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The Franz Liszt 200th Anniversary Celebration Year closes...but his imperishable music continues to inspire...

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I must say I agree with Vladimir Ashkenazy when he was asked to 'comment on Mozart'. What an one possibly say on the subject?  The infantile contemporary response so beloved of Facebook:  Like - Don't like? 

When I am confronted with the music of any of the great composers, so much has been written that anything I could say is bound to be redundant, bordering on the dull, pretentious or conventional. However this year there has been a sea-change in my attitude to the genius Monsieur F. Liszt.
I have heard this year many of his orchestral works for the first time including some great performances of the Faust  symphony, symphonic poems, the late piano works and the rarely performed Via Crucis. Daniil Trifonov gave an unforgettable performance of the first Mephisto Waltz at Duszniki Zdroj reminding one what a great revolutionary he was in extending piano technique and the emotions capable of expression on the keyboard.

Concerning the key…

Warsaw celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy

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Perhaps some of you will have noticed my silence these past months.
I am deep in researching the tumultuous 1930s period in Germany, London and the Riviera for the next chapter in my biography of the Australian pianist Edward Cahill. It takes something special to wean me away from writing in the morning and reading in the evening (mainly the marvellous Harold Nicolson, 'Chips' Channon, Duff Cooper and Diana Cooper Diaries of the period, Malcolm Muggeridge The Thirties and the 950 pages of the very recent brilliant and exhaustive study The Thirties: An Intimate History by Juliet Gardiner).   

I have also been watching the superb documentary films of the period made by the GPO Film Unit directed by the brilliant Brazilian Alberto Cavalcanti and other now forgotten directors. These largely negected masterpieces of the short form (viz. Spare Time and Night Train)  have now been made available by the British Film Institute together with  informative booklets. Fascinating material.

Fo…

Chopin i jego Europa 2011, Warszawa (VII Chopin and his Europe Music Festival 2011, Warsaw)

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I always very much look forward to this quite outstanding series of concerts in Warsaw which follows directly from the Festival in Duszniki Zdroj. The main intention is to place Chopin in the cultural context of the Europe in which he lived and composed. This cultural context is absolutely vital to a full understanding of the composer and his contemporaries. The festival also promotes outstanding historical Polish composers that have been neglected or forgotten. The subtitle of the festival is ‘From Mahler to Liszt and Noskowski’ reflects this intention.

One of the greatest attractions for me is the use of period pianos manufactured in the mid-ninetenth century by Pleyel and Erard. I have a restored 1844 Pleyel pianino at home which has been a revelation in sound playing Chopin from the New National Edition of his works  overseen by Professor Jan Ekier.

The inaugural concert of the 7th Chopin i jego Europa (Chopin and his Europe) 2011 featured to my mind one of the great stars of the 20…