Classical Music Guide Forum - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - Written by Donald Isler

David Dubal Program on Liszt - IKIF

Last year David Dubal did a program at the International Keyboard Institute and Festival on Chopin and Schumann in honor of the two hundredth anniversary of their births. This evening he presented a very interesting and illuminating program about Franz Liszt, in honor of Liszt's bicentennial. Mr. Dubal, known by most pianists for his former radio program, Reflections From the Keyboard, and for his current program, The Piano Matters (heard on is extremely knowledgeable about pianists, piano history, the history of the recorded piano, and has strong convictions about many things. He may be the only person who thinks of time not in terms of the Gregorian, Jewish, Chinese or any other ethnic calendar, but by how many years we have come since Cristofori's invention of the piano (which finds us, I believe, in the year 302!).

The program consisted of Mr Dubal telling us his thoughts about Liszt, and those of other people of note, performances by three wonderful young pianists, and listening to historic performances of Liszt's music, accompanied by Mr. Dubal's insightful observations.

Mr. Dubal reminded us of the importance of Liszt in creating the career of the concert pianist, and expressed the thought that Liszt's life was "the greatest life ever lived." Although he did not have the finest education Mr. Dubal said that Liszt was an intellectual who was interested in everything, that he was an art connoisseur, and a great letter writer. Also, doing the right and generous thing, especially as a teacher and benefactor, was of great importance to Liszt. Thoughts corroborating this were expressed in quotes from several of his most famous students. Arthur Friedheim wrote of his spiritual powers. And Moritz Rosenthal called Liszt "The most wonderful man I've ever known."

All of the live performances were impressive.

Egyptian pianist Wael Farouk's playing of First and Twelfth Transcendental Etudes (Preludio and Chasse neige) was sizzling and propulsive.

Benjamin Laude explored the murky harmonies of Nuage Gris and gave a delightful performance of the delicate but also frisky Bagatelle Without Tonality.

Xu Han played a lovely but little known Piano Piece in A Flat major, and then the Rigoletto Paraphrase which was, in her hands, in turn, lush, expansive, subtle and powerful.

Most of the historic recordings that were played were "to die for!"

Mr. Dubal expressed the thought that, had Lhevinne not recorded anything but that brilliant yet poignant reading of the Schumann/Liszt Frühlingsnacht-Traum, that alone would have ensured his immortality.

Mr. Dubal was a well-known FOH (Friend of Horowitz), and we heard that supersonic performance of the Paganini/Liszt E Flat major Etude that many of us grew up with. Something new, at least for me, was hearing a rare recording of Horowitz playing the last section of the Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody. Here one was reminded that speed was not everything for this master; finding the perfect speed at which the music logically "worked" was. The octave section was actually begun rather slowly but gradually "grew" via bassline accentuation, crescendo and acceleration into something fantastically exciting.

The great, and unlucky Simon Barere, who died in 1951 while playing the Grieg Concerto at Carnegie Hall, was heard twice on this program. Though he was an artist of great musical sensitivity and expressiveness he is most often remembered for his incredible control at high speed. (Bruce Hungerford once described how he and some friends listened to a Barere LP at a very slow speed to see if all the notes were actually there. They were!) Barere's Gnomenreigen was delightful, and later we heard his performance of La Leggiarezza, with which no flaw could be found.

Though after that Mr. Dubal gave us Moiseiwitsch's playing of La Leggiarezza, which was even more poetic and exquisite.

What historic figures will David Dubal celebrate in the future? Certainly 2013 will be the bicentennial year of Wagner, Verdi and Alkan. I'm not aware of any great musical figures born in 1812, but 2012 will be the centenary year of pianists Adrian Aeschbacher and Rudolf Firkusny, composer Hugo Weisgall and music critic Ross Parmenter. In any case, I am sure Mr. Dubal will come up with something!

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