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Pierre-Laurent Aimard

PIANO RECITAL I

Franz Liszt [1811–1886]
La lugubre gondola Nr. 2 [1885]

Richard Wagner [1813–1883]
Sonata for piano A flat major [1853]
»Für das Album von Frau M.W.«

Franz Liszt
Nuages gris [1881]

Alban Berg [1885–1935]
Sonata for piano op. 1 [1907/8, rev. 1920]

Franz Liszt
Unstern! – Sinistre [undated]

Alexander Skrjabin [1872–1915]
Sonata for piano No. 9 op. 68 [1912/13]
»Black Mass«

Franz Liszt
Sonata for piano B minor [1852/53]

Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano

In the winter of 1882/83, Franz Liszt pays a visit of several weeks to his son-in-law, friend and artistic companion Richard Wagner in Venice. Wagner is there to recuperate from a serious heart attack he suffered in Bayreuth. During the visit they talk about Wagner’s plan for composing symphonies in a single movement. In Venice, Liszt writes La lugubre gondola. “Like a premonition”, says Liszt later, he has written a piano piece about a black-draped gondola in a funeral procession. Exactly in this manner a few weeks later, Wagner’s body was transported to the Venice railway station to be conveyed back to Bayreuth.

La lugubre gondola begins with a brief motif which is then developed in the course of the one-movement piece. “… spinning a musical thread until it is all spun” is what Wagner hoped to do in the single-movement symphonies that he envisaged but would not live to compose. In the densely and mostly darkened atmospheric images of his late piano pieces, Liszt has already implemented even more radically this concentration on one musical idea. In Nuages gris (“Grey Clouds”), composed years before Wagner’s death, and in Unstern! – Sinistre (“Ill-starred – Sinister”), it is the brief motifs, intervallic constellations and chordal configurations that become the object of musical reflection.

The dialectical principle of traditional sonata form never interested Liszt. In his Sonata in B minor, whose stunning formal workings are still a topic of discussion, certain passages are open to more than one interpretation and can be understood as part of a multi-movement structure within a single movement, framed by a recurring scale motif and fuelled by improvisation and metamorphosis. Wagner wrote his single-movement Piano Sonata in A major around the same time but was far from reaching such distinctive solutions.

Later, on the threshold of modernity, Alexander Scriabin will write mystically charged programme music in his “Black Mass” Piano Sonata, whose structural cohesion is generated by a striking “Leitakkord” (leading chord). Here the traditional formal scheme is finished off once and for all. In the Piano Sonata Op. 1, written during his period of study with Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg complies formally with the genre’s tradition but leads it harmonically in a new direction: a path along which both pupil and teacher will consistently progress.

Performing this programme will be one of the most versatile artists of our time, the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a master interpreter, equally at home in Liszt and Berg.