Five essential works by Liszt

We choose the greatest pieces by the brilliant but enigmatic virtuoso Liszt

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Piano Concertos

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Having been inspired to become a virtuoso pianist by Paganini’s brilliance and diabolical stage presence, Liszt plays up these qualities in these vehicles for his own artistry.

Recommended recording:
Louis Lortie; Residentie Orchestra The Hague/George Pehlivanian
Chandos CHAN 10371 X

Transcendental Studies

As the title implies, Liszt’s studies were intended to be not mere displays of virtuosity, but rather to give the piano the quasi-orchestral capability. Favourites include ‘Feux Follets’ and ‘Chasse-neige’.

Recommended recording:
Lazar Berman
Melodiya MELCD 1000748

Les années de pèlerinage: Première année, Suisse

A musical evocation of the landscape, art and poetry of Switzerland, Liszt’s first book of the Années de pèlerinage contains some of his most poetic, evocative music.

Recommended recording:
Daniel Grimwood
SFZ Music SFZM 0208

Piano Sonata in B minor

One of Liszt’s most consummate achievements, this single-movement sonata presents a characteristic mix of the menacing, lyrically romantic, and brilliant virtuosity.

Recommended recording:
George-Emmanuel Lazaridis
Linn CKD 282

Faust Symphony

Liszt takes on the legendary anti-hero, capturing his stormy character and contrasting it with the tenderness of his beloved Gretchen, and the mercurial unpredictability of Mephistopheles.

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Recommended recording:
BBC Philharmonic/Noseda
Chandos CHAN 10375