As you may well know, sometimes I stumble over a name that makes me curious or that makes me remember something have read, I look a few things up and – oh boy! I find a little treasure. That’s what happened two weeks ago. I stumbled over the name of Sergey Lyapunov, I remembered he was part of Mily Balakirev’s “Mighty Five”* and I fell in love with his 12 “Etudes d’exécution transcendante”, Lyapunov’s hommage to Franz Liszt, modeled on Liszt’s own 20 “Etudes d’exécution transcendante”. However Liszt had planned to write such “Etudes” in all major and minor keys, a project he did not finish. Working down the circle of fifth* with parallel keys, Liszt reached as far as B flat minor. Lyapunov wrote his “Etudes” in the keys Liszt did not use.
Do you know Capitaine Fracasse? Imagine France in the 17th century under the reign of Louis XIII. A wet and windy night in the Gascogne, a derelict mansion, cut off from the rest of world. In the kitchen, the only heated room, the fire is dying down. The Baron de Sigognac, a solitary and impoverished young nobleman, muses about his sad fate, when a bunch of comedians knocks at his door and seeks shelter. During the night, he feels he has to make a decision. He can continue to mourn the past glory of his family, stay in the old mansion with his faithful servant Pierre and die from poverty. Or he can give his life a meaning he never anticipated and join the comedians assuming a new name: Capitaine Fracasse.
Faust – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s most famous work. How I hated it. How I loved. it. As a teenager I had to confront Part I at school. I loved the poetry, I loved the plot, but the work contained so many ideas, allusions, allegories that I would have needed the assistance of Mephistopheles himself to understand it all. But I wasn’t ready to sign the devil’s deal with my own blood and I am not ready for that today, so I guess I will read it once more and hope for the best. If I can’t grasp the forces that hold the universe together – well, there are legions of unafraid scientists to get to the bottom of things.
In Greek mythology, the Titans were members of the second generation of divine beings. In the field of piano music, Franz Liszt was a titan. An exceptionally gifted pianist, an impressive composer, a revolutionary spirit, a paragon for many of the next generation of musicians. But being a titan comes at the price of loneliness. Towards the end of his life, Liszt complained that the world did not understand his language anymore, that his gifts were no longer appreciated.