Although Franz Liszt lived to be 75 years, and gave his last piano recital at the age of only 36, the predominant image of him is still that of the piano virtuoso, and to some extent the composer of virtuoso works for solo piano. With this recording of a selection of his music for violin and piano, Ulf Wallin and Roland Pöntinen aim at expanding our understanding of a composer who in fact wrote in a variety of genres, and whose style, especially in the later works, evolved in a manner that was far ahead of its time. This includes the abolition of harmonic functions, unresolved dissonances, whole-tone scales, sequences of tritones and cluster chords – features which his contemporaries found incomprehensible, but which we today can recognize as pioneering elements that prepared the way for composers such as Schoenberg and Bartók. Liszt composed his first music for violin and piano as early as 1832, and returned to this instrumental combination throughout his life, writing La lugubre gondola as late as 1882–83. Some of the pieces are reworkings of earlier compositions, for instance the Hungarian Rhapsody No.12, originally for piano solo but equally if not more passionate and dramatic in this version for violin and piano. In the early Grand Duo concertant pure virtuosity and the joy of playing are to the fore, but in the late works Liszt takes us on a journey into his own innermost soul, with all its doubts, contradictions and abysses.
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