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Franz Liszt's big day!

Discussion in 'General' started by pianolady, Oct 21, 2011.

  1. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, life is full of contrasts - I am glad you're in a good mood. When I am upset even to play or listen to music, I get out my telescope and peer deep into the stars for 30 minutes. Then I feel how petty and small my worries are and I feel better. You can also try a good pair of binoculars too. :)
    Hey, tell me about those killer spots! It really helps to have a large hand for La Campanella. I realize I couldn't just practice this piece like any other piece. It helps to adapt this piece to your hand; and not try to adapt your hand to the piece like we do with most other pieces. For example, one problem (of many) I've had with this piece is that my 5th finger is too short. I kept missing the high D#. My 4th finger is almost as long as my 3rd finger, so in my later attempt I find that I can nail the D# octaves and jumps with my 4th finger much better instead of using the 5th finger.

    Hi Andrew, all his transcriptions have amazing piano-technics! The stories from those labor camps are gruesome, for those who survived to tell it. I first heard of Cziffra and his uncommon style when I was 13 - I remember signing out the Cziffra LPs of Liszt music from the public library almost every week one summer. Yes, the Hungarian Dance No. 5 is a bit harder. I also tried playing the Sabre Dance - forget it! Guaranteed carpel tunnel syndrome. I thought you might like to hear the original, Vecsey playing the Valse Triste from a 1913 recording. He truly captures the Hungarian soul with such a nostalgic and seductive gypsy air. It's very unfortunate that he died at only 42... Ahhh, don't get me started!... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQkCK_rJVPI
     
  2. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the original Vecsey - I had not heard it before and it is lovely.

    You know there are two scores for the Sabre Dance? There's the Edition Peters one, which is very badly laid out and looks impossible (from vol 2 of the Cziffra transcriptions - vol 1 was done by him and his son whilst vol 2 was done through a computer program and is in serious need of editorial work), and another edition which has been corrected pianistically and isn't quite as scary.
     
  3. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hi George,
    Actually, I was in a bad mood after I watched that Cziffra video. It's a problem I have - listening to professional players makes me feel so terribly inferior that I practically feel like giving up. I even feel this way often when I listen to our PS members recordings. I wish I could be inspired when I watch/listen to video/recordings like you guys are, but I can't help it. I think, though, that from now on I will not watch any more Cziffra videos.

    Anyway...I did in fact go out and look at the stars last night. We're having clear skies and unusually warm temperatures for November. I've installed Google Sky Map on my smartphone and so it's fun to look at the sky and actually know what I'm looking at. :)
     
  4. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can understand your feelings. Cziffra is probably my favourite pianist, but I have a very deliberate policy that if I'm performing in public, I avoid his recordings for days beforehand. Firstly because I may conclude I can barely play the instrument and secondly because I might try to play like him, and that's not likely to end well! I vividly recall having played one of his transcriptions in public, been quite pleased with myself for the end result, and listening to myself a few times. Then I put his recording on and thought "oh... " followed by some rather unprintable things.

    I must say however that I find his life story one of the most inspiring (even though it is in many ways deeply tragic) pianistic tales there is. That someone could be born into dire poverty on a refugee camp, live through WWII fighting during which his battalion was wiped out (he ended up living in an underground cave for many months), only survive post-war by playing in bars, then have his hands maliciously damaged, and come out of all that to become one of the greatest virtuosi of the century, defies rational belief.

    It's idle speculation on my behalf, of course, but I like to think that his outrageous improvisations are a reminder of a bygone and almost lost past - Liszt (and others of that era) improvised publicly on themes suggested by the audience, almost as a matter of course. I strongly suspect that many of Liszt's variations on themes/paraphrases etc originate from a retrospective attempt to formalise preceding improvisations, much as the written-out Cziffra pieces emanate from painstaking transcription of his studio improvisations.
     
  5. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica and Andrew, why torture yourselves with Cziffra videos, unless you want to end up with carpel tunnel syndrome at the end? :shock:
    Virtuosos don't phase me one bit. The piano-technics are dazzling, and the keyboard will have to be cooled down with a fire extinguisher after each performance, but at the end of the day, Rubinstein, late Horowitz, or Bolet will make me less edgy. I don't know about you, but I love Bolet for Liszt music!
    Watching music videos?... I love watching concert videos for inspiration with a glass of vino. when I hear a great recording, video, or a concert I feel the urge to go to the piano (sobriety optional at that point). :p It's funny, I can watch these videos and praise the fact that I didn't become a professional musician. No regrets. But, Cziffra is impossible to emulate, imitate, or even regurgitate. :D Since I don't have to perform music as a profession, some can enjoy music for personal enrichment without the demands and stress of a musical career. My hat's off to those with musical careers!

    Absolutely Monica, Google Sky is nice, I use SkyEye and velcro my phone flat against the telescope. BTW, if you you're up until midnight, in the eastern sky, "Granados's Star" (Horsehead nebula) located on the bottom of Orion's belt near N2024 (Flame Nebula) and Alnitak. Unfortunately, it's not visible to the eye, you have to hook up a camera to the scope to see the beautiful star gases and nebulas. But, Jupiter is fun with its 4 moons - that you can see with good binoculars. :D
     
  6. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The Vecsey recording is a lovely piece of old-world fiddling, and in surprisingly good sound considering its age. Thanks for posting that George.

    Pity that Cziffra had to get his big paws on it and vulfarize it with his inevitable furious cadenzas and tremolos. I know this is not going to win me any friends here, but I have to say the more I hear Cziffra I find him a circus artist rather than a musician.

    I did not not know about his life story, that certainly gives another perspective. But I don't think we should let such things influence our judgement of someone's playing. It's a bit like wooing kid prodigies just because they are so young.

    But I have to hand it to Cziffra, there's never a dull moment with him. If you like show and excitement, and heaps of scales, octaves and double notes at every occasion, he's your man. I'm sure Liszt would have wet his pants over him. As for being musical, I'm not sure Cziffra could do that without spontaneously combusting every few bars. He had no limits, but also, IMO, no retraint, or dare I say, no taste.
    Ducking and running now ;-)
     
  7. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    I never find them torture! Just remarkable in their own way. And I agree, Bolet is excellent in the more poetic Liszt (I'm less keen on him in the virtuoso stuff, finding him a bit restrained.. although when he was younger he was much more of a fire-eating virtuoso).

    Maybe because when people post his stuff, it tends to be the big, virtuoso pieces. He can be surprisingly delicate in the more intimate Liszt pieces (though I know you'll say he wasn't in the Valse Oubliee, and you would be partly right).

    Out of curiosity, what do you make of this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQRl9M0C3j8 (Bartok 2, 1st mvt, other parts also available).

    Yes, I agree. However, when you say he had no limits or restraint, is this lack of musical understanding, or musical understanding which has been developed in a way different to the norm? I don't want to perpetuate the oft-quoted myth that he had no conventional training, as this is palpably false (he was I believe the youngest person ever admitted to the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest), but whereas most current pianists spend their formative years on the competition circuit and in conservatoires and masterclasses, he spent his formative years fighting in WWII and then improvising to entertain the public. I suspect this has a great deal to do with his uniqueness as a pianist. One side of the coin is that public bar improvisation probably teaches you how to play in a manner that appeals to the public (rather than to critics), the other is that the conventional educational approach almost certainly conditions any individuality out of all but the most strong-minded. (There are a couple of amusing stories about his bar piano work - Vasary coming to the bar for a drink and asking the owner where the second pianist was, members of a visiting Russian orchestra dropping in, ordering themselves large amounts of vodka, after five minutes being so stupefied by what they were hearing that they forgot to drink. There is a reason I quote these stories: it's not just that his playing impressed the lowest common denominator, these were trained musicians and they were amazed too.) One thing is for sure: Cziffra's playing was always controversial (the public loved him, Cortot wrote him a letter conveying his profound admiration, the critics initially raved and then turned on him; the Chopin Etudes recording speaks [or perhaps shouts] for itself).
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hard to say given the dismal sound quality. I'm surprised to find him play some more intellectually challenging music (was wondering if he ever ventured outside romantic virtuoso spheres) which is a brownie point from me. Not badly played but also not very accurate and rather soggy and haphazard compared to more incisive modern accounts. I have the version by Ashkenazy and Solti which IMO is excellent and far superior to this one (not just sonically).

    That last one surely must be apocryphal ! Russians forgetting to drink... fat chance :p

    I'll try to find some literature on Cziffra's life story. Much as I don't like his piano playing style, it must be a good read.
     
  9. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for that ! I'll go and read it at earliest convenience. I might even understand the man better, if probably not like his playing more.
     
  11. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I hope to read that book sometime too, Andrew, so thanks from me too. And now that I know a little more about Cfizzra, with all his struggles, it reinforces the notion that some people are just born with the ability to play piano and some are not. It's genetics!

    @George - thanks for the info regarding Granados' star. It's a rainy day today/tonight - maybe tomorrow I'll go look for it.

    Regarding inspiration from watching/listening to music videos/recordings, or lack thereof in my case...what really DOES give me the urge to go to my piano is after having watched a movie that has some classical piano music in it. For some reason, I just can't wait to get to the piano soon afterwards!!
     
  12. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I know I'm going OT, but..... :)





    George, is it really Granados' star, named after Enrique? That is so cool if it's true!! Especially since he wrote "Cant de Estrelles", which we both like so much! I tried to find a little information on the star online just now, but did not find anything. Is there a link you can give me?
     
  13. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    I use Pocket Universe on my iphone. I don't know about the others, but it allows me just to hold up towards any portion of the sky and uses it's internal sensors to know what to display. I too have a refractor telescope (geek all the way). Joseph Lhevinne was an avid sky-gazer, even known to sky-watch during concerts in an amphitheater. :roll:
     
  14. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    My Droid does the same with Google Sky. When I first installed it, I was on my morning train commuting to work. People started looking at me funny though when I was pointing my phone to the ceiling, the floor, out the window... :lol:

    Lang Lang is another sky-gazer.... :wink:
     
  15. 88man

    88man Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica, no, it's not a name in the star registry. Remember, a while back I sent a photo of the Horsehead Nebula in honorarium for his brilliant work Cant de Les Estrelles. The native Castilian horses came to mind while I was looking for a fitting tribute in the heavens for Uncle Rico. :D Along with Beethoven's 9th, ancient Armenian duduk music, I still play that piece in the background when scoping the night sky. 8) Here's a telescope photo. You can't see the gases or nebulae visually; this is a several minute exposure with a camera attachment which reveals hidden information. The bright star on the left is Alnitak in the Constellation of Orion (located at the bottom of the belt) - this you can see even without binoculars.

    Wow, I didn't know that Lang Lang and Josef Lhévinne were amateur astronomers.

    Andrew, that is some amazing reading! Those who suffer, always have something to say... I'll finish up later.

    Hi Chris, don't worry I won't be chasing you down! :p

    Hi Eddy, I finally got a larger APO refractor, which should give a better image, I am just waiting until Orion rises higher up in the horizon... I usually take my scope to Cape Cod in the summer where the skies are much darker. After a cookout, and a few drinks, everyone takes turns looking through the scope. Before you know it, we're seeing double-stars! :p Sometimes, we'll joke around among friends late at night while looking for a particular star... It'll go like this, "Well, I don't know about Saturn, but from here I can see Uranus!" :lol: :p
     
  16. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Hey George, good to hear from you again! I will never forget the first time I saw Saturn WITH MY OWN EYES through a little telescope. The image was very small and had no detail other than the disk of the planet and its rings, but I was seeing the real thing! It was awe inspiring for me and left an indelible mark. I have two works for piano that I premiered while working on my DMA at Cincinnati, by a composition grad student named Steve Kowalsky. They are titled: "First Observations" for Piano (1988). No.1 NGC 224 "Andromeda", and No.2 Remnant: Crab Nebula. The style is very modern with porportional rhythms and cells, changing time signatures but no meter to speak of, etc. The amazing thing is that it sounds "spacey." Maybe someday I'll look at them again.

    I just wondered about Steve and found the following from a 1991 Chicago tribune:
    "Another new American piece, also a CSO commission and Chicago premiere, occupied the first half. It was La Grange composer Steve Kowalsky`s "Last Voyage," winner of the Illinois Young Composers` Competition and first performed by Barenboim and the CSO during the orchestra`s Downstate tour last fall. At first hearing, Kowalsky`s sound-collage impressed as a pretty but banal piece of orchestration. What a shame that the first statewide composers` competition-a worthy idea-could not have turned up a more substantial score.

    It sounds like the critic didn't care too much for it.
     
  17. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    @George...I don't really know if Lang Lang is an amateur astromer. I just meant that he looks
    up at the ceiling a lot when he plays (makes me gag...I hate that!!), so he is"gazing at the sky". Sorry, a bad attempt at a joke... :oops:

    Anyway, that photo is very cool! And yes, now I remember us talking about "Granados' star when we were discussing his "Cant de Estrelles". I haven't listened to that in a while...think I will do so tonight. I love it!! :D
     
  18. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    Well, now it is the 90th anniversary of Cziffra's birth today, so perhaps here is the appropriate place for this Liszt performance:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yN6d4nGVwU (live, part 1 of 2, audio only)

    (in part response to the Lisitsa Totentanz, and partly because I can't resist) :D
     
  19. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Happy birthday, Georges! :)
     
  20. andrew

    andrew Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist

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    That was a nice touch putting him in the banner. :) Thanks.
     

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