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Category: Lisztian

  1. Obermann: A novel reading pick for your self-isolation

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    ‘In my snug little room I shall forget the world outside; I shall narrow down to my lot, and possibly come to believe that my valley is the hub of the universe.’

    20200326_152205The need to self-isolate has reportedly sent many people online to buy new books to help them through the weeks ahead. Others have surely returned to the pile of unread novels already sitting on their bedside tables. Now’s the perfect time to catch up with the reading we all feel we ‘should’ have done or have been putting off.

    One book that probably won’t be on anybody’s reading list in the coming weeks of quarantine is Étienne Pivert de Senancour’s Obermann. And yet this is in many ways the perfect self-isolation novel. It is, after all, a work that is largely about self-isolation, or at least the active pursuit of solitude. 

  2. New Year, New Language Studies

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    French dictionaryI’ve never been one for New Year’s Eve celebrations. I’ve also never been one for New Year’s resolutions. However, this year I’ve decided to set my cynicism aside and actually make one. It’s a little late, I know, but here it is:

    I resolve to get better at French in 2020.

    Of course, I have no expectation that I’ll be speaking the language fluently any time soon, if ever.

    I can, though, look to improve my listening, reading and writing skills as well as my spoken French. I can take easy, practical steps over the coming months to get better. This blog post is my promise to myself that I will set out and complete this journey. 

  3. A Beginner’s Guide to Listening to Liszt

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    Franz LisztLiszt’s piano music is often incredibly difficult to play. It can also be difficult to listen to. It's ambitious, complex and often very intense. It can also be discordant, disconcerting and ugly. There are other problems too. Liszt was as prolific as he was virtuosic, so there’s the question of how to approach such a large body of work. Liszt was also a compulsive rewriter, meaning we might ask which version of a piece it is we should even be listening to.

    Happily, these problems are not intractable. Just as Liszt composed challenging music so too did he write music of great simplicity. And whilst it's true that some pieces are not always melodically straightforward or pretty, others are sumptuously romantic with the most elegant and loving of melodies.

    I offer some pointers below on how to begin listening to Liszt and then provide a list of 10 works that can act as signposts for any beginner starting out on their own journey or pèlerinage into his work.