Five essential works by Liszt

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

Published: May 5, 2019 at 10:00 am

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

Authors

Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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