The opening few line’s of these program notes are very engaging, alluding the Lizst as ‘music’s misunderstood genius’ and ‘the greatest pianist of his time’. As the reader, I immediately wanted to read further to gain more insight into the subject.

The notes provide great information on the context and life of Liszt after delving into the facts about the concerto. It speaks of his appreciation of Franz Schubert, a fellow Austrian composer who composed Wanderer Fantasy, the piece which would inspire Liszt’s first concerto. The notes then explain the origins of his second concerto. This time inspired by Henry Litolff, Liszt’s Concerto Symphonique heavily explored Litolff’s “unconventional designs for large pieces combining piano and orchestra”.

The facts on the concerto itself are provided in the passage before the main notes. These are much more factual and less spirited than the contextual passages, however, it does provide essential information in a concise manner pertinent to understanding the piece. It explains when it was composed (1839), its first American performance (1870), and its performance time (22 minutes). Following this, it explains the facts on the Chicago Symphony itself, but significantly, when they first performed it (1901). Although this passage is a little dry and lacks the sensational language of the following notes, it is effective in conveying key information to the reader in a short period of time before they lose interest, so I’d actually argue it is engaging.

The notes appeal to everyone, and don’t assume vast knowledge of the reader on the subject. As a fan of Liszt some of the basic contextual stuff I was already aware of, however, it does provide new information specific to the concerto, such as:

Liszt had taken to heart Litolff’s idea of solo and orchestra as two closely integrated entities. Where Liszt introduced the soloist in a dazzling display of octaves and filigree in the first concerto, here the piano slips in with gentle arpeggios beneath the quiet wind music that opens the work

To this extent the program is all-encompassing. While conveying basic information about Liszt and his information, it also provides meticulous detail that even the most knowledgeable can appreciate.

References

Huscher, Phillip. 2017. Piano Concerto No. 2 In A Major Program Notes. Ebook. 1st ed. Chicago: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Accessed May 3. https://cso.org/uploadedFiles/1_Tickets_and_Events/Program_Notes/052710_ProgramNotes_Liszt_PianoConcerto2.pdf.

“Libguides: Preparing For A Recital: Examples Of Program Notes”. 2017. Lib.Guides.Umd.Edu. http://lib.guides.umd.edu/c.php?g=326879&p=2194307.

Scaife, Nigel. 2005. Writing Program Notes. Ebook. 1st ed. London: Royal Academy of Music. http://www.abrsm.org/resources/writingProgNotesApr05.pdf.

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