Anna Larsen | Boundless

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Classical: Chopin Classical: Romantic Era Moods: Featuring Piano
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Boundless

by Anna Larsen

The Chopin etudes and Liszt sonata are among the crown jewels of their creative output, and the album's title reflects their legacy of boundless beauty and expressivity.
Genre: Classical: Chopin
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Etude No. 1 in A-Flat, Op. 25/1 "Aeolian Harp"
3:01 $0.99
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2. Etude No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 25/2
2:01 $0.99
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3. Etude No. 3 in F, Op. 25/3
2:06 $0.99
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4. Etude No. 4 in A Minor, Op. 25/4
1:45 $0.99
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5. Etude No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 25/5
4:15 $0.99
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6. Etude No. 6 in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 25/6 "Double Thirds"
2:23 $0.99
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7. Etude No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 25/7 "Cello"
5:30 $0.99
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8. Etude No. 8 in D-Flat, Op. 25/8
1:25 $0.99
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9. Etude No. 9 in G-Flat, Op. 25/9 "Butterfly"
1:05 $0.99
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10. Etude No. 10 in B Minor, Op. 25/10 "Octave"
5:04 $0.99
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11. Etude No. 11 in A Minor, Op. 25/11 "Winter Wind"
3:46 $0.99
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12. Etude No. 12 in C Minor, Op. 25/12 "Ocean"
2:54 $0.99
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13. Sonata No. 1 in B Minor, S. 178
31:15 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
Chopin and Liszt - an Introduction by Anna Larsen

Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt were born within approximately a year of each other in 1810 - 1811. Although they were friends throughout much of their lives, there was also a notable degree of rivalry between them. Liszt admired Chopin as both a pianist and a composer, and Chopin, being sickly and frail for most of his life, envied Liszt’s strength and virtuosity. Indeed, Liszt outlived Chopin by some 36 years. Chopin dedicated his first set of etudes Op. 10 “to my friend Franz Liszt.” However, Chopin also believed many of Liszt’s compositions were vulgar. The only composers that Chopin truly admired were Bach and Mozart. Certain elements of these composers are apparent in Chopin’s music, such as the rich harmonies of Bach and the lyrical melodies of Mozart, who had often remarked that legato passages should “flow like oil”. Opus 25 was published in 1837 when Chopin was in his late twenties. Each etude has a very distinctive character and progress through the Opus with a clear harmonic plan. Op. 25 No. 1 is very flowing and peaceful, while No. 3 is playful, No. 6 is mysterious, No. 9 is light and youthful, and No. 12 evokes crashing waves, earning it the popular nickname “Ocean.” While Chopin was incapable of achieving the powerful sonority of Liszt, the music he wrote is not fragile, and its incredibly poetic beauty and ingenuity have inspired millions of people to this very day.

Franz Liszt was most famous as a showman taking great pleasure in striding onto the stage in lavish attire while ladies in the audience fought each other to get closer to the handsome pianist. He would attack the piano with unprecedented bravura and was famous for improvising extensively on the compositions of others. According to one anecdote, Liszt was performing a nocturne by Chopin, adding many extraneous embellishments. Chopin was furious when he heard it, telling Liszt to play the music the way it was written or not at all. Liszt’s improvisatory style can be heard clearly in many of his passages, which often evoke a sense of fantasy. His B minor Sonata is a colossal masterpiece that was published in 1854 after Liszt had retired from concertizing and five years after Chopin’s death. Controversial at the time, it is now widely acknowledged as one of the most important and riveting movements of the Romantic era. The sonata has a few concise yet extremely powerful themes that develop abundantly throughout the piece, and these motifs add an unbreakable coherence and many layers of depth. Interwoven between explosive passages of terrifying strength are extraordinarily lyrical, harmonically intricate sections that add contrast to the work while still maintaining its musical intensity. The piece ends much in the way it started, with the opening, haunting chromatic descending scales making a final appearance before the enchanting final bars. Liszt admired many composers including Beethoven and single-handedly rescued the Beethoven Monument in Bonn, Beethoven’s birthplace, through his substantial contributions. Liszt also made many charitable donations to help those in need and left behind a legacy in education and the arts as a teacher and administrator, founding the Hungarian National School of Music in 1875 (now the Franz Liszt Academy).

Anna’s Reflections on Her Album

Although the inspiration for Boundless occurred recently, my history with the Chopin etudes has been much more extensive. I learned my first Chopin etude when I was seven, and up to that point, it was the most challenging piece I had ever played. My dad posted it on YouTube in 2008, and while most of the comments were very encouraging, some deplored that I was being “forced to play music that was too difficult” and that I “lacked the proper understanding of such mature music.” In fact, I love music more than anything, and I cannot recall ever being forced to play the piano. My life would never be the same without music. Although I occasionally felt reluctant to practice, nothing could separate me from my passion. I have always been determined to work hard if it enables me to play beautiful music.

Fast forward five years to Christmas vacation 2013. I was feeling bored and started thinking of things to do. Then the perfect solution dawned on me. I already knew most of the Opus 10 etudes but only a few of the Opus 25 etudes, so why not finish the set? They are filled with such indescribable beauty and technical challenge that I could think of no better way to spend my time. Just like that, from this seemingly insignificant moment, an entire journey blossomed. Of course, this was a very ambitious project. I had to spend countless hours practicing Op. 25 No. 6, nicknamed the “Double Thirds Etude,” which is well known for its torturous technical problems. Indeed, many of these etudes require so much repetitive practice that there is always the danger of becoming enslaved by muscle memory and losing the sense of lyricism. For the next several months, I dedicated most of my practice time to learning and polishing the rest of Op. 25 and in June and August 2014, I gave recitals featuring them in the second half of my program. After this period of intense focus, I wanted a fresh start on something new. This is when I began learning the famous Liszt sonata. I have loved this piece for several years but held myself back from learning it until I was older. When I finally immersed myself, I fell in love with its immense passion and power. With these great works now at my fingertips, I began to consider putting both in a single album to create a very special program that would highlight and contrast the crowning achievements of Chopin and Liszt’s creative genius. The title Boundless suggests the boundless expressiveness in their music. Moreover, in a society where we often feel confined by boundaries that dictate how to lead our lives, I hope this album will be an inspiration to look beyond convention to the infinite possibilities ahead.

Anna Larsen

Anna’s sensitivity to pitch and music were apparent from her earliest years.  As a toddler, she would scream in terror at loud noises like a vacuum but be easily calmed by the singing of her parents.  As she began to speak, she also started to hum and sing in tune.  When Anna was three years old, her father demonstrated how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on a colorful toy xylophone. Excited by the clanking melody, she snatched the mallet and played it back perfectly.  Astonished, he introduced her to the piano where she made rapid strides.  This growth was aided, as it turned out, by her inborn sense of perfect pitch, the ability to immediately identify any pitch or combination of pitches.   By the time she was seven, Anna had advanced to Chopin’s daunting Etude Op. 25 No. 11 and when she was eight, her father posted it on YouTube where it quickly gathered thousands of views.  Within several months, acclaimed concert pianist Lang Lang discovered the video and invited Anna to be a scholar in his new Foundation dedicated to educating young audiences worldwide about classical music.  As part of this fantastic mentoring relationship, Anna was invited to perform in venues from Carnegie Hall to the Oprah Winfrey Show and the New York International Children’s Film Festival. Meanwhile, she worked to solidify her musical foundation, recording the complete Bach Well Tempered Clavier over a two year period.  At the same time, she derived creative satisfaction from composing.  Her first symphony and piano concerto, composed during 2010-2011, received back-to-back ASCAP awards while some of her other compositions have won the Massachusetts state MTNA competition for the past seven years in a row.  The process of composition provides Anna with deeper interpretive insight into the narrative structure of music. Anna now studies privately with Alexander Korsantia and Martin Boykan and has also performed in master classes at the Aspen Summer Music Festival and the Oxford Philomusica Piano Festival and Summer Academy in England.  Over the years, Anna has studied with many incredible teachers including Hung-Kuan Chen, Tema Blackstone, A. Ramon Rivera, and Sachiko Isihara.





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