David Ezra Okonsar | Franz Liszt: The Transcendental Études Dvd (Ntsc)

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Franz Liszt: The Transcendental Études Dvd (Ntsc)

by David Ezra Okonsar

The video recordings of Études d'exécution transcendante (The Transcendental Études [S.139]) by F. Liszt, complete with some bonus tracks and a talk about the music, DVD-NTSC (for North America and Japan)
Genre: Classical: Piano solo
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Transcendental Etude No. 1 in C Major, S.139: "Preludio"
0:00 album only
2. Transcendental Etude No. 2 In A Minor, S.139 : (Untitled - Molto Vivace)
0:00 album only
3. Transcendental Etude No. 3 In F Major, S.139: "Paysage"
0:00 album only
4. Transcendental Etude No. 4 In D Minor, S.139: "Mazeppa"
0:00 album only
5. Transcendental Etude No. 5 in B-Flat Major, S.139: "Feux Follets"
0:00 album only
6. Transcendental Etude No. 6 In G Minor, S.139: "Vision"
0:00 album only
7. Transcendental Etude No. 7 In E-Flat Major, S.139: "Eroica"
0:00 album only
8. Transcendental Etude No. 8 in C Minor, S.139: "Wilde Jagd"
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9. Transcendental Etude No. 9 in a-Flat Major, S.139: "Ricordanza"
0:00 album only
10. Transcendental Etude No. 10 in F Minor, S.139: (Untitled - Allegro Agitato Molto)
0:00 album only
11. Transcendental Etude No. 11 in D-Flat Major, S.139: "Harmonies Du Soir"
0:00 album only
12. Transcendental Etude No. 12 in B-Flat Minor, S.139: "Chasse-Neige"
0:00 album only


Album Notes
This the DVD version (NTSC, 16:9 for North America and Japan) of Études d'exécution transcendante (The Transcendental Études [S.139]) by F. Liszt, complete recording by David Ezra Okonsar.

Virtuosity is one keyword most often associated with Liszt. But as Alfred Brendel said it, if Liszt sounds "flashy" and "vulgar" it is because it is played that way! Actually for Liszt, virtuosity is always a means to another end. This end is to transcend the possibilities of the instrument or of the music (of his time) by means of a precise, powerful and many has put it this way: a diabolic technique.

The Etudes d'Execution Transcendente are fully original compositions, not transcriptions or arrangements. The series which makes the foundation for all piano music which has been composed afterwards, gets its final aspect in 1851.

As early as 1826, when he was fifteen, Liszt started "Etudes pour le piano-forte en 48 exercices dans tous les tons majeurs et mineurs". They are actually didactic exercises in the spirit of a Cramer or Czerny. Twelve of them were finished and published. In 1837 Liszt was in quest of expanding the piano technique to new territories and started to rework on this early attempt. He kept the initial thematic material and rewrote them including amazing and incredible new technical "tour de forces".

However it would be erroneous to see in this series of Etudes just a showcase for pianistic virtuosity display. The composer was then immersed into romantic poetry and literature. Many of the Etudes then got a suggestive title which refers to a piece of literature. As such, these Etudes are, according to Claude Rostand, "the first state of an embryo which will evolve into the core of the programme-music."

The tonal succession of the Etudes are remarkable too. They move as tonic, relative, sub-dominant. That makes a descending scale by thirds: C - A - F - D - B-flat ... a feature which is going to be seen in many of Wagner's harmonic progressions.

Even though mostly heroic in character, The Transcendental Etudes (S.139) cover the entire spectrum of feeling translated for the piano. They can be extremely delicate, tender, impressionist as well.

Etude No. 1 (Preludio) in C major

Despite the appearances, the Etude No. 1 in C major: "Preludio", is not just a "warm-up" exercise, but a powerful and evocative introduction to the series. It swiftly expands to the entire spectrum of the keyboard and raises the curtain for the dramatic pieces to follow. To be noted in this short number is the plagal cadence which undoubtedly adds to the grandeur of this prelude.

Etude No. 2 (untitled – Molto vivace) in A minor

The Etude No. 2 in A minor, (untitled: "Molto vivace") is a bravoura piece full of vehemence and expressionism. It is somewhat close to Paganini etudes in a few aspects of its ecriture but certainly not in content. The "diabolical" minor second interval used with insistence makes its particular style.

Etude No. 3 (Paysage) in F major

A serene pastoral scenery with a beautifully simple charm characterizes the Etude No. 3 in F major: "Paysage". The piece oscillates between an evanescent imagery and dense, oppressive feelings. The intricate "orchestral" writing proves that even the young Liszt was able to "think orchestra" when composing for the piano.

Etude No. 4 (Mazeppa) in D minor

From the magnificent large scale Etude No. 4 in D minor: "Mazeppa", dedicated to Victor Hugo, Liszt will later extract the substance for his Symphonic Poem with the same title. A large scale "tragedia" one of the most revealing compositions for the piano of the Hungarian composer.

The trepidations of the hero, riding tied up on the back of a horse in the steppes of Ukraine is revealed after a short introduction. The dramatic main theme is presented with block chords in both hands with alternating thirds, also in both hands, at the middle section of the keyboard. This theme, of the riding of the hero, will be exposed four times with its rhythm getting more and more squeezed: periods of eight, six, three and two units.

After one lighter section in B-flat major the "story" reaches its climax and the hero falls at last. A recitative marked: "il canto vibrato ed appassionato assai" with evocative calls of the name "Mazeppa" over diminished seventh intervals ("D - C-flat-up - D" as "ma - zep - pa") seems to bring a tragic end to the story. Suddenly trumpets announce the resurrection and Mazeppa rise as a king in a glorious coda in D major. Added to the closing of the score is the quote from Victor Hugo: "il tombe enfin et se releve roi" ("he falls at last and raises as king").

Etude No. 5 (Feux Follets - Irrlichter) in B-flat major

The Etude No. 5 in B-flat major: "Feux Follets" is a gleaming, almost impressionistic goblins dance. A "leggiero" etude in perpetuum mobile. The theme is based on an alternating succession of the intervals of major and minor seconds. This is turn creates an undulating motion in double notes. Altogether the perception of vertical harmonies are loosened while the feeling of the tonality center is weakened too.

Harmonically, this Etude is one of the most advanced of the series. The most audacious harmonic innovations of the composer, which are to come only several decades later in his life, are present here in an embryonic form.

Etude No. 6 (Vision) in G minor

In one totally different concept of piano writing, the strong Etude No. 6 in G minor: "Vision" is a bravoura piece in wide arpeges and tremolos. The "vision" here is dark and daunting as well as seemingly endless.

Etude No. 7 (Eroica) in E-flat major

Even though the developments of the brilliant ideas exposed in the introduction of the Etude No. 7 in E-flat major: "Eroica" may seem somewhat naive as compared with what Liszt will do with similar ideas ("heroic" themes) in his future works, the scope and power of this Etude is nevertheless remarkable. The "heroic" themes are fully developed and expanded using the widest possible keyboard range. The famous double octaves section is specially remarkable.

Etude No. 8 (Wilde Jagd) in C minor

With its typical imitations of the hunt horns, whip slamming, syncopated rhythms, strident, Berlioz-like (i.e. "La Damnation de Faust") harmonies, the Etude No. 8 in C minor: "Wilde Jagd - Wild Hunt", spreads as a demoniac journey. A middle section in E-Flat major, softer but still animated makes this large piece fit in an almost sonata form.

Etude No. 9 (Ricordanza) in A-flat major

The Etude No. 9 in A-flat major: "Ricordanza" is a youthful romance which is not as naive as it may appear at the first glance. The reworked version of 1851, while keeping the original naivete of the themes, makes it to a piece of deep lyrical poetry.

Etude No. 10 (untitled – Allegro agitato molto) in F minor

On hearing the first theme of Etude No. 10 in F minor, originally untitled – Allegro agitato molto, so-called "Appassionata", one can not stop remembering the theme of the Etude op.10 N.9 in F minor by Chopin. However the declamatory and warmly expressive theme develops here through all the range of the keyboard with brilliant intermediary sections and ends with an octaves coda in the purest "Lisztian" way.

Etude No. 11 (Harmonies du Soir) in D-flat major

The poetic atmosphere of the Etude No. 11 in D-flat major: "Harmonies du Soir" is in the purest "Lamartinian" style. Alphonse de Lamartine (1790- 1869) was a French writer, poet and politician who was instrumental in the foundation of the Second Republic. This particular sensitivity is both contemplative and captivating. The piece deploys on large range chords sometimes built on resonating bells-like basses. One "elegiac" middle section in E Major creates a "crepuscular" atmosphere of a rare beauty.

Etude No. 12 (Chasse-Neige) in B-flat minor

The Etude No. 12 in B-flat minor: "Chasse-Neige" is a sound-scape depicting a pale and heavily loaded sky. Fast and light chromatic runs as well as many tremolos notated with small-size notes evoke large and small snow whirlwinds. The sound-scape evolves from the distant contemplation of a dark and menacing landscape to the most raging furious tempests.



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