Franz Liszt: Reimagining Wagner (Piano Paraphrases and Transcriptions)


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    According to Ludwig van Beethoven, the value of things is directly proportional to their weight. ‘Heavy’ for Beethoven means ‘deep’, ‘important’, ‘of great value’. From this perspective, it seems impossible to associate the adjectives “fresh”, “light”, “youthful” with such a vision, but that is exactly what Filippo Tenisci manages to do in this album: a path that goes deep, searches for radical meanings, exalts the precious connections between two giants such as Wagner and Liszt, while maintaining all the freshness of a 24-year-old, all the lightness of an enthusiastic approach, while respecting the musical writing and without excessive superstructures.
    When choosing Liszt’s transcriptions of Wagner’s masterpieces, the risk is to exaggerate, to inflate sound and intentions. The real challenge is to be able to render all the complexity inherent in the notes and the meanings behind them with lightness, simplicity and intellectual honesty, avoiding indulging in facile effect and expressive redundancy.
    In the eight pieces contained in the work, Filippo Tenisci tells the stories of the Maestros by getting rid of the superfluous, going straight to the heart of the ultimate meaning, accompanying us on an intimate and solitary journey, which seems to be an oxymoron when speaking of Liszt and Wagner. Even Liszt, who brings the world of Wagner to the piano, makes a necessary Michelangelo-like selection, ‘removing’ the elements that are not functional to his instrument. The Lisztian miracle of these paraphrases is that nothing is lost of the original orchestral and vocal complexity; on the contrary, the piano solo seems to be enriched with an infinite palette of colours and possibilities.
    Tenisci is very careful in his handling of these pages; one can unmistakably hear all the care taken in approaching these masterpieces.
    Starting with the Scarlattian brilliance of the performance of Einzug der Gäste auf der Wartburg, which brings back to us all the polyphonic clarity of the Tannähuser, where the weight of the various sections is rendered with total clarity: the careful preparation of the dynamic variations, the extreme cantabile of the melodic lines, all contribute to a global and specific vision at the same time, which refers to Wagnerian musical thought (for everyone and for each individual) through the pianistic framework of the genius of Raiding.
    The more tuneful, deeply meditative writing of the Pilgerchor is rendered by a full and deep sound that Filippo Tenisci interprets in a penetrating and peremptory manner. The variegated kaleidoscope of expressive choices, along with refined taste, lingers on the delicate embellishments of O, du mein holder Abendstern, which create a precious sparkle on which the melody rests elegantly and harmoniously. All the passages, the shifts in the various registers of the piano, are handled with grace and accuracy. With Liszt’s transcriptions this is a very important element, because obviously the piano is called upon to sing orchestrally and one risks abrupt ruptures or harsh and unpleasant sounds, exaggerating with the resonance pedal in an attempt to give cohesion. Our interpreter, on the contrary, perfectly balances the use of the pedal and scrupulously prepares each change.
    With the Spinnerlied, all the dazzling splendour of the music written for the piano is well supported by the solid and effective technique that Tenisci deploys, always finalising every element of Liszt’s astonishing virtuosity in an expressive key, which is here fully expressed and exalted.
    The last tracks dedicated to Lohengrin are striking for the dichotomy of the sound, which is rendered in all its fullness as well as in its poetic rarefaction, a precious gift on the piano.
    Also convincing is the narrative choice of the arrangement of the pieces, which unfold in many shades in this profound, intense and highly personal journey, conducted with grace, care and lightness. All of this in spite of dear old Ludwig.

    Gaia Vazzoler © 2023
    Translation: Elaine Pubrick Grosso


    Filippo Tenisci
    Born in 1998 in Tirana, Filippo Tenisci began his musical studies at an early age in Albania and later in Italy with M^ Emira Dervinyte. He continued his piano training mainly under the guidance of Maestros Daniel Rivera, Massimo Spada, Roberto Galletto and Maurizio Baglini. He completed his studies in 2022 at the Pietro Mascagni Conservatory of Livorno graduating with 110, Praise and Honorable Mention. He attended several master classes with renowned masters Beatrice Rana, Elisso Virsaladze, Boris Petrushansky, Andrea Lucchesini, Ewa Pobłocka, Justas Dvarionas, Uta Weyand, Jun Kanno, Ralf Nattkemper and Elisabetta Guglielmin. In 2022 he won first prize at the "Premio Crescendo" in Florence and 2nd prize at the historic "Marco Bramanti" competition in Forte dei Marmi (LU). In 2021 he made his debut with the Roma Tre Orchestra performing the Concerto No.15 K.450 by W.A.Mozart, under the direction of Maestro Sieva Borzak. Also with Roma Tre Orchestra, as part of the Baglini Project, he played in W.A.Mozart's Concerto for 3 Pianos and Orchestra, with pianists Giuseppe Rossi and M° Maurizio Baglini, who also conducted and concerted. In the same year, he recorded Beethoven's 2nd Symphony Op. 36 in Liszt's virtuoso piano transcription for RAI 5, in the format "Ut Musica - Il Mascagni a Livorno." In 2020, he collaborated on the documentary "Richard Wagner, ovvero la musica dell'avvenire" by Valerio Vicari. In October 2019, he won second prize and the "Scarlatti" prize at the Riga International Competition for Young Pianists. In 2018: he was proclaimed the overall winner of the International Competition for Youth "Dinu Lipatti"; he won first prize in the Franz Liszt Competition at the Hungarian Academy in Rome; he ranked among the top 8 semifinalists in the prestigious Pianale Academy & Competition, also receiving a scholarship. In 2016, he won the third prize at the International Competition "Resonances" in Paris and the prize for the best performer of Ukrainian music. He has performed in many prestigious halls in Italy such as the Auditorium Parco della musica, selected for the lecture/concert of pianist Lang Lang, on the occasion of the "Lang Lang Lang Fest" (2012), in the Giuseppe Verdi Theater in Pordenone, as part of the "TGVP on demand" Project with M° Maurizio Baglini (2021), in the Aula Magna of the Faculty of Humanities of Roma Tre (starting in 2018), in the National Museum of Arts in Bucharest (2022); and in various international festivals such as the Pontine Festival in Sermoneta (52nd, 55th and 56th), Federico Cesi Festival, XVI Rassegna Pietro Nardini (2022), Villa Pennisi in Musica (2016-2020-2022), La Milanesiana (2021), "Villa Borghese Piano Day" (2017-2018-2019), Fano Music Fest (4thand 5th), Concerti del Tempietto, Livorno Music Festival, Scriabin Concert Series, Propatria Festival, Classic for Teens, Monferrato Classic Festival, Pontedera Music Festival, and others. Very active internationally, he has performed in: Spain (2022), at the Sala Eutherpe in León, Romania (2020 and 2022), Germany (2018 and 2021), in the prestigious concert halls Eichenzeller Schlosschen Kultursaal, Propstei Johannesberg and Alte Universitat Fulda, Latvia, Bosnia (2019), France (2016) and Switzerland (2016); always enjoying great success among audiences and excellent reviews from critics and the press. He received the Propatria Festival Award in Bucharest (2022) for enhancing the event by promoting Romanian musical excellence in Italy and abroad. He is currently engaged in the full recording of Wagner/Liszt transcriptions, a project that will result in a double disc by 2024.


    Franz Liszt: (b Raiding, (Doborján), 22 Oct 1811; d Bayreuth, 31 July 1886). Hungarian composer, pianist and teacher. He was one of the leaders of the Romantic movement in music. In his compositions he developed new methods, both imaginative and technical, which left their mark upon his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and procedures; he also evolved the method of ‘transformation of themes’ as part of his revolution in form, made radical experiments in harmony and invented the symphonic poem for orchestra. As the greatest piano virtuoso of his time, he used his sensational technique and captivating concert personality not only for personal effect but to spread, through his transcriptions, knowledge of other composers’ music. As a conductor and teacher, especially at Weimar, he made himself the most influential figure of the New German School dedicated to progress in music. His unremitting championship of Wagner and Berlioz helped these composers achieve a wider European fame. Equally important was his unrivalled commitment to preserving and promoting the best of the past, including Bach, Handel, Schubert, Weber and above all Beethoven; his performances of such works as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Hammerklavier Sonata created new audiences for music hitherto regarded as incomprehensible. The seeming contradictions in his personal life – a strong religious impulse mingled with a love of worldly sensation – were resolved by him with difficulty. Yet the vast amount of new biographical information makes the unthinking view of him as ‘half gypsy, half priest’ impossible to sustain. He contained in his character more of the ideals and aspirations of the 19th century than any other major musician.

    Profile from The New Grove dictionary of Music and Musicians