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Denis Matsuev: Liszt's Great Gamechanger

Southbank Centre: Royal Festival HallBelvedere Road, London, Greater London, SE1 8XX, United Kingdom
Dates/times in London time zone
Wednesday 09 June 202119:30
Denis MatsuevPiano

This major recital from the latest in a distinguished line of Russian virtuosos showcases Liszt’s thundering, rule-breaking B minor sonata.

When Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor first appeared in 1853, it was condemned as an abomination.

Gone was Liszt’s trademark ‘story in music,’ overtly inspired by literature or myth. In its place was a straight, abstract sonata – the very thing the composer had preached against.

But Liszt had tricked everyone. His B minor sonata is both abstract and narrative, diligent and dramatic.

Some say it tells the story of Faust. Others suggest that it contains, in its thundering themes and endless transformations, Liszt’s own spiritual autobiography.

Whatever lies underneath the notes, those notes are among the most imposing ever conceived for a keyboard.

Liszt’s pulsating, super-charged sonata is the most important piano work of the 19th century.

It progresses almost like a dream, through shape-shifting motifs, tricks of perception and endless transformations in mood.

Matsuev paves the way for this monumental work with Schumann’s tender reflections on childhood in Kinderszenen.

If Liszt’s B minor Sonata is one of the landmarks of the piano repertory, Tchaikovsky’s solo piano music is still a well-kept secret.

Dumka is one of the composer’s most substantial piano works. Based on a melancholic Ukrainian song, the piece musters strength out of its own weariness and culminates in a bravura cadenza.

Matsuev, whose interpretations of Russian repertoire have prompted discussion around the world, ends with Tchaikovsky’s unjustly neglected Grande Sonata.

Infused with the composer’s creative genius, the unusually beautiful melodic material and emotional content is just waiting to be expressed.

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