Sunday, October 09, 2011

Thomas Pandolfi gives major concert to honor Franz Liszt

Sunday, October 9, pianist Thomas Pandolfi  gave his annual fall concert at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC.

When I arrived (by slow Metro, with DC having so much transportation shut down this Columbus Day weekend), a piano tuner was working on the Steinway, because some keys were not releasing fully, after the piano was moved and apparently had been exposed to more humidity. I thought about the movie "Piano Mania" (Aug. 26, 2011 on my Movies blog).

The program honors the 200th Anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt (Oct. 22, 1811).

Pandolfi introduced each composition with some brief remarks.

The program opened with the Piano Sonata  in E-flat, K282, of W. A. Mozart, which has the unusual form of starting with the slow movement (like the better known A Major), a practice that Beethoven would sometimes adopt. The Sonata has a pre-romantic feel. 

Next followed the Intermezzo in A, Op 118, #2, by Brahms.  Pandolfi mentioned the way Brahms started his career with larger sonata-like pieces, and compared the Op. 1 Brahms Piano Sonata to the Beethoven Hammer-Klavier.  I’ve discussed both pieces here recently.

He then played the A-flat Impromptu, Op. 90, #4, by Franz Schubert.  It actually starts with A-flat minor arpeggios.  I remember learning this piece from the Sherwood course when I took piano.

The rest of the program involved Liszt.  Before intermission, he played three Liszt transcriptions. First, a Schubert song “The Miller and the Brook”.  Next, a song by Robert Schumann, “Dedication” (“Widmung”).  And then the slow-motion E-flat Etude after Paganini, which I have heard played as encore at the Kennedy Center without name.  Pandolfi said that Paganini was to the violin what Liszt was to piano.   (I do recall the G# minor etude after Paganini.)

After intermission, he started with the Consolidation #3 in D-flat.  I played this a senior in high school. He compared it to a Chopin nocturne, but it is not quite as sentimental.  After all, this is Liszt.

He followed with the massive “Funerailles”, the 7th of the Poetic and Religious Harmonies, in F Minor.  It pays homage to the “Heroic” Polonaise of Chopin, and has the general structure of a Chopin Ballade, but rather dies away at the end instead of ending violently.  It also bears a slight relation to the Chopin F Minor Fantasy (previous post).  The piano sonorities were overwhelming.

Then he played the famous Liebestraum #3 in A-flat (the first two are rarely played).

There followed the Valse Oubliee (“Forgotten Waltz”) #1, in F#, 1881, which, as it progresses, becomes so chromatic that it approaches atonality.  Liszt was looking ahead, almost to Schoenberg, late in life. The work ends on a single note without harmony.

He concluded with the Hungarian Rhapsody #12 in c# Minor. He picked “which” rhapsody at the last moment, preferring one that uses heavy black keys to avoid problems with the piano.

Much of the music in this program was what my father would have called "tuneful".  Liszt was my late mother's favorite composer.

Thomas Pandolfi is on YouTube.   Here is his video of his playing three Etudes by Chopin.

One other note today: On Piers Morgan, on CNN, the remark was made that Michael Jackson actually was a student of classical music. I've never heard that before. 

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