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<<  -- 2 --  Malcolm Miller    LISZT ON WAGNER'S STEINWAY


His opening choice of three Scarlatti sonatas were beautifully shaped, the second, L118 in F minor especially beguiling, its sinewy two-part counterpoint projected with reflective intensity, poignantly sandwiched between the ebullient hunting call Sonata in C L104 and a sparkling Sonata in A K39 to end. The works gained in significance in the context of Wagner's taste for Italy, and the inspiration he received from his visits there, particularly to Venice.

A still more crucial influence for Wagner was that of Beethoven, symbolized here by the inclusion of the Sonata Op 27 No 1, imaginatively preceded by a compelling contemporary work based on Beethoven's music, John Paul Corigliano's Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985). Its beautiful sound tapestry was created by a freely flowing association of textures such as polytonal chord clashes, rapid repeated notes, and pedal points. This reached a climax at which the eloquent theme from the slow movement of Beethoven's 7th symphony was overlaid by a questioning melody. The effect of this passage, similar to Schnittke's polystylism, though lacking any sense of angst, evoked a rapt aura and formed a highlight of the recital.

The Steinway piano presented to Richard Wagner in 1876. Photo © 2005 Malcolm Miller
The Steinway piano presented to Richard Wagner in 1876. Photo © 2005 Malcolm Miller

The quotation formed a neat link into Beethoven's own Fantasy, the Sonata in E flat Op 27 No 1, which Engel interpreted with convincing pacing and energising contrast and expression. In the first movement the contrast of the delicately etched flowing main theme with the explosive contrasting material was exciting. The Scherzo was fiery, yet infused with serious drama, while the suave and rich lyricism of the third movement contrasted well with the more crisply articulated fugal textures of the finale, with its rather experimental recollection of the slow movement before the concluding flourish.

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Copyright © 11 August 2005 Malcolm Miller, Bayreuth, Germany


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