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Recommended book: The Piano Master Classes of Franz Liszt

The piano master classes of Franz Liszt 1884-1886,
Diary notes of August Göllerich
by August Göllerich
Indiana University Press, 1996, ISBN: 0253332230

Göllerich was student, secretary and companion to Liszt during the musician’s last two years (1884-86). The diary contains the dates of the master classes, lists of performers and the works they performed, and some general thoughts and reflections on the master pianist/composer.

Basing his translation on Jerger’s 1975 annotated German edition of Göllerich’s diaries, the editor Zimdars has added annotations, a glossary and two appendixes about Liszt, one a sketch by eminent pianist Jose Vianna da Motta. Though many of the entries are brief, some give wonderful insight into Liszt’s teaching style, mercurial personality, philosophy of performance and thoughts about contemporary pianists and composers. The book makes interesting reading and furnishes valuable knowledge of the piano literature taught and performed at the time, much of which is considered passé today. Zimdars’s glossary is one of the most important sections of the book; it provides brief biographical information about dozens of famous and unknown pianists of the time.

There is very little technical advice in this book. If you were a student of Liszt, you had a good technique as a matter of course. Liszt seems to focus more on expression, tempo, and clean playing. Technique is not the purpose of this book. Göllerich records Liszt’s performance suggestions and for that this book should be read by all serious pianists. Liszt provides invaluable suggestions in interpretation, and suggests how the composer may have wanted his piece performed. Since he heard many pieces performed by the composers themselves (Chopin, Schumann, etc), his advice should be respected. Also, since Liszt was taught by Czerny — who was taught by Beethoven — his suggestions for the performance of Beethoven’s works are absolute gold.

Link: This book on Amazon


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