Having unmatched piano proficiency and striking facial features, Franz Liszt embodied the 1800s concert pianist, garnering both envy and appreciation from his peers. The first ever classical superstar, Franz Liszt disregarded classical pretension by relating to the masses, mindfully incorporating contemporaneous art, religion, and poetry, and challenging unspoken rules by altering deeply revered, essentially consecrated, pieces by Beethoven et al. Liszt wanted to touch the world with his music rather than exist only in prestige, which makes his waning, though prolific career ironic.
His piano concertos, however, still get a lot of attention. Of them, Piano Concerto No. 2
especially conveys Liszt's popular appeal. Although Liszt was highly skilled at composing gargantuan, ridiculously complex compositions, he stayed away from unnecessary flash in Piano Concerto No. 2
, only favoring flamboyant virtuosity when suited.
Straying from convention, Liszt opted for continuous, but contrasted playing as opposed to typical separated 3-movement form. Taking an opening motif, Liszt switched around chief instruments and manipulated pacing frequently, molding each instrument, whenever leading, around this motif but allowing them still to journey Romantically, which elicits a feeling of structural ambiguity throughout. But, fragmented as each path seems, they aren't actually all that detached, because they always connect with Piano Concerto No. 2
's foundational melody, which is kept interesting through a thematically unrelated piano part that plays on its outskirts. These piano sections, serving as breaks from thematic material, allow for seamless transition between slow and fast sections.
Piano Concerto No. 2
's attraction for me stems from Liszt's refusal to follow rules or conform to nationalistic tendencies. Apart from being structurally different, it defies certain boundaries by releasing all sorts of sensations; most glaringly, discovery. Liszt composed this big
feeling with restraint, physicalizing discovery, so much so that it feels injected into your flesh, as though instead of hearing this sensation, it is truly being performed bodily
. In addition, Piano Concerto No. 2
inserts itself into many classical traditions. The solo piano often seems Debussian, expressing running river, tear drop qualities; also, there's stronger, march-ish segments that feel Dvorak. Even though Debussy and Dvorak don't transcend their labels as French and Russian, Liszt and this composition do, expressly showing how Liszt combined technical prowess and passion, understanding emotion universally as opposed to nationally, to build a beautiful and heterogeneous Piano Concerto No. 2