Saturday 2nd May 2009
Odyssey Odyssey of
Programme Programme notes When Franz Liszt described his life as an odyssey of love, he meant it in the widest possible sense. Neurotic, self-obsessed, and intense, his life was a canvas where almost anything was possible. He was not the sort of romantic who loitered and sighed, but a man of great energy, immense curiosity, and a very low boredom threshold. Whatever he did or felt was usually done with passionate intensity and conviction. Three particular loves characterise his life, running through it like continuous obsessive threads - women, religion and music. Hailed as a new Mozart when only six years old, Liszt was a child prodigy in more ways than one. By the time he was eleven he was supporting his family from his earnings as a pianist and composer. He was barely a teenager when his opera Don Sanche was premiered in Paris to considerable acclaim. However, by then his interest in glamorous aristocratic ladies was also well-formed, as was a strong sense of religious purpose that frequently conflicted with his erotic impulses. So, at the age of seventeen, a disastrous relationship with his pupil Caroline de St. Criq precipitated a religious crisis that caused him temporarily to train as a priest.
Liszt loved women and women were drawn to him. They flocked to his concerts, where his ecstatic performances (he was the first pianist to present recitals without the music) caused fainting and hysteria among his largely female audiences and gave rise to the term Lisztomania. Many made a beeline for the glamorous green-eyed composer’s dressingroom after the concert was over and some were entertained in his hotel room. However, of the many courtesans and countesses with whom he was linked, two stand out. The first was Marie d’Agoult, a married aristocrat who became both muse and mistress to the young virtuoso. She was also the mother of his three children: Blandine, Daniel and Cosima. Marie is a fascinating figure - an intelligent and touching letterwriter and diarist, as well as a thoughtful critic. She ran away from her husband and family to join the 24-year old composer in Switzerland. The four years they spent travelling there and in Italy, sometimes with companions like Chopin and George Sand, were perhaps the happiest of her life and they provided Liszt with the raw material for many of his most celebrated piano pieces, such as the Petrarch Sonnet No.104 from the Italian volume of his Années de Pélerinage or Years of Pilgrimage. Marie tasted the bohemian life with him and loved it. But the idyll was not to last and eventually she tired of his needy ego.
Franz Liszt Though Liszt could be neurotically selfobsessed, he was also immensely generous and supportive of other musical talents. Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Berlioz and Wagner were just some of many composers who were beneficiaries of his largesse. He supported them financially and also by presenting his own piano transcriptions or reminiscences of their most characteristic melodies, usually from songs and opera. Frühglingsnacht and Ständchen are just two examples of a vast number of such pieces, which formed a major part of his compositional output and were a regular feature of his concert programmes. However, while his pianistic virtuosity went from strength to strength, as a composer the young Liszt was something of a dilettante. And while the genesis of many of his compositions took place under the gaze of Marie d’Agoult, their completion was assured by the muse of Liszt’s middle age: the cigar-smoking Polish intellectual, Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein. Carolyne is a much misunderstood and underappreciated figure. She persuaded Liszt to give up his career as a virtuoso and settle in Weimar to devote himself to composition, becoming midwife to the prolific quantity of music he wrote there.
He found it almost impossible to compose without her and he dedicated many of his finest pieces to her. The story of their failure to marry is a sad and compelling one of which is told in the second half of tonight’s recital. Chasse-neige is one of the many works he wrote at this time. An expressively monolithic piece, it is one of the great tone poems in piano literature, “a sublime and steady fall of snow which gradually buries landscape and people.” Liszt’s entire adult life was characterised by a tension between the erotic and the religious. And his religious works, which are often simpler, less showy and perhaps more heartfelt than some of his more well-known concert pieces, are also underexposed. Alleluja and Sancta Dorothea are just two of the many gems he wrote under Carolyne’s watchful eye. And after the failure of his marriage plans, he took minor orders and became an abbé. In old-age Liszt’s compositional style became increasingly epigrammatic. The great showman now saw the world as a darker place and the works of his final years, such as At Richard Wagner’s Grave point to the 20th century in their bold explorations of the limits of tonality and their pithy, austere expression. Donald Sturrock/Lucy Parham
Transcendental Etude No.1
Impromptu in F Sharp
Au Bord D’une Source (Beside A Spring)
Sonetto 104 Del Petrarca
Un Sospiro (Etude de Concert No.3)
Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night)
Chasse-Neige (Snow Storm)
Am Grabe Richard Wagners (At Richard Wagner’s Grave)
Mart in Jarvis In 2000 Martin Jarvis was awarded the OBE for his services to drama. He stars as David Bradburn, in BBC TV’s upcoming comedy drama series Taking the Flak, filmed in East Africa. He has guested in many popular American tv series: Stargate Atlantis, Numb3rs, Murder She Wrote, Walker, Texas Range; and in Britain: Inspectors Lynley, Morse, Frost and The Bill. Martin recently directed Stacy Keach in Brecht’s The Life of Galileo in Los Angeles, and Alfred Molina and Michael York in Pack of Lies. He won the Theatre World Award on Broadway for his title-role performance in By Jeeves, which he also filmed. Other screen credits include BBC’s modern Much Ado About Nothing, Dr Who, Bootleg, Lorna Doone, Absence of War, and Emmy award-winning The Bunker (with Anthony Hopkins.) He was a memorable Uriah Heep in David Copperfield and Jon Forsyte in The Forsyte Saga. Feature films: multi Oscar-winning Titanic, Framed, Buster, Kid With the X-Ray Eyes, Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War, Taste the Blood of Dracula. Numerous West End and National Theatre appearances encompass an acclaimed performance in Honour at Wyndham’s Theatre opposite Diana Rigg, plus Passion Play at the Donmar and The Doctor’s Dilemma at the Almeida, both directed by Michael Grandage. He has narrated Peter and the Wolf at the Barbican and A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Egmont with City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Chamber Orchestra. He produced (with Rosalind Ayres) BBC Radio’s recent all-star productions of Ayckbourn’s Man of the Moment and A Small Family Business. He starred last month as Lord Emsworth in Radio 4’s acclaimed Something Fresh by P.G. Wodehouse. Martin’s Just William recordings are worldwide bestsellers and his two volumes of biography Acting Strangely and Broadway Jeeves? have received outstanding reviews. Martin is married to actress and director Rosalind Ayres. He has homes in London and Los Angeles.
Rosalind Ayres’ numerous film roles include Lady Lucille Duff Gordon in James Cameron’s multi-Oscar-winning Titanic and Elsa Lanchester in Gods and Monsters. She starred in the Cannes Film Festival award-winning Beautiful People, and in Christmas in the Clouds. She recently returned from Tanzania, E. Africa where she has been shooting a new BBC film series Taking the Flak, with her actor/ director husband Martin Jarvis. Her many screen appearances include: Midsomer Murders, Heartbeat, The Royal, Holby City, Trevor’s World of Sport, Casualty; and in America: Just Shoot Me, Chicago Hope, Profiler, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Country Matters. In the West End she played Lena in Michael Frayn’s Exchange, Calpurnia in I Claudius and in Now You Know at Hampstead. She appeared in Peter Brook’s legendary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in New York. Her BBC radio performances include starring roles in Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business, Pack of Lies, Inappropriate Behaviour and A Tribute to Finchie. She has also directed many award-winning dramas for BBC, including the world premier of David Mamet’s Keep Your Pantheon and Glengarry Glen Ross. In America she has recorded many productions for National Public Radio including Blithe Spirit, The Third Man, An Ideal Husband and Ayckbourn’s trilogy The Norman Conquests. As radio director in Los Angeles and beyond: numerous plays including The Cherry Orchard, On the Waterfront, The Lion in Winter and Pinter’s Betrayal. Her work on audio includes (in the US) three Miss Marple mysteries, The Twilight Zone and an award-winning Sweeney Todd; (in UK) Stories from the New Testament, Classic Love Stories and even The Highway Code. Last November she appeared in Los Angeles with Lucy Parham and Martin Jarvis in the two linked recitals, Odyssey of Love and Beloved Clara.
Lucy Parham Acknowledged as one of Britain’s finest pianists, Lucy Parham first came to public attention on winning the 1984 BBC TV Young Musician of the Year Piano Class, since when she has performed extensively throughout the UK and Europe, South Africa, USA, Canada and Russia. As soloist abroad she has appeared with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra at the Tchaikowsky Hall in Moscow, L’Orchestre Rencontres Suisse, Bergen Philharmonic, L’Orchestre National de Lille, and three UK tours with the Polish National Radio SO and the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2002 she was the soloist with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth on their six-week 50th Anniversary Tour of the USA and in 2003 she toured Mexico with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Lucy Parham made her Wigmore Hall debut in 1989, and has since appeared regularly at all the major London venues and with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Philharmonia, RTE Orchestra, Brighton Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, London Mozart Players, City of London Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Hallé and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Festivals include Brighton, City of London, Leeds Castle, Rye, Bury St Edmunds, Three Choirs, Newbury, Harrogate, Chelsea, Cardiff, Oxford, Bergen, Istanbul and the Cervantes in Mexico City. In recent years, Lucy Parham has established herself as one of the leading interpreters of Robert and Clara Schumann. Her unique recording of their piano concertos, with the BBC Concert Orchestra/Wordsworth (Sanctuary Classics), won the BBC Music Magazine “Critics’ Choice of the Year”. Her other recordings include concertos by Ravel, Franck and Fauré with the RPO for RPO Records, Rhapsody in Blue with the BBC Concert Orchestra for BBC Worldwide and with the RPO for EMI, and a solo Chopin disc for ABM. “The Romantic Piano” for Sanctuary Classics was released in January 2005 and a year later her solo Schumann CD was released on ASV. Lucy Parham has been a frequent guest presenter for several BBC Radio 3 programmes, including and Building a Library, Composer of the Week, CD Review and Radio 3 Requests. In 2006 she was seen on BBC 4 TV as commentator for the six programmes about the Leeds International Piano Competition. Last year she was on the jury for the Final of BBC TV Young Musician of the Year and a BBC Radio 3 commentator for the Concerto Final. Her highly successful concert “Beloved Clara” premiered in the 2002/3 Wigmore Hall Masters Series. It explores the complex lives of Brahms, and Robert and Clara Schumann told in their own words, through diary extracts and music. Recent performances have included actors Joanna David, Edward Fox, Robert Glensister, Henry Goodman, Timothy West, Gabrielle Drake, Martin Jarvis and Charles Dance. The CD of Beloved Clara is available on Sanctuary/ASV. Critically acclaimed, it was also chosen as CD of the Week in the Sunday Times, Guardian and Observer. In 2006 she was the director of the 150th anniversary Schumann Festival, “The Poet Speaks” at Cadogan and in 2010 she will be the director of the Schumann 200 Festival at King’s Place, London. Her latest project, “Liszt – An Odyssey of Love”, premièred in 2008 in the London Piano Series at the Wigmore Hall and both Odyssey of Love and Beloved Clara received their US premières in Los Angeles in December 2008. They will be broadcast across the USA this year on National Public Radio.
Ogden of Harrogate 34 James Street Harrogate North Yorkshire HG1 1RQ tel: +44 (0)1423 504123 fax: +44 (0)1423 522283 www.ogdenharrogate.co.uk This programme has been produced by Rubber Band Graphic Design www.rubberbandisthe.biz who are proud to support the Royal Hall Restoration Trust
Odyssey of Love Programme