully considered and well-played sampling of an often-tricky composer.
“Of Love and Longing” = Piano Works by Franz Liszt, performed by Jerry Wong [complete listing below] – MSR Classics MS 1751, 74:58 ****:
Franz Liszt. A tough cookie to understand sometimes. He has presented difficulties for me for years. I understand his importance, love much—even most—of his music, yet he rarely moves me. In an age where he was the rock-star bombast-meister, it’s interesting that his more subtle and reflective music is really what strikes one as the most important. His output was tremendous, yet you do not hear much of it in the concert hall, whether orchestral or chamber, these days. It’s lack of connection with audiences is quite telling in many ways. As the composer grew older and more reflective, so did his desire to transport the listener to a vaster, yet far more intimate tonal palette capable of achieving his ends. Always the experimenter, he struggled to find a tonal universe that could project his inmost desires and longings. Did he succeed? Well, I think he did, though there are few who would spend much time delving into the complexities of his sound world and meditative musings that touch on modern music and often feel as though they are completely stream-of-consciousness. But for those who do, the rewards are great as we peel back the layers of this wildly multifaceted composer.
recital by Mr. Wong, currently the Associate Professor of Keyboard at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in Australia, has much to offer. Liszt has been well-served on disc with the likes of Bolet, Cziffra, and Arrau, just to name a few, but not often with selections like this. Well thought-out and presented, Wong gives us a rich sampling of Années de pèlerinage (Years of pilgrimage), that set of three suites, two from his early years and one much later, that so established the Lisztian style. The work references Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, showing the composer’s desire to pen a work in the firm echt-romantic idiom. The other pieces are equally yoked, showing what must be considered the beginnings of modern piano style—all composers of that age and now owe much to Liszt, even though most of the greats of the age surpassed him in creative instinct.
This is not a disc to multitask with, lest you miss something very important. It is by and large quiet, reflective, and pulls you in with its plenitude of colors and shadings, demanding that you at least attempt to understand what the composer is trying to get across. This, ultimately, may not be possible, but with Liszt it is often the journey that is important, and not the destination. Excellent MSR piano sound makes for a fine experience.
— Steven Ritter
“Of Love and Longing” – Piano Works by Franz Liszt:
From Années de pèlerinage, Première année, Suisse 160: Chapelle de Guillaume Tell;
Au lac de Wallenstadt; Les cloches de Genevè – Nocturne; Vallee d’Obermann
Nauges gris, S.199; La lugubre gondola, S.200
Unstern! Sinistre, Disastro, S.208; Funérailles (from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173) Lohengrin’s Admonition from Wagner’s Lohengrin, S.446
Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, S.447
Sposalizio (from Années de pèlerinage, Deuxième année – Italie, S.161)