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Liszt on Wagner's Steinway

MALCOLM MILLER applauds a young artist in the
Festspiel-Soirée Series at the Wahnfried in Bayreuth


One of the highlights of the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth is the chance to hear concerts at smaller venues surrounding the Festspielhaus, either in the Operahouse or the Wahnfried on Richard Wagner Straße. This elegant stately mansion was built for Wagner and his wife Cosima and in its restored state (it was rebuilt after bombing by the two grandsons Wolfgang and Wieland) houses the Wagner Museum. Amongst its treasures is the monumental Steinway concert grand piano, presented to Wagner by Steinways on the occasion of the first performance of the Ring cycle in 1876. The large, looming instrument has a full-blooded resonance especially in the bass and middle registers and a particular warmth and sweetness of tone, which transports one to Wagner's own era and allows one to imagine familiar music in a new way.

Thanks to the enterprising organisation of Dr Sven Friedrich, Director of the Wagner Museum as well as of Wagner Archiv, visitors to Bayreuth can attend a series of Festspiel Soirée in Wahnfried throughout August in which first class young artists at the start of international careers have a chance to perform on this remarkable instrument in the elegant and rich acoustics of the main recital room.

Wahnfried. Photo © 2005 Malcolm Miller
Wahnfried. Photo © 2005 Malcolm Miller

I was fortunate to attend one of the season's highlights on 7 August 2005, a recital by a remarkable young virtuoso Konrad Maria Engel, whose inventively structured programme, unfolding chronologically, featured composers who influenced or were themselves influenced by Wagner. Amongst Engel's many accomplishments including many concerts and broadcasts across Europe, is a performance in the 2001 Young Artists Concert Programme in Bayreuth reserved for the best of Germany's young musicians.

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Copyright © 11 August 2005 Malcolm Miller, Bayreuth, Germany


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