Loved to dearth. Without remembering any legal documents I signed that had Satan written in the small print, just when I forget how tawdry and thin Liszt’s Faust Symphony is, it comes around again and I give it another chance. Too late. I hear the old guy cackle and the doors of Albert Hall clanging shut. The only way to overcome the symphony’s clattering banality is for the conductor to bash the score within an inch of its life. The thing won’t die — no fear of that — and if there is truly inspired leadership, as from Leonard Bernstein and Jascha Horenstein in their classic recordings, the music will bring genuine pleasure, like the circus.
The Rockport Chamber Music Festival concluded its official season with a piano recital by Russell Sherman, consisting of music by Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt. Of course, things go on year round now in the Festival’s wonderful new hall, the Shalin Liu Performance Center—it is intimate, beautiful, sounds great, looks out onto the harbor and the open sea—not enough admiring can be said about it. So there will continue to be good reasons for music lovers to visit Rockport.
I was not the only member of the Tannery Pond audience who has been following Jeremy Denk’s career with some avidity. He played there a few years ago, accompanying Paula Robison (who preceded Denk this summer) with quite a different group of colleagues. This particular gentleman, however, had heard him elsewhere, in his general concert-going, and, like me, instantly beame a Denkist — or perhaps we should call ourselves Denkonians, to avoid confusion with that particularly odious and venal branch of the medical profession.
My entry into the fold occurred at the Liszt Festival at Bard College, when I heard Mr. Denk perform the Liszt B minor Sonata. (He teaches there.) This seemed to me at the time, although I’ve heard some important pianists perform the work, including some great Lisztian intellectuals, like Kentner and Brendel, to be a supreme statement of the work. (Yes, somehow — most likely due to Liszt’s own exceptional intelligence and the literary culture he had acquired — at least some of his music is intellectual music, although he worked very hard at developing quite a different persona in his earlier career.)