Music & More
Jean Muller, Piano Recital
(Jean Muller Website)
Liszt’s Études d’Exécution Transcendante
Méphisto-Valse No. 1
Weill Recital Hall
(Carnegie Hall Website)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 22, 2014 evening
Franz Liszt (1811-1886): (1852) Études d’exécution transcendante,
Preludio, Molto Vivace, Paysage, Mazeppa, Feux Follets, Vision, Eroica, Wilde Jagd, Ricordanza, Allegro agitato molto, Harmonies du soir, Chasse-neige.
Franz Liszt: (1862) Méphisto-Valse No. 1, arranged by Busoni/Horowitz
Every once in a while, a gripping recital is presented at Weill Hall, and tonight was one of those serendipitous recitals. Jean Muller of Luxembourg arrived with a concert of two Liszt masterpieces, one so expansive it was performed before and after intermission, and the other so dynamic it brought the audience to its feet. Liszt began publishing his Études when he was fifteen and later published revisions, the final in 1862, in his maturity. Mr. Muller writes in the program that "In this…version of the Études…the pianist is expected to make a boundless physical, mental and spiritual commitment.” To form, Mr. Muller, throughout tonight’s recital, showed deep thought and emotion in his interpretation of Liszt’s twelve Études. In fact, he was so eager that he bring the audience on this journey that he used the interludes to inform the Hall of the thematic meanings of several Études.
“Preludio” is a brief warm-up, followed by “Molto Vivace”, an untitled Étude, which introduces an intense, dramatic theme. “Paysage”, with its bucolic theme, is introspective, dreamlike, and balletic. “Mazeppa”, Mr. Muller informed us, evokes a Hugo poem, about a Polish cavalier tied naked to the back of a horse and sent into the wild, as punishment for seducing a noblewoman. This Étude was truly a wild ride with vibrant crescendos and striking chords. “Feux Follets” means will-o’-the-wisps, and, Mr. Muller told us, is an extremely challenging work. He performed it with dervish, lighthearted, circles of musicality. “Vision” is filled with passion and power, with charged pianistic momentum.
“Eroica” was yearning and conflicted, rising in tone and tempo, as the rapid theme returns in synthesized styling. “Wilde Jagd” means wild hunt, and the piano replicates horns and barking within this tumultuous, ever shifting Étude. “Ricordanza” could be a sumptuous score for ballet, with surreal serenity and romanticism. “Allegro agitato molto”, another untitled Étude, has swirling, spinning passages of angst and torment, played with frenetic fervor. “Harmonies du soir” is filled with rapturous tones and melancholic phrases. It’s a lengthy Étude, like “Ricordanza”, also ripe for balletic scoring. The final “Chasse-neige” means whirlwinds of snow, and it’s replete with rippling waves of musicality that evoke storms and wind, while it ends with a sense of want and desire.
The entire Méphisto-Valse No. 1 was only a bit longer than each of two of the previous twelve Études. It was fitting to play this work last. Its crashing chords and multiple, one-note repetitions, followed by a magnetic theme, that’s transcribed from the orchestral score, is astounding to absorb. Mr. Muller writes in his CD notes that Vladimir Horowitz performed this version in many concerts, based on Busoni’s arrangement. I recommend listening to these two Liszt works on recording and again in live performance for an enlightening and electrically engaging experience. Kudos to Jean Muller, and kudos to Franz Liszt.