Franz Liszt’s services to artistic sacralization

Franz Liszt (1811-86) is a pivotal cultural figure in that the entire formation of classical music as a public institution can be traced just through his career, an inescapably central nexus in the sacralization of high art. Everything that has been recognized as part of the superior musical domain (genres, sites, roles, norms, and conventions) was consolidated somewhere close to him, often with his decisive contribution. It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that most European canonical 19th-century artists moved somewhere in his magnetic orbit. Even today, to learn to play or contemplate music as such is to be admitted into Liszt’s church of aesthetic devotion.

I have been thinking about Liszt’s stellar circulation while listening to the most recent complete recording of his solo piano 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies (1846-53, 1882-85) by Vincenzo Maltempo. Regardless of their artistic merit, through their performances, transcriptions, and recordings these short pieces keep bringing back to the altar (which he himself first called “recital”) its high priest, Franz Liszt. Here is my list of preferred interpretations per Rhapsody (with clips), drawing on Scott Noriega’s splendid suggestions (Fanfare, Jan./Febr. 2017).

  1. Misha Dichter
  2. Vincenzo Maltempo
  3. Lazar Berman
  4. Earl Wild
  5. Cyprien Katsaris
  6. Martha Argerich
  7. Alexander Borowsky
  8. György Cziffra
  9. Emil Gilels
  10. Nelson Freire
  11. Alfred Cortot
  12. Murray Perahia
  13. Marc-André Hamelin
  14. Joel Hastings
  15. Solomon
  16. Michele Campanella
  17. Sviatoslav Richter
  18. Roberto Szidon
  19. Vladimir Horowitz

Approval of pianist Dr. Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” pending…

February 19, 2017

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