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Keynote themes Franz Liszt: 200th anniversary of his birth

Who was he this Franz FerencLiszt? Prodigy, virtuoso pianist and audience en- sorceller, sympathiser of the revolutionaries and darling of the salons, composer and projection figure of the Neo-German School, ambitious Musical Director of the Court, teacher and mentor to his devoted pianist disciples, a serial seducer with a hankering for the priesthood, father of three illegitimate children, cosmopolitan and a dyed-in-the-wool Hungarian. To help comprehend this glittering personality and to give a human face again to the man behind the myth, by reading his letters, perform- ing his works and limning his life in biographies and critical editions of his works, these will be the tasks of many concert organisers, musicians and musicologists in this anniversary year of 2011. In Hungary, too, he will be commemorated: though he grew up with German as his mother tongue, all his life he felt himself to be Hungar- ian. And at the way-stations of his life from Raiding through Vienna, Paris, Geneva all across Europe to Weimar, Rome and Bayreuth his memory will be honoured. Such posthumous fame would probably have been undreamed-off even by his ambi- tious father Adam Liszt, who himself would only too willingly have exchanged his job as a civil servant for a career in the arts, but instead marketed his son systematically as an awesomely gifted child prodigy. But there was a lot more to Franz Liszt than a flashy keyboard virtuoso: for instance, he also deliberately utilised his piano para- phrases of symphonies and operas for educational purposes, so as in his concerts to provide a wider public with access to sophisticated culture. He himself, it should be noted, suffered greatly at the beginning of his career under the lack of higher educa- tion that he, the middle-class parvenu, was made painfully aware of when mixing with the privileged aristocrats in the salons, an education that he had to laboriously catch up on. Later, as the Musical Director at the Court Theatre in Weimar, he en- deavoured to reach as broad a public as possible: by repertory performances and by venturesome premieres such as the operas of his son-in-law Richard Wagner. As a composer, he developed a new concept in the shape of his Symphonic Poems, which constituted an alternative to classical symphonies in the tradition of Beetho- ven, and found many emulators. The Rheingau Music Festival is this year devoting no fewer than seven events to proving as wide as possible an insight into Franz Liszts oeuvre: the principal focus is, naturally enough, on the piano works, with three recitals, since he wrote most of his compositions for his own favoured instrument. But rarely performed works like the Grand Duo Concertantfor violin and piano or the Dante Symphonywill also be played.

Concerts 9 July

4 August 10 August 13 August 23 August 24 August 25 August ductor

When her voice fades in the kiss/ Corinna Harfouch, recitation Hideyo Ha- rada, piano Liszt Night with Alfred Brendel / Kit Amstrong, piano Alfredo Perl, piano Louis Lortie, piano Denes Varjon, piano Isabelle van Keulen, violin / Ronald Brautigam, piano Denis Kozhukin / Les Siécles & Maitrise de Caen / Francois-Xavier Roth, con-

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