Symphony ‘en-Liszts’ pianist for flood relief

Post date: Nov 16, 2011 3:41:07 AM

November 10, 2011

By CEECY NUCKER - Correspondent ( , Minot Daily News

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Minot Symphony Orchestra conductor Dennis Simons planned this weekend with pianist Paul Barnes quite a while ago in recognition of composer Franz Liszt's 200th birthday, in fact.

Barnes, one of the premiere interpreters of the composer's works, put together a program entitled "Liszt and the Cross," featuring Liszt's B minor piano sonata, which he has been touring with this year.

Because of the flood, Simons contacted Barnes to cancel. Instead, Barnes decided to follow in Liszt's footsteps and give the lecture recital to Minot as a benefit.

In 1838, a then 27-year-old Liszt, arguably the first "rock star" musician, offered a concert for victims of the Budapest flood that year.

"Paul is happy to give us this presentation for a freewill donation," Simons said. "The proceeds will go to the local Salvation Army.

"I'm dying to see this, because he'll talk about this fabulous character," he said. "Although (Liszt) always had a way with women, he became an abb late in his life. The more I know, the more I want to know about him." This program will be Sunday at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at Minot State University at 3 p.m.

The Fall Concert, "Lisztomania," is the second in the "dance" themed concerts by the Minot Symphony Orchestra. Simons opens with the most recognizable piece by Engelbert Humperdinck, "Hansel and Gretel: Prelude."

"This is the quietest piece we're doing," Simons said. "It's unusual to put a gentle piece in the beginning, but we need it to balance the rest of the program. I wanted to do it last season, but it didn't fit in.

"This is one of the most gorgeous pieces a full orchestra sound," he said. "You can almost hear the children dancing in the middle of it."

The first Liszt piece, the Piano Concerto No. 2 in A major follows, with Barnes playing the solo piano. "This is one continuous movement, which was innovative for the time," Simons said. "It also integrated the piano with the orchestra. Brilliant writing. There's a slow section, and duets of the piano with other instruments, then real piano fireworks."

Liszt was a star in the mid-1800s. Pictures were made at the time of young women gathering around him and even rushing the stage. All of the composers on the bill were contemporaries, and Liszt is known to have interacted with them, but he was considered the premiere pianist, evolving into a larger-than-life performer and composer.

After the intermission, two works whose names both mean "dance of death" are offered. The first, by Camille Saint-Saens, is "Danse Macabre."

"It's a bit late for Halloween, but there you are," Simons said. "We know Liszt heard it when it was first composed, and he seems to have composed 'Totentanz' thereafter.

"They're based on the 'Dies Irae,' (Day of Wrath), and you can hear the cock crow at the end," he added. That's the signal for the dead to return to their graves after the night's festivities. "It's dark, and really gets the goose bumps growing." he said. "There's a solo piano in this too, and I was thrilled when Paul agreed to do both pieces on the same concert. He's a great, great guy." Finally from "Prince Igor" by Alexander Borodin, the MSO offers the far lighter "Polovtsian Dances."

The concert is Saturday at Ann Nicole Nelson Hall at 7:30 p.m. with reserved seating. Prices vary according to seat selection. Call 858-4228 to make reservations. The pre-concert lecture, featuring Barnes, has an additional charge for non-season ticket holders and begins at 6:30 p.m.

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