|Liszt, Louis Lortie, and Beethoven|
2011 is the 200th birthday of Franz Liszt. Last year belonged to Chopin and Schumann and I felt I must give Mr. Liszt his due. As extensive as his compositions are, we felt that it was the piano that gave him his opportunity for greatness; therefore, we have invited Louis Lortie to perform the composer’s most monumental work—Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage). This giant task takes two recitals and a massive brain and heart to remember it all and perform it brilliantly. Louis Lortie is the man for the job. You will recall when he substituted last season for the ailing Yuja Wang, he dazzled us with the complete Chopin Etudes. I love to tell this story. Chairman of the Board Sabra Bordas, my wife Kaly and I were having a quite a good lunch at Il Barone Ristorante, when my cell phone rang. Jeff Mistri, our artistic administrator, was on the other end telling me that Yuja was cancelling the next night and asked what did I think of having Louis Lortie take her place. What was astounding is how he managed to have Louis tracked down at the Newark Airport awaiting a flight home to Berlin (a flight that was not going to happen because of that volcano problem, you remember). Things have a way of working out, often during a very pleasant lunch.
I have already told you about our project of late Beethoven works to be scheduled over the next two seasons, inspired by the play “33 Variations” which opens at the Ahmanson Theatre at the end of this month. We are providing a bus to the 2pm performance on February 5th. More about that on my next blog. There is a very interesting Liszt connection. As a ten-year-old, the young composer was able to have his first work published in Anton Diabelli’s Vaterländischer Künstlerverein (Fatherland Artist Society), a collection of 83 variations on a “waltz” composed by the publisher himself—50 variations by a variety of composers, including Liszt, and 33 by Beethoven (who was asked only to write a single variation), which are of course known as his Diabelli Variations. The little composer was probably not on Diabelli’s original invite list. Franz’s teacher Carl Czerny was and probably got him added to it. Czerny, being a student of Beethoven, was the first composer Diabelli approached and he decided to write the last variation, sort of an epigram.
As we all know, the 19th century was an extraordinary period for music. Then as now, it seemed that all the musicians and composers knew one another. Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage was written while he was having an affair with Marie d’Agoult while they were travelling through Switzerland and Italy. They produced three illegitimate children. The middle one, Cosima, married Hans von Bülow and later Richard Wagner, which is another can of worms. Their story must have inspired the creation of Desperate Housewives.
A Happy New Year! Please enjoy!