This was the title of a music festival dedicated to the 200th anniversary since the birth of the great Hungarian composer Ferencz Liszt. The festival successfully ran at the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan. Between November 5 and December 1 Uzbek musicians performed the composer’s both most popular and lesser-known pieces. The unique artistic personality of the Great Hungarian, as Liszt was referred to by his contemporaries, was a natural blend of outstanding composer, unrivalled virtuoso pianist, brilliant conductor, authoritative teacher and innovator, gifted commentator, musical critic, philosopher and thinker, as well as tireless public activist, enlightener and administrator.
In year 2011 that UNESCO declared the Year of Ferencz Liszt, new generations, paying tribute to the titanic scope of his diverse and prolific activities in the domain of culture, art and music pedagogy, celebrated this important date all over the world. Liszt’s music has always been popular, and every musician gets an exposure to his work. The 200th anniversary presented a wonderful opportunity to turn once again to the legacy of the great Romantic composer, and get a fresh insight into his compositions from the perspective of our time.
Liszt’s work is characterized by the features from several national musical cultures: primarily his native Hungarian, as well as Austrian, German, French, Italian, Swiss, Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Czech, and Spanish. Hungary, France, and Germany claim Liszt to be part of their national culture. Wherever he lived, he left a remarkable footprint in the musical history of those places. He was truly the patriarch of European music. Pianists from all countries wanted to learn from him, and young composers sought his advice and assistance.
Having left his home country in his childhood years and spending most of his life in other countries, Liszt maintained a connection with it through art, taking pride in his people, his homeland, and always stressing his Hungarian origin. In 1847 the composer said that “Of all living artists I am the only one who dares to refer to my proud home. While others vegetated in shallow waters, I kept sailing forward in the high seas of the great nation. I trust my guiding star, and my purpose in life is to see that someday Hungary would refer to me with pride”(1, p. 155).
Throughout his career Liszt turned to Hungarian themes. He wrote “The Heroic March in Hungarian Style”, cantata “Hungary”, the famous “Funeral March” (in honour of the fallen heroes), and several notebooks of Hungarian melodies and rhapsodies (twenty-one pieces altogether). In the 1850s, the composer created three symphonic poems inspired by the images of his homeland: “Lamenting the Heroes”, “Hungary”, “Battle of the Huns”, and fifteen Hungarian rhapsodies – free arrangements of folk tunes. Hungarian themes can also be heard in Liszt’s sacred compositions written specifically for Hungary. In 1860s-1890s, he increasingly often turns to Hungarian themes in his songs, piano pieces, renditions and fantasies based on Hungarian composers’ themes, and creates a piano cycle called “Hungarian Historical Portraits”. Altogether, he created 130 compositions on Hungarian themes. Liszt authored a book titled “On the Gypsies and their music in Hungary”, actively contributed to Hungarian musical and public life, made many appearances in Budapest as conductor and pianist, always with the purpose of raising funds for charity. In 1875, at the initiative of Ferencz Liszt, Budapest opened the National Music Academy, and the composer was made its first president. Today, the Academy bears his name. Liszt attached great importance to music education, helping young musicians in the early days of their career; among them are Bedrich Smetana, Edward Grieg, and Isaac Albéniz. Liszt argued that “Art is not something that exists by itself; it is only one aspect of humanity that cannot be separated from human life, and it constantly relates and mutually influences the entire content of life”.
Impressed by the brilliant performance of the great violinist Niccolo Paganini, Liszt became determined to reach the same level of technical perfection on the piano as the Italian had on the violin. The famous Grand Etudes after Paganini gained popularity around the world, becoming an integral part of pianists’ repertoire. Thus, Liszt discovered and demonstrated truly endless possibilities of the piano – the only instrument on which any music can be played. Great 19th century pianist Anton Rubinstein said about the piano: “You think it is one instrument? It is one hundred instruments!” (3, p. 66). Liszt used to say, “My grand piano for me is the same as the frigate for the seaman, as for the Arab his horse… More than that, it has been my “Self”, my tongue, and my life!” (4, p. 88).
Liszt made bold discoveries in terms of musical expressive means and expanded the range of artistic musical content by associating it with other art forms, such as literature, poetry, painting and sculpture. Ancient myths and characters created by Shakespeare, Goethe, Hugo, Lamartine, Schiller, Byron, Tasso, and others provided a productive impetus for creating his own concepts expounded in the prefaces to his programme music.
For musicians, including pianists from Uzbekistan, the Year of Ferencz Liszt provided a wonderful opportunity to take a new look at his work and demonstrate their performance skills. Quite significant in this respect was the initiative of the teaching staff of the special piano department of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, who designed an innovative project titled “The Years of Wandering” that ran throughout 2011 in Tashkent and other cities of the country. They initiated the “Golden Music Leaf Fall” festival that summed up the activities of the Ferencz Liszt Year in Uzbekistan and delivered a powerful finale – the music festival in Tashkent.
On the 5th of November the festival was opened in the Grand Hall of the Conservatory; in front of a large audience Professor D. Muradova, the Rector, handed over to Istvan Iyarte, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Hungary, a colourful Almanac titled “Golden Music Leaf Fall” created by teachers and students of the Conservatory. On that evening musicians performed a symphonic poem “Preludes” – played by the symphony orchestra of the musical studio-theatre of the Conservatory, conducted by the People’s Artist of Uzbekistan Professor Z. Khaknazarov; and two concerts for piano and orchestra. The famous First Concert that requires high concentration of intellectual, emotional and technical capabilities was performed by E. Mirkasymova who brilliantly presented it in its full splendour. The Second Piano Concerto acquired a romantic sound in the interpretation of R. Gulyamova.
On November 10, at the second concert of the festival, the Honoured Artist of Uzbekistan A. Sharipova and N. Polatkhanova played Liszt’s large-scale compositions for two pianos, which are rarely performed on concert platform: “Reminiscences of Bellini’s “Norma”", “Fantasy on the Theme from Beethoven’s “The Ruins of Athens”", and “Reminiscences of Mozart’s “Don Juan”". The last piece was illustrated by multimedia artwork created by artist Inna Sandler.
On November 17, in the Conservatory’s Minor Hall the students of the piano department delivered the third concert of the festival, playing popular pieces of Ferencz Liszt. Young pianists proved themselves worthy of the traditions of performing Liszt’s music in Uzbekistan.
At the forth festival concert in the Organ Hall held on November 24 the Conservatory faculty – pianists M. Fayzieva and R. Palvanov, and organist M. Aminova performed solo. Fayzieva demonstrated her deep insight into the content of Liszt’s music with its romantic poeticism. Palvanov’s interpretation of the piece created by the romantic composer appealed to the audience through its individuality and the performer’s desire to remain himself, rather than copy someone else’s performance manner that did not match his own temperament. Organ Prelude and Fugue on the Bach Theme performed by M. Aminova was quite striking in the grandeur of musical ideas of Bach and Liszt naturally combined in this impressive composition revealing the magnificence of organ timbers and the powerful sound of organ – the king among musical instruments.
The fifth concert on November 28 revived the tradition of Liszt’s solo concerts; it took place at the Grand Hall of the Conservatory, and through the evening one artist performed the whole programme. Ferencz Liszt called this kind of concert a “musical monologue”. The programme of the fifth concert included the composer’s grand cyclical piece called “Poetic and Religious Harmonies” performed by Professor Polatkhanova, who enchanted her listeners by the magic sound, poeticism, and the rich semantic and imagery dimensions of the music.
On December 1, at the Organ Hall of the Conservatory the sixth and final concert of the festival took place, delivering a meaningful conclusion to the festival cycle. Liszt’s fantasy-sonata “After reading Dante” was performed by the Honoured Artist of Uzbekistan Professor A. Sharipova; sonata in B minor inspired by Goethe’s character Faust, which is also known as the Faust-Sonata, was performed by Professor M. Gumarov; and organ Fantasy and Fugue based on the Chorale “Ad nos ad solutarem undam” from “The Prophet” opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer was played by Assistant Professor M. Aminova. These monumental fresco-like works of Ferencz Liszt wonderfully performed by the Uzbek artists excited delight and admiration of the large attending audience.
The music festival dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Ferencz Liszt has become a significant event in the cultural life of Uzbekistan. It has demonstrated the high standard of piano performance art in Uzbekistan in different professional and age categories, provided good impetus for creative development of young musicians, revealed the potential and capability of the piano department conservatory students, outlined the prospects for further exploring the world’s piano literature, and confirmed that life-ascertaining music of Ferencz Liszt has retained its relevance and import.
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