LISZT HARMONIES du SOIR
Transcendental Etude 11 in D♭ Major




The Liszt Harmonies du Soir is one of the 12 Transcendental Etudes. And though it is usually played like an etude, it is emphatically not an etude in the classic sense of the term. It is a magnificent painting in tone. This piece has always been problematic for me because most pianists just do not hear what I hear and do not behold what my inner eye sees. They play it like an odd sort of etude, and lose the significance of much of the music which ends up sounding like a series of aimlessly wandering interludes between achingly beautiful emotional outbursts, the three structural pillars of this piece.

There are three performances here that do it for me, those by Mark Farago, Louis Kentner and Sviatoslav Richter. All three seem to see what I see, that this music is a visual representation of the last brilliant sunbursts breaking through the clouds just before the descent of night.

The Liszt Harmonies du Soir paints the slowly shifting clouds, the dark hues, the arrival of night, and when the clouds do part for the last gorgeous bursts of sunlight, my god, what moments when done right.

I was driving in my car when I heard Richter play this (late 1950s live concert recording in Sofia, Bulgaria, justifiably a recording that has long since attained cult status) and found myself sobbing. Farago's is a sunset on a different day, but equally beautifully painted and completely convincing. And the performance by Kentner. . . Well let's just say it must have been a hell of a day.

Of the other performances of the Liszt Harmonies du Soir, some are very good, some less so, and some seem to miss the point altogether, but in all is there something to like. There are three pianists with whom I was entirely unfamiliar whose playing made an impression on me. The Japanese Yokoyama, the Russian Tchetuev and the Bulgarian Stenev.

However, the singleness of the view that a painting affords, that frozen moment in time chosen by the artist as the one that conveys the deepest meaning of the scene he contemplates, the harmonies of the evening, are for me found in my three favorites, performed here by three distinctly different pianists in very different ways.






VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY (b 1937)
Russian pianist







LAZAR BERMAN (1930-2005)
Russian Soviet pianist







MICHELE CAMPANELLA (b 1947)
Italian pianist







GYORGY CZIFFRA (1921-1994)
Hungarian pianist







FRANÇOIS-RENÉ DUCHÂBLE (b 1952)
French pianist







FANG-FANG SHI INOUYE
contemporary American pianist
recorded live in 2008







MARK FARAGO (b 1976)
Hungarian pianist







LESLIE HOWARD (b 1948)
Australian pianist







JENÖ JANDO (b 1952)
Hungarian pianist
at 50:14 in the recording of the complete etudes







LOUIS KENTNER (1905-1987)
Hungarian pianist







ŁUKASZ KRYJOM (b 1952)
Polish pianist







VLADIMIR OCHINNIKOV (b 1958)
Russian pianist







SVIATOSLAV RICHTER (1915-1997)
Russian Soviet pianist
recorded in the late 1950s







DIMITRIS SGOUROS (b 1969)
Greek pianist
live video recording







VESSELIN STANEV
contemporary Bulgarian pianist
live video recording







MARKO STUPAREVIC
contemporary Serbian pianist
live video recording







DMYTRO SUKHOVIENKO (b 1972)
Ukranian pianist







BALAZS SZOKOLAY
Hungarian Pianist (b 1961)







IGOR TCHETUEV
Russian Pianist (b 1980)







YUKIO YOKOYAMA
Japanese Pianist (b 1971)
















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