Franz Liszt was involved in years of travel as a virtuoso pianist, enjoying the wildest adulation of audiences in a frenzied period that became known as Lisztomania. The appeal of his programmes included appropriate national tributes, and Liszt had recourse to varied musical sources as stimulus for these kinds of composition. From the lovely Canzone napolitana that uses a melody of unknown origin and the Hungarian Folk Songs that formed part of Liszts triumphant return to his native land, to a spectacular paraphrase of God Save the Queen that might have amused Queen Victoria, these rousing musical gifts are all evidence of a composer/ pianist at the height of his inventiveness.
Steffen Schleiermacher's monumental traversal of the complete piano music of John Cage will be essential for the collection of any fan of the composer's, unless he or she has already purchased the previously released ten volumes (a total of 18 discs) that are boxed together here and reissued in recognition of the composer's 100th anniversary in 2012. The 20-hour compilation is a testimony to Cage's hugely prolific output, and certainly constitutes one of the most significant collections of keyboard music of the 20th century. There could hardly be a more sympathetic and skillful interpreter of Cage's oeuvre than German pianist/composer Steffen Schleiermacher.
Howard Shelley is an acknowledged expert in the area of early Romantic piano music. With this disc, Shelley presents the first installment of a six-volume set of Mendelssohn's complete solo piano music - perhaps the least well-known part of the composer's repertoire. Mendelssohn composed or began nearly two hundred works for piano. However, only about seventy were published during his lifetime.
This latest album in the Complete Piano Music series of Franz Liszt is devoted to memorialising the dead. Historical Hungarian Portraits dates largely from 1885 and commemorates significant figures in the country’s recent past, including politicians, a poet and a musician. The mood is powerfully sombre. Liszt marked his son-in law Wagner’s death with Am Grabe R. Wagner (‘At the Grave of Richard Wagner’) using a theme from Parsifal. But the most intense and forward-looking of these pieces is Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, a foretaste of the experimental piano writing to come.