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Author Topic: Liszt's hardest piano piece?  (Read 998 times)
cuberdrift
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« on: August 04, 2017, 01:35:37 PM »



As you might already know, this relatively obscure piece by Liszt is claimed by Valentina Lisitsa to make Feux Follets and La Campanella like a "walk in the park", and that Liszt himself was unable to perform it successfully.

Has anyone of you tried to play it? I'd like to know your opinion.

Regards,
cuberdrift

P.S. 4:08 in that recording sounds like a section in Alkan's "Hands Reunited" etude. Was Liszt borrowing from Alkan here (or the other way around)? Kind of cute when I heard that, for some reason.
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zxiao9
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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2017, 12:06:50 AM »

Definitely much much, much harder than both etudes. But I would say most his symphonic and operatic paraphrases, say, that of Rigoletto and Beethoven Symphony No.5, 7, 9 would be harder (then again they are much longer and with much more musical context so it's not a fair comparison) I'd love to see someone who has properly conquered the pieces to do a comparison of the Dante Sonata or Spanish Rhapsody vs El Contrabandista?
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pianoworthy
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2017, 01:06:31 PM »

I'd say overall the Danse Macabre transcription is Liszt's most difficult work, the Tannhauser Overture paraphrase is a close contender. If you're talking strictly originals, I'd say it's a tossup between the first mephisto waltz (famous in it's difficulty for a good reason) or the tarantella (even the greatest pianists look like that are struggling while playing this one haha).
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stoudemirestat
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2017, 08:00:29 AM »

Difficulty is often subjective, but here's Leslie Howard's (who has played all of Liszt's piano music) view:

"Among his original works, and allowing for the fact that his greatest technical demands always proceed from an intrinsically musical need, the Scherzo and March tests an enormous variety of skills. Among the transcriptions, I'd nominate the finale of Beethoven's Ninth, and, from the fantasies, those on Don Giovanni (with the fuller text), Figaro/Don Giovanni(original version, not the Busoni), Les Huguenots and I puritani."
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visitor
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2017, 10:54:39 AM »

Is OP thick?
Agreed w  some of the responder points. Also , very much agree w the subjective part of it.
In above example a limited view of difficulty is being applied.
Even, and i willl cast my vote here as a strong contender , the b minor sonata should be considered. It is a 30 minute long work, single movement with each portion of a ful sonata woven in. In terms of performance keeping it together weaving in continuity and bringing out ideas across very large expanses of music, and the memorization aspects etc put it on par (and w exception to collaborative challenges),  some of some the single movement concertos of the Romantic literature
There is more to difficulty than just texuture and bombastic flash, length of/total amount of music and playing time ie endurance matters, a lot...
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visitor
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2017, 12:42:19 PM »

When's factor total music amd need to collaborate,  listen for balance,  take q's from conductor,  etc I find i would recon the concerto to be moing the most difficult to perform as well [maybe not most difficult to learn the parts to, but certainly harder tonight together and present in concert/on stage ]
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pianoworthy
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2017, 02:29:21 PM »

Yeah yeah difficulty is subjective, and there are more difficulties than just the technical bombastic aspects. But it's nice to have a bit of fun from time to time no? Forgot about the scherzo and march. Obviously haven't played that, but boy oh boy does it look difficult!
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ronde_des_sylphes
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2017, 02:55:49 PM »

Just a personal opinion, but I don't think El Contrabandista is absolutely at the level of difficulty Lisitsa claims for it. I'm tempted to take up her challenge re posting a video of the jumps section, for starters. To be fair to her, her version is a lot better than the live Leslie Howard version on youtube.

Interesting the OP mentions Alkan, because frankly a fair amount of the piece sounds like bad Alkan to me. I think the Scherzo and March is a lot of fun tbh! I've a vague recollection Enrico Pace mentioned the I Puritani paraphrase as being particularly obstructive. Of course the original Liszt Paganini etudes and the 1837 transcendentals are by and large extremely difficult. The Clochette fantasy has a certain reputation.
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nw746
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2017, 11:56:34 PM »

I'll also put in a word for the early version of the Paganini Etudes (Études d'execution transcendentale d'après Paganini S.140), which Charles Rosen also claims are of such extravagant difficulty that probably nobody but Liszt himself could play them. Obviously, part of it is also that most of the technical difficulties they contain are also things I struggle with a lot and have no idea how to do, e.g. version II of study no. 4, or the staccato scales in tenths in no. 6.

Among the transcriptions, Beethoven 9 is the obvious choice, I think.
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fftransform
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« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2017, 09:20:39 AM »

Wow, I see things have changed a lot around here.  Let me just go ahead and tell you how this thread goes.

"La Campanella."

"Sonata in B Minor."

"Everything is the same difficulty, from Mozart to Xenakis, because m u s i c a l i t y."

"People who respond to this thread are dumb." (said with complete lack of irony)

"I agree." (sempre)

"La Campanella."

"[six paragraphs from Alistair]"

"Transcendental Etudes."

"[two word response to Alistair from Thal]"

"[Mikey, Marik and jmenz circle-jerk each other using self-superiority for lube]"



Anyway, I'd say that among the meatier pieces, the Douze Grandes Etudes, Norma Fantasy, Reminiscences des Puritains, Reminiscences des Huguenots, El Contrabandista, Grosse Konzertfantasie uber Spanische Weisen and the Auber Tarantella di Bravura are the most unplayable.  Probably there are a couple I'm missing or forgetting.  The Beethoven Symphony No. 9 and the Berlioz Symphony transcriptions aren't consistently as ridiculous, but they have an extra exhaustion factor.

Then there are some pound-for-pound champions like the Grand Galop Chromatique, Feux Follets, Orage, Paganini Etude (ver. 1) No. 4 etc.

Then there's a second tier of pieces that are what people will usually mention, like the TE's, Tannhauser, Don Juan, Deux Legendes, Totentanz, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 9 et al that are more familiar.
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chopinlover01
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« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2017, 02:05:14 AM »

Wow, I see things have changed a lot around here.  Let me just go ahead and tell you how this thread goes.

"La Campanella."

"Sonata in B Minor."

"Everything is the same difficulty, from Mozart to Xenakis, because m u s i c a l i t y."

"People who respond to this thread are dumb." (said with complete lack of irony)

"I agree." (sempre)

"La Campanella."

"[six paragraphs from Alistair]"

"Transcendental Etudes."

"[two word response to Alistair from Thal]"

"[Mikey, Marik and jmenz circle-jerk each other using self-superiority for lube]"


Not funny.

I miss J_menz Embarrassed
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mjames
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« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2017, 02:14:04 AM »

I thought it was pretty funny.
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2017, 03:07:07 AM »

Probably El Contrabandista, I think. Fuex Follets is pretty bad too. I don't know very many of Liszt's more obscure pieces, so I can't find anything other than that that is necessarily harder ...
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Rachmaninoff Op. 32 No. 10
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ahinton
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« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2017, 06:53:52 AM »

"[six paragraphs from Alistair]"
No; no paragraphs from him - at least not from this one.

Best,

Alistair
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Alistair Hinton
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fftransform
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« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2017, 06:40:42 PM »

No; no paragraphs from him - at least not from this one.

Best,

Alistair

Not yet!

Any comments on that horrible Grand Fantasia de Bravoure sur la Clochette, which I forgot?
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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2017, 03:46:03 AM »

Of course difficulty is subjective, his first edition TE's are pretty tough, when a composer writes a simpler version that has become much more popular that's telling you something.
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ahinton
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« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2017, 11:56:36 AM »



As you might already know, this relatively obscure piece by Liszt is claimed by Valentina Lisitsa to make Feux Follets and La Campanella like a "walk in the park", and that Liszt himself was unable to perform it successfully.

Has anyone of you tried to play it? I'd like to know your opinion.

Regards,
cuberdrift

P.S. 4:08 in that recording sounds like a section in Alkan's "Hands Reunited" etude. Was Liszt borrowing from Alkan here (or the other way around)? Kind of cute when I heard that, for some reason.
The other way around, if at all. This piece was composed in 1837, a year before Alkan's Trois Grandes Études. The two composers would certainly have known one another by the time that they wrote these works and there can be no doubt that Alkan's and Chopin's influence upon Liszt was greater than the other way around in either case.

Best,

Alistair
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fftransform
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« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2017, 10:30:00 PM »

El Contrabandista got played five times today at the Liszt Competition (why I checked this site for the first time in forever):







I forgot another monstrous piece, the Fantasie sur des motifs de l'opera Sonnambula, S 393 (not the S. 627).

The Feng performance was the best among the Contrabandistas, still eager to hear Nakata.  If Nakata plays it, then I assume that will be the best one.


Overall, if I have to pick a single 'hardest piece' besides the complete Douze Grandes Etudes, I would probably go with the Grosse Konzertfantasie uber Spanische Weisen.  Totally unplayable; a 12' piece that has a 20' recording.  I think it's hard to compare difficulty when the lengths of pieces are so disparate, but since we are just talking one composer who largely uses the same techniques over and over, I feel ok saying that.  If someone wants to say doing the complete TE's is harder than the Spanische Weisen it would be sort of hard to argue with them - but I could do it.
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fftransform
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« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2017, 10:45:04 PM »

Here is a short clip of the Grosse Konzertfantasie.  It is the only worthwhile performance, but unfortunately it's only a couple minutes' worth.  Please note that you are watching Pletnev being sloppy in his right hand.  That's all you need to know about how impossible this piece is.




Maybe if it was a little Thai boy he would be better with his hands...
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fftransform
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« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2017, 11:01:09 PM »

Btw, technically off topic, but here is a rather obscure piece that is absolutely beautiful (and pretty dang tough, though not quite like some of the other pieces mentioned above).

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fftransform
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« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2017, 09:53:21 AM »

Here are a couple extracts from the Reminiscences de Robert le Diable (allegro):



* robert.jpg (236.29 KB, 1302x794 - viewed 30 times.)
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aweshana21
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« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2017, 03:29:52 PM »

Feux Follets
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chopinlover01
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« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2017, 03:52:08 PM »

I thought it was pretty funny.

It was Smiley

I just miss J_menz.
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joseffy
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« Reply #23 on: November 16, 2017, 04:30:53 PM »

1 - TE No.5 "Feux Follets"
2 - Réminiscences de Don Juan
3 - TE No.4 "Mazeppa"
4 - Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure Sur La Clochette
5 - Rondo Fantastique
6 - Sonata in B Minor
7 - Tannhäuser Overture
8 - Rhapsodie Espagnole
9 - TE No.12 "Chasse-Neige"
10 - Totentanz
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beethovenfan01
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« Reply #24 on: November 16, 2017, 08:39:12 PM »

Quote
1 - TE No.5 "Feux Follets"
2 - Réminiscences de Don Juan
3 - TE No.4 "Mazeppa"
4 - Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure Sur La Clochette
5 - Rondo Fantastique
6 - Sonata in B Minor
7 - Tannhäuser Overture
8 - Rhapsodie Espagnole
9 - TE No.12 "Chasse-Neige"
10 - Totentanz

Well I might switch Mazeppa and Rondo Fantastique, but overall I'd agree. BTW, I just heard a performance of the Don Juan while attending a performance class at the University of Oregon. It was played by a graduate student of my (hopefully) future teacher, Alexander Dossin. And it was beyond unbelievable to listen to.
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Auditioning to U of O school of music:
Bach WTC Bk 1 No. 10
Beethoven Op. 81a (I.)
Rachmaninoff Op. 32 No. 10
Future:
Liszt Wilde Jagd, Dante, HR 6
Chopin Ballade 3
Beethoven Op. 57
Prokofiev
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