Lizst: Music of Love and Death
Reinhard Becker, Piano
Franz Liszt (1811–1886) followed one supreme maxim: to renew music by conjoining it with poetry in an intimate union. His poetic ideas sprang mainly from the visual arts, the Bible, and the works of Weimar Classicism. The central human topics of these ideas – God, love, and death – were to be the subjects of his music, too. In order to translate these into compositions, Liszt gave perfectly new meanings to sound and form as elements of texture and expression. Often he would borrow his means from the spiritual cosmos of whichever artwork had spurred his musical creativity.
What occasioned Sposalizio was Raffael's painting of the same title. A pentatonic motif and a chorale suggestive of Gregorian chant unite under a raised pulse (in double time).
While a model to all future water pieces, Les Jeux d'eaux à la villa d'Este (1881) also hinge upon a poetically religious idea. After the basic motif has metamorphosed from the main key of F sharp major to its mediant D major, the composer quotes in a footnote from the Gospel of John (4,14) – "Sed aqua quam ego dabo, fiet in fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam."
Il Penseroso, the sculpture by Michelangelo, prompted Liszt to compose something akin to a funeral march, whose musical thought develops through harmony. The melody is all but reduced to tonal repetitions.
According to Liszt's pupils, the Ballade in B minor (1854) was written under the impression of Friedrich Schiller's Hero and Leander. Since this is a tragic love story, and given that Liszt was Richard Wagner's central musical supplier, it is no surprise that the Ballade comes so close to Tristan in harmony and expression while predating it by a decade.
Pensée des Morts (1853) is shaped by elements of the liturgical speaking chorus from psalm 130: a three-tone motif ranging across a third, tone repetitions, and the rhythm of the spoken Latin text –
"De profundis clamavi a te Domine Domine exaudi vocem meam Fiant aures tuae intendentes In vocem deprecationes meae"
The Variations on the Basso Continuo from the First Movement of the Cantata "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" by Bach (1862) follow at the beginning and end of the Cantata BWV 12. When the introduction has presented the lamenting bass, the variations section ensues in the form of a passacaglia. Denser and denser polyphony builds up until the piece reaches its climax in the recita- tive. After a virtuoso unfolding, Liszt quotes the chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" from the Cantata and, changing to the major key, closes this work to which he attached great significance.
Reinhard Becker: A biography
Pianist Reinhard Becker received his first musical education from Heidi Bader-Benmesaoud (piano) and Wolfgang Gönnenwein (theory) at Michelbach/Bilz, a boarding school then very much musically oriented. He was professionally trained by Hans Kann (Vienna) and Naoyuki Taneda (Karlsruhe). Studies with Hans Leygraf (Salzburg) and Günter Reinhold (Karlsruhe) complemented this foundation.
Since 1981, Becker has taught a piano class at the University of Music Trossingen. From this class, numerous piano educators and pianists have emerged, among them many top prize winners in international competitions (Busoni, Gina Bachauer-Salt Lake City, WPC London, Bellini and others).
He has undertaken concert tours to Brazil, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Singapore, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United States and Yugoslavia. Becker's repertoire focuses on Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Liszt and Debussy, to each of whom he dedicated special programmes.
In addition to constantly expanding his standard repertoire, he takes a particular interest in recent developments in piano composition. Reinhard Becker has recorded for radio, television, and on CD. His earliest recordings were of works by Johann Sebastian Bach for television.