At a Glance
Ranging from the contemplative calm of two Bach-Busoni chorale preludes to the Russian extravagance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, the expressive range of tonight's program is remarkably broad. While Bach was a great conservative, glorifying with his counterpoint the sturdy melodies of the Lutheran chorales written two centuries before him, Mussorgsky was a composer with no interest in correct Western musical traditions. Instead, he explored a new, wholly Russian language in his small but influential body of works. Stripped of the polished orchestral colors overlaid by Ravel, the original version of Pictures for keyboard demonstrates his unvarnished expressive power.
Beethoven's two Piano Sonatas, Op. 27, and three late piano works by Liszt show both composers making radical musical experiments. We often hear the second of the Op. 27 sonatas—the famous "Moonlight"—but its sibling in E-flat major, with its provocative mixture of moods, is more rarely encountered. By his last decade, Liszt had left his flamboyant Romantic style behind, and was creating stark, emotionally shattering pieces that broke the bounds of traditional tonality.