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