Making Waves

The Pompadour hairstyle is certainly an interesting feature … on a man … playing music of Liszt.

This is neither a man, nor one playing Liszt.

It was some months ago when I had the good misfortune to be present at a lecture by a not un-well-known specialist on the subject who happened to be sporting one of these.

Why use a bottle at all?

“New wine deserves new bottles” declared good old Liszt, back when he was still alive and presumably interested in distillery. Ironically, he has and probably always will receive a fair degree of criticism as a composer of slightly melodramatic flair and fireworks at the expense of everything else.  I know, It’s a contentious subject, but the point of this lecture was to really sell us the other side of Liszt – the musical one.

It was a fascinating experience to watch this performer’s quiff. Unfortunately, for the purposes of the lecture, this wobbling hairstyle actually only proved that sooner or later, Liszt compositions tend to resort to double chromatic octaves; the waves of his hair became like watching a fast time-lapse video of the ocean breaking on the shore: predictable and unrelenting.

I ceased listening early on when the demonstrations started and decided to examine the compositions purely by hair-motion. The result? According to this measurement they were basically the same piece: For the intro, bold, stabby tuft flings, then a slow lyrical subject with little movement, and some form of development showing increased hair activity shimmering agitatedly and leading into the inevitable Grande. Finale. Brillante. With the octaves. And the TURBULENCE. Again. Did you ever wonder why Brahms fell asleep that stormy evening in Weimar?!

Artist Impression of Sleeping Brahms on that stormy evening in Weimar.

While a better piece/excerpt selection may have avoided this disturbingly resilient pattern, it was humorous to witness it either side of a passionate argument about the originality of form and composition. Analytically Liszt’s music may follow a variety of structures keeping with his whole ‘New Wine” thing, but form can take a number of … forms, and the emotional and indeed physical journey often seemed (and in this case visually and aurally) like the same old bottles.

Anyway, an academic appeared to be contradicted by his own hairstyle, and that probably doesn’t happen too often.