About this Recording
8.550292 - CHOPIN: Piano Concerto No. 1 / LISZT: Piano Concerto No. 1

Fryderyk Chopin (1810 - 1849)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor, Op. 11

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Piano Concerto No.1 in E Flat Major

Fryderyk Chopin was born in Warsaw in 1810, the son of a respected teacher of French, Nicolas Chopin, who had made his home in Poland, after leaving his native France in 1787. Whatever his paternal ancestry, Fryderyk Chopin was thoroughly Polish, although he was to make his career in Paris.

As a child Chopin showed considerable ability in music, taking private lessons from the director of the Warsaw Conservatory Josef Elsner while he was still at school, and later studying at the Conservatory under the same teacher. He won some local fame in his native city, which offered relatively little opportunity for future development. After some experience of foreign travel, he accompanied a group of friends to Vienna, where his unpaid performances were greeted with approval, and in 1830 he finally took the decision to leave Poland and seek his fortune elsewhere. The second visit to Vienna, which coincided with the Polish rising against Russian domination, brought no appreciable result and in the early autumn of 1831 he moved to Paris, where he was to make his home.

In France Chopin was able to establish social contact with families of wealth and influence, as well as with humbler musicians. At first he seems to have looked askance at the Bohemian contempt for convention displayed by Liszt and his friends, but by 1837 he had established a liaison with the writer Aurore Dudevant, better known under her pen-name of George Sand. The relationship was to last for some ten years, coming to an end in 184 7 largely through difficulties that arose with George Sand's two children, now grown up.

The revolution of 1848 in Paris brought to an end, for the moment, Chopin's successful career as a piano teacher, an occupation which he enjoyed, and took him to England. He returned to Paris in November, 1848, his health progressively weakened by the tuberculosis from which he had long suffered. He died on 17th October, 1849.

Chopin's compositions for piano and orchestra were all written at the outset of his career, when it must have seemed the obvious road to fame. The E Minor Concerto which, although numbered first, was written second, was tried out in private once again and was played in the final public concert that Chopin gave in Warsaw, on 11th October, 1830. On 2nd November he left Poland, travelling to Breslau, to Dresden and then to Vienna. The new concerto was offered to the composer's friend Tytus Woyciechowski and while it expresses his love for his closest friend, it summarises in its slow movement his feelings for the young singer Konstancja Gladkowska. He described the Adagio as "like dreaming in beautiful spring-time by moonlight".

The E Minor Concerto has been subject to editing by various hands, since some have found fault with the orchestration, while others have taken exception to the length at which the orchestra states the first subject of the opening movement. The second movement is a romantic reminiscence of "a beloved landscape, reviving in one's soul beautiful memories", and the final Rondo provides a formal structure into which Chopin's genius seems to fit uneasily.

Franz Liszt was born at Raiding, in Hungary, in 1811, the son of a steward employed by Haydn's former patrons, the Esterházy family. As a boy he showed extraordinary musical ability, and money was raised, after he had played to the Hungarian nobility in Pressburg (the modern Bratislava), to send him to Vienna, where he took lessons from Czerny and was kissed by Beethoven, impressed by the boy's playing, in spite of the fact that he was almost stone deaf. In 1823 the family moved to Paris, a city that Liszt was later to regard as essentially his home. From here he undertook concert tours as a pianist and it was here, in 1831, that he heard the violinist Paganini, and resolved to follow his example.

Liszt became one of the most remarkable pianists of his time, fascinating audiences in a way that has its modern parallel in the adulation accorded to much less worthy popular performers. A liaison with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult, the mother of his three children, led to extensive travel abroad, and after their separation to an important change of direction, when, in 1848, he settled in Weimar as Director of Music to the Grand Duchy, solaced there by the presence of Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein, estranged wife of a Russian prince.

The last 25 years of his life Liszt described as a vie trifurquée, largely divided, as time went on, between Rome, Weimar and Budapest. In 1860 Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein had gone to Rome, hoping to have her first marriage annulled, as it had already been by the Russian Orthodox Church, and thus to be able to marry Liszt. He followed, in October 1861 reaching Rome, where he expected to marry. The marriage, however, never took place. Liszt settled in the city, lodging with a religious order, although not without material comforts, and turning his attention to church music, while the Princess continued her 24-volume study of the interior causes of the exterior weakness of the Catholic Church, living elsewhere in Rome. In 1869 he undertook to return from time to time to Weimar to teach and in 1871 he made a similar undertaking to Budapest, where he was regarded as something of a national hero. He died in 1886 during the course of a visit to Bayreuth, where his unforgiving daughter Cosima, the widow of Richard Wagner, continued the festival of her husband's works.

Liszt's legacy as a composer is a remarkable one. As a performer he led the way to new feats of virtuosity, a fact that has led some to regard his work as nothing more than facile showmanship. Yet even in those popular transcriptions where an element of the meretricious may seem to predominate, there is evidence of a strong and extraordinary musical intelligence and originality. His influence on his contemporaries was considerable: subsequent generations have found in his music some justification for claims that he and Wagner put forward as propagators of the music of the future.

Piano Concerto No.1 in E Flat Major was completed in 1849 with the assistance of Joachim Raft, who claimed a considerable share in Liszt's early orchestral compositions. It was twice revised, in 1853 and 1856.

István Székely
István Székely, born at Dunaujváros in 1960, is an outstanding representative of the newly emerging younger generation of Hungarian pianists. After early study of the piano from the age of five, he entered the Béla Bartók Music School in Budapest, and, after winning first prize in the First Liszt International Youth Piano Competition in 1977, embarked on a course of study at the Ferenc Liszt Academy. There his teachers included Dezsö Ránki and Zoltán Kocsis.

Relatively early in his career István Székely won a number of prizes, including an award in the 1981 Liszt-Bartók Competition in Budapest and first prize in the 1983 Salamanca International Piano Competition. He performs frequently in Hungary and has given concerts in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in Japan.

Joseph Banowetz
Born in the United States, part of Banowetz's early training was received in New York City with Carl Friedberg, a pupil of Clara Schumann. After continuing his studies at Vienna's Hochschule fur Musik und darstellende Kunst, Banowetz's career was launched upon his graduating with a First Prize in piano. He was then sent by the Austrian government on all extended European concert tour. Subsequently he has performed throughout North America, Europe, Russia, and Asia. In 1966 he was awarded the Pan American Prize by the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C.

Following his first appearances in the Orient in 1981, Banowetz's tours there have received ever-increasing enthusiastic response. He is the first foreign ar1ist ever to be invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture both to record and to give world premiere performances of a contemporary Chinese piano concerto (Huang An-lun Piano Concerto, Op. 25b). Banowetz has recorded with the CSR Symphony Orchestra, the Budapest Symphony, the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the China Central Opera Orchestra of Beijing.

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