Duality, the concept which inspires this year’s edition of our festival, is exquisitely reflected throughout the closing program. In a real concert marathon, the music of the two romantic masters of pianistic virtuosity – Chopin and Liszt – states the most passionate interchange of power: a virtuoso of intimacy facing the first megastar of the keyboard in history; a melancholically shy and an invincible showman; two friends encountering one another with admiration and jealousy, endorsement and alienation; two contrasting destinies.
Chopin is the embodiment of a romantic hero: unhappy in love, living in exile, isolated from his beloved home, always ill, stuck in his own universe, dedicated exclusively to the piano and dead before his forties. With a small stature, weak and unattractive, Chopin can be regarded as opposite to Liszt. An absolute virtuoso, a Hungarian nationalist without the language, polyglot and cosmopolitan, man of the world, composer of monumental symphonic poems, pillar of the New German School along with his son-in-law, Richard Wagner, a tall and handsome man, lover for princesses, francmason as a young man and monk later in life, Liszt resembles a Hollywood hero.
If we take a closer look at the two concert pairs to be presented in the closing of this festival, we notice how similar Chopin’sopuses are and howdifferent Liszt’s ones. While the Polish bard appeared on the big stage at twenty years of age, premiering these two concerts simultaneously composed, Liszt needed twenty years of gestation, of abandonment, of returns, numerous corrections and quitting his solo career in order to create works that he considered worthy of being publicly presented. Chopin composes swiftly, maturely, with originality and he does not change his style until the end. Liszt explores, exercises, crosses countless stages and produces successive musical revolutions. While his first concert describes the young Liszt as impetuous, challenging and breaking all technical boundaries, with a last stroke of the brilliant style deriving with the nineteenth century, the second concert manifestsambitions of a different class, primarily compositional. In fact, the first version was entitled Symphonic Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Not accidentally, the E-flat majorwas premiered by the composer himself as a soloist, while the A major had him as a conductor and one of his students performing the piano.
The orchestra has a fundamental role in Liszt’s work. His great qualities and the experience of composing for large ensembles contribute to a formidable, complex and demanding musicality for both performers and listeners. Chopin, on the other side, reduces the contribution of the orchestra, allowing the piano to occupy the forefront with a fascinating stream of cantilenas, with sophisticated and gentle ornaments and passages. He endows virtuosity to cast in an unmistakable charming poetic discourse, which makes Chopin the most favoured piano composer in the world.
This legato, this flowing structure of Chopin’s work, vigorous and in the same time internalized, can take more than half an hour and even forty minutes in the case of the E-minor Concerto,developed without any superfluous note or losing the attention of the audience. The piece follows the pattern of the classic concerto structure: sonata, adagio, dancing rondo and sonata again at the end.In Liszt’s compositions however, the signs of modernity are abundant and overflowing; his movements take no longer than twenty minutes and are loosely delimited. The four and six sections of his concerts are interconnected to each other by the same ideas that are systematically developed, varied and transformed into the most diverse and unexpected hypostases.
While Chopin remains faithful to himself and seems to have been born with a voice of his own, Liszt however exhibits a chameleonic spirit and his music is infused with Chopin’s influences and Wagnerian harmonies and leitmotivs. Therefore you are invited to a game of contrasts, to a journey through the kaleidoscopic world, lastingly alive and endlessly modern of the greatest romantic poets of the piano. They reach us with a language that allows us to mirror ourselves, with our dreams, our sufferings and our victories; a language that shaped the sensitivity and imagination of our generation, of our parents’ and grandparents’ with a profoundly humanistic direction, as only music can achieve.