Monday, April 30, 2012

Garrick Ohlsson plays Liszt

BACH Fantasy and Fugue for Organ in G Minor, BWV 542; (transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt, S. 463)
LISZT Fantasy and Fugue for Organ on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" (after Giacomo Meyerbeer), S. 259; (transcribed for piano by Ferruccio Busoni)
LISZT Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude from Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S. 173
LISZT Étude No. 5, “Feux follets,” from Études d’exécution transcendante, S. 139
LISZT Valse oubliée, S. 215, No. 1
LISZT Nuages gris, S. 199
LISZT Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke), S. 514

I was eager to hear more of Garrick Ohlsson after his performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 with the New York Philharmonic last week, and so yesterday afternoon I attended his recital at Carnegie Hall featuring works by Franz Liszt. Ohlsson replaced Maurizio Pollini who was scheduled to perform but cancelled because of illness.

The program opened with piano transcriptions of two organ compositions. Liszt wrote Fantasy and Fugue for Organ on "Ad nos, ad salutarem undam" in 1850, which Busoni transcribed for piano in 1897. The work was structured in three parts: fantasy, adagio, and fugue. Liszt transcribed Bach's Fantasy and Fugue for Organ in G Minor in 1869, several years after he had retired from concert performances. Ohlsson displayed formidable technique in the denser passages of both pieces as well as ardent lyricism in the Bach fugue and the Busoni adagio.

The second half of the concert featured a sampling of shorter works that spanned Liszt's career. Liszt composed Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude in 1834 when he was 23 years old. As the title suggests, Bénédiction featured a sublimely beautiful theme with softly undulating notes that suggested an encounter with the divine.

Liszt wrote Étude No. 5 at the age of 15. It's a bright, glittering piece that showed his precocious talents at that age. The next two works, on the other hand, were composed during Liszt's later years. Valse oubliée conveyed a certain restless melancholy, brimming with wistful atmosphere, and Nuages gris was a slow quiet piece with a darker castalmost like a longing for death.

Ohlsson saved Mephisto Waltz No. 1 for last and delivered it with great bravado.

The encore, a short work in A-flat Major from Klavierstück (which Liszt wrote 1865, if I heard Ohlsson correctly), had a lovely autumnal air and was a bit more introspective than most of the preceding works.

Liszt, born in 1811, was a contemporary of Schumann and Chopin and so this recital was a wonderful follow up to last Wednesday's concert with Richard Goode. Two programs featuring works from the Romantic period by two great pianists, both in the same week. What more can you ask for, indeed.

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