On Liszt’s 200th birthday, Leslie Howard proves the composer-pianist was no empty showman.
Having played so much Liszt – more than anyone in history has, on your 99-CD boxed set! – you must have a unique insight into what kind of pianist he was.
Well, I can tell you he must have sat quietly, despite all of the caricatures of him throwing himself around when he was 24 years old. To play Liszt without fatigue, you must use only the muscles that are required and keep the rest relaxed. And his music sits extremely well under the hands; he’s much, much easier to play than Schubert.
Of course, it’s difficult, and you’ve got lots of things to do, and you really do need to know how to play the piano. But there is nothing that he writes that is awkward, whereas there’s almost nothing Schubert writes that isn’tawkward, because he just didn’t have the same keyboard gifts. Similarly, there is nothing in Liszt that is anywhere near as difficult to play as the Dvorák Piano Concerto – a magnificent piece of music, but one of the most ungainly bits of piano writing ever printed!