Sunday 2 January 3.00 pm
A Liszt Recital
Faribolo pastour, S236/1
Soirées de Vienne – Valse Caprice d’apres Schubert No 6 S427/6
Two Schubert song transcriptions :
‘Horch, Horch! Die Lerch, S558/9
Rastlose Liebe, S558/10
Vexilla Regis prodeunt S185
Some extraordinary playing from the ‘local boy’ playing on home ground in Ealing.I had heard Andrew Yiangou in a previous all Liszt recital in preparation for the Utrecht International Competition.
Due to the pandemic it was a competition that never took place.Some very fine solid performances but that did not completely convince or excite .
Andrew now almost two years on is all set for the next Utrecht Competition with playing of such mastery and mature musicianship that has just proven that there have been one or two good things that have come out of this world wide catastrophy.
One is the chance to hear so many performances in various parts of the world from our homes.And it is thanks to Dr Mather who is one of the few that has continued live streaming even though audiences are now allowed in person.
The other is that it has given us the time to consolidate and contemplate as time was brought to a stand still and we could concentrate on the things that were dearest and closest to us.
Andrew’s already musicianly playing,as you would expect from the class of Norma Fisher,has taken on a new dimension of maturity and mastery that is astonishing.
There was no moment in the recital that was not played with a clarity and musical line where these rarely heard works of Liszt were brought to life in an astonishingly authoritative way.
Leslie Howard the chairman of the competition suggests works for the rounds from Liszt’s vast output that have been totally neglected.
Leslie is in the Guinness book of records for having recorded on 100cd’s the complete output of the still underrated genius of Liszt.He is an authority on the works of Liszt and has brought to light many works that have lain dormant for over a century.
Nowhere more so than in the ‘Faribolo pastour’a continuous outpouring of song every bit as beautiful as the infinitely better known Liebestraume.
It was played with a sense of balance of such richness as the melodic line emerged and was embellished with a sumptuous support from the bass
Liszt wrote it during a concert trip to Southern Europe in 1844. At a concert series in Pau in October that year, Liszt was reunited with his childhood love Caroline Dartigaux (née Saint-Cricq). During his two week stay at Pau, Liszt created two compositions which he dedicated to Caroline.Although dedicated to Caroline Dartigaux, there is no indication that she ever heard these compositions other than as improvisations at Liszt’s Pau recital. In fact, in a letter to Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein from 1858 Caroline stated about Liszt: “one of the regrets in my life is not to have known the fruits of his work”.
I have heard many of the Schubert song transcriptions but today I heard for the first time the radiant ‘Rastlose Liebe’ (Restless Love) of such rhythmic and melodic energy that made you wonder why it is not more often -if ever- played.Ständchen” is known in English by its first line “Hark, hark, the lark” or “Serenade”), D 889 was composed in July 1826 and is a setting of the “Song” in act 2, scene 3 of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.It was first published by Anton Diabelli in 1830, two years after the composer’s death.Liszt’s transcription for solo piano, published by Diabelli in 1838 as no. 9, “Ständchen von Shakespeare”, of his 12 Lieder von Franz Schubert, S.558.It is much better known but makes a perfect partner with Rastlose and was played with a beautiful sense of balance with such elegance and buoyancy.
The noble ‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt’was played with such authority one could almost see the pompous occasion that must have inspired it.Vexilla regis prodeunt, S. 185 is a ‘sacred’ piano piece originally written by Liszt in 1864 .Venantius Fortunatus’s hymn introduces Via Crucis, but in the earlier piano work upon the same theme published in 1970 ,which also exists for orchestra, the procession is not that of the Via Dolorosa, but a real crusaders’ march, full of power and vigour, with just one gentler variation before the coda.Vexilla regis prodeunt, this version too, remained unpublished until 1978.
The Soirées de Vienne on the other hand is a famous show piece of the virtuosi of the past.Lhevine and Horowitz have charmed us with their will o’ the wisp jeux perlé that they used to ravish their audiences with.
Andrew gave us a more grounded musicians view never lacking in the true Viennese dance but he was far too serious to tease and beguile us.
Totentanz (Dance of the Dead): Paraphrase on Dies irae, S.126 is the name of a work for piano and orchestra by Liszt and is notable for being based on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies Irae as well as for stylistic innovations. It was first planned in 1838, completed and published in 1849, and revised in 1853 and 1859.Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Totentanz, Funérailles,La lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts,show the composer’s fascination with death.In the young Liszt we can already observe manifestations of his obsession with death, with religion, and with heaven and hell. He frequented Parisian “hospitals, gambling casinos and asylums” in the early 1830s, and he even went down into prison dungeons in order to see those condemned to die.Liszt also wrote versions for two pianos (S.652) and solo piano (S.525) which is the one we hear today.
It was the Totentanz that received an astonishing performance of Arrau proportions.I remember Arrau playing the Totentanz and the Weber Konzerstuck in the Albert Hall both for piano and orchestra.His playing had a solidity and breadth together with phenomenal feats of virtuosity that made one realise what an underrated work this is.Lesser hands have tainted Liszt’s Temple with a lot of showy tinsel in the name of the Liszt tradition.In the same way that poor Chopin has had to suffer for too long as well.Arrau studied with a pupil of Liszt and like Andrew today played with a sense of architectural line and of orchestral balance that was remarkable.Above all there was the respect for the composers wishes as written in the score.
Glissandi like streaks of light passing almost unnoticed as they embellished the noble Dies Irae.Repeated notes that were mere vibrations of sound and not record breaking finger exercises.
This was indeed the crown that I would not be surprised if it were placed on the worthy Emperors head in Utrecht.
A competition though is like a circus and it is not the end result that is necessarily just or the raison d’etre but like the Olympics it pushes the athlete to superhuman feats as they reach for the stars.
Andrew got pretty close today.
International Concert Pianist, Andrew Yiangou, has recently been selected as one of the fourteen semifinalist’s to participate in the 12th International Franz Liszt Piano Competition 2020 in Utrecht. He was a recipient of the prestigious Mills Williams Junior Fellowship whilst studying at the Royal College of Music where he studied with Professors Norma Fisher, Vanessa Latarche and Gordon Fergus-Thompson. He was awarded multiple scholarships including support for his studies from the Tillet Trust and Eileen Rowe Musical Award Trust. Andrew has worked with artists such as Robert Levin, Ya-Fei Chuang, Stephen Hough, Lang Lang, Charles Owen, Kathryn Stott, Peter Jablonski and Boaz Sharon, and is a prize winner of many international competitions. He has performed at many venues in the UK including Royal Festival Hall, Cadogan Hall, St. James’s Piccadilly, Steinway Hall, St. Lawrence Jewry, St. Barnabas Ealing and St. Mary’s Perivale. He has travelled all over the world to perform in countries including USA, Serbia, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Spain, France and Poland. Alongside mainstream repertoire he has a particular affinity for the music of lesser known composers such as Nikolai Kapustin, Leopold Godowsky, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Nikolai Medtner, Georgy Catorie and Sergei Lyapunov.
Thank you Christopher as always. And what a wonderful recital by Andrew Yiangou. A great start to 2022. Only another 130 live streamed concerts to go ! Here is the link to Andrew’s performance https://youtu.be/nsiVMxTWnfo