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Louis Kentner plays Liszt "Csárdás Macabre"

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Published on Dec 16, 2009

Liszt discovered late in life that writing Hungarian music allowed him to experiment more freely, as though asserting his national identity provided the strength and sense of purpose to break away from the limitations of Western European music. For the first time he turned his attention to the Csárdás (read as Chaar-daash), a Hungarian folk dance.

The three Csárdás that Liszt wrote between 1881 and 1884 - titled Csárdás Macabre, Csárdás and Csárdás Obstinée - are less freely treated than the Hungarian Rhapsodies and remain more specifically Hungarian than gypsy in thematic material. Their spare lines, angular rhythms and advanced harmonies show these pieces to be direct ancestors of Bartók's work. Because of these attributes, the Csárdás are considered to be among the more interesting of the composer's late output.

A potential mistake is labeling Csárdás Macabre as atonal on the basis of hearing strange sonorities at the surface of the music, as it is solidly based on compositional procedures consistent with Liszt's earlier style. It is written in a miniature sonata form, with the bare fifths at the opening without any precedent in Liszt's output.

More intriguing is the second-subject stage of the structure; this is either a parody of the Dies irae or a quotation from the Hungarian folk song, "Ég a kunyhó, ropog a nág". Both theories have their advocates.

Liszt did not indicate what he referred to, from the two above, though he did write on the manuscript after he had finished it, "May one write or listen to such a thing?"...

~~~

Louis Kentner (1905 - 1987)

Hungarian pianist who excelled in the works of Chopin and Liszt, as well as the Hungarian repertoire. He was born Lajos Kentner in Karwin in Austrian Silesia. He received his education as a musician at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest from 1911 to 1922, studying with Arnold Székely, Hans Koessler, Zoltán Kodály and Leo Weiner.

Kentner commenced his concert career at the age of 15. He was awarded 5th Prize at the 1932 International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw; and he won a Liszt prize in Budapest. He moved to England permanently in 1935. He gave radio broadcasts of the complete sonatas of Beethoven and Schubert, the complete Well-Tempered Clavier of Bach, and the complete Années de Pèlerinage of Liszt.

He was President of the British Liszt Society for many years, until his death.

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