Performance Monday, March 9, 2015 | 7:30 PM

Kirill Gerstein

Zankel Hall
An etude can be described as a brief piece that assists in the development of a performer’s technique, but in the hands of Bartók, Bach, and Liszt, it’s a sublime musical experience. Bartók conceived of Mikrokosmos as a collection of pieces for a beginning pianist, but over time it grew into a six-volume collection of 153 pieces that span a wide range of technical difficulty. Bach’s Three-Part Inventions, part of a pedagogical collection, are masterpieces of brilliant fugal writing. Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes are devilishly difficult and reflect the composer’s astounding virtuosity.


  • Kirill Gerstein, Piano


  • BARTÓK Selections from Mikrokosmos
  • BACH Three-Part Inventions, BWV 787-801
  • LISZT Transcendental Etudes

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.


Liszt's Piano Sonata in B Minor (Allegro energico)
Kirill Gerstein, Piano
Myrios Classics

At a Glance

Though it can be an arduous and time-consuming process for pianists, improving technique is essential in order to have command over the greatest repertoire written for such a multifaceted instrument. Avoiding the potential boredom of purely technique-building exercises, composers such as Bach, Liszt, and Bartók composed works that both tested the skill of the performer and provided an array of musical moods and characters.

Living in the German city of Köthen at the beginning of the 18th century, Bach penned a number of his great pedagogical works for the keyboard, including The Well-Tempered Clavierand its similarly innovative predecessors the Three-Part Inventions. Displaying extraordinary imagination, these works provided a benchmark for later figures such as Bartók, whose own chromatic inventions look back to Baroque masters through the more angular and dissonant lens of the 20th century.

Bartók’s compatriot Liszt wowed audiences across Europe during the 19th century by pushing keyboard technique to its limits. His Études d’exécution transcendantegive the listener a unique insight into his pianistic powers, at first fleet and filigree before building to a series of staggering climaxes. Combining epic dynamic power with harmonic and tonal innovations, Liszt looks forward to the music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This performance is part of Keyboard Virtuosos III: Keynotes.