Dealing with Liszt’s genius and his critics


Jacques Drillon: Liszt transcripteur – Schubert et l’infini.
ISBN 978-2742-5463-6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A book for music enthusiasts only, very focused, well researched and extremely well written about Liszt’s excellence in transforming orchestral or chamber music into pieces for the piano and Schubert’s many unfinished works. Grillon is not afraid of stepping on the toes of world-class musicians, music critics and musicologists where they deserve it. He is French, after all!

One of Franz Liszt’s masterworks is the piano cycle “Années de Pélerinage:

Pilgrimage to Switzerland and Italy

Franz Schubert wrote a magnificent quartet called “Death and the Maiden”:

Composing while death is knocking on the door

A brilliant fool’s story of survival

Angel Wagenstein: Isaac’s Torah ISBN: 978-1-59051-245-6 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Isaac Blumenfeld survives two world wars, the Holocaust and Stalin’s camps mainly by acting like a fool. A grim and witty novel about a fate that stands for the fate of many Eastern European Jews, peppered with black humour and far-reaching theological and philosophical reflections. Superb story-telling – you will laugh and cry and hopefully think about the lessons of the past for the present and the future. For this is one of the leitmotivs of the novel: Becoming an accomplice to crime by looking away when populism has its way. מזל טוב to the Bulgarian author.

Dmitry Shostakovich has written a very impressive symphony named after the massacre in Babi Yar (Ukraine), one of the settings of Wagenstein’s novel:

Mass murder and a lesson in morality

Famous women – so much could be said

Brigitte Beier; Karina Schmit: Hier spielt die Musik. ISBN 978-2-932338-65-6. ⭐️⭐️ 20 portraits of female classical musicians, composers and conductors. A couple of interesting details I did not yet know about Patricia Kopatchinskaya, Sarah Willis and Sofia Gubaidulina, but other than that… expectably stereotypical answers to often uninspired interviewer questions and copy-pastes of what music critics have said already. Disappointing.

Baroque music performed by Hille Perl, expert viola da gamba player, will have to compensate for a disappointing book:

A meditation about what matters

Bach’s life through the eyes of his wife

Esther Meynell: La petite chronique d’Anna Magdalena Bach. ISBN 978-2-283-02556-7 (English title: The Little Chronicle Of Magdalena Bach) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A truly charming novel retracing Johann Sebastian Bach’s life through the eyes of his second wife  Anna Magdalena. The book was first published anonymously; the author Esther Meynell (1878-1955) was an English novelist. A fictional biography emphasing the adoration Anna Magdalena felt for her husband as well as her husband’s music and depicting life in a not-so-ordinary household in Leipzig in the 18th century.

One of my favourite Bach compositions are the Brandenburg Concerts:

Bach appeals to our sense of beauty.

The Judas brotherhood and the apocalypse

Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne: Apocalypse. ISBN 978-2-266-19629-1 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ One more mystery the French police inspector Marcas, a free mason, has to solve. Multiple murders, a valuable drawing by Poussin, a bloodthirsty sect seeking to avenge Judas the traitor – simply brilliant!

Since the book is full of hints to Jesus’ death on the cross, I could think of no better music to set the atmosphere than Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s “Rosary Sonatas”:

Escape from daily life with the Mystery Sonatas