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Heroic composer and performer

A Hungarian, who came to town with superb piano-playing skills, left Bangaloreans hungry for more. In an unusual piano recital, he presented Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.



Adam Fellegi's concert was a tribute to the hitech, bringing its exciting possibilities into the realm of classical music performance.

INTERNATIONAL MUSIC and Arts Society, in collaboration with The Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre, presented Hungarian Adam Fellegi in an unusual piano recital at the Alliance Francaise recently: Liszt's transcription of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Liszt transcribed all Beethoven's Symphonies, though performances of them are extremely rare, even in record catalogues.

The Choral Symphony's transcription is considered too unwieldy to perform live. To witness it was, therefore, a singular honour, deserving a full house.

Written at the apogee of his career, the last symphony is Beethoven at his most Ossianic. The controversial addition of voices outraged his contemporaries, but the choral innovation was essential to Beethoven, as Schiller's poem encapsulated the composer's deeply romantic vision for humanity. The famous Ode to Joy promotes brotherhood of man, a brave new world after the fission of war and conflict.

Its joyous import obviously mattered to Fellegi as much as it did to Beethoven, but the problem was that Fellegi needed a choir to articulate the words. In addition, Liszt transcribed for piano only the orchestral part of the choral movement, and not what was sung.

Fellegi's innovative solution was a tribute to hi-tech, bringing its exciting possibilities into the realm of classical music performance: he played alongside a recorded choir version so that it was a combination of DVD amplification and live performance. A small screen placed on the piano allowed him to follow the conductor, so that the piano would synch with the choir.

Liszt's marathon pieces are awesome, such as the single-movement Sonata in B, played without a break for approximately 30 minutes.

Fellegi's sense of commitment to the Ninth and stamina sustained him for an hour, though he took breaks between movements, just long enough to explain what both composers were doing in each segment. This was extremely useful, giving the listener important pointers and insights.

Transcriptions can bring a sense of discovery. One often hears, for example, a delicate woodwind phrase that is normally buried in orchestral versions. Conversely, one notices what the borrowing has omitted. Tracking the original through the new maze makes one listen afresh to the original.

Liszt was famous for transfusing existing compositions with dazzling virtuosity, embellishing the melodic line with fecund imagination. But Beethoven's Ninth has so much going on, it leaves little scope for modifications and elaboration. Here, Liszt's pyrotechnics are subdued, though still requiring a high degree of pianistic demands that Fellegi met with technical mastery.

Fellegi gave Beethoven's philosophy the necessary sense of space and perspective, but also emphasised emotional theatricality, particularly in the first movement. Called the Tempest, it signifies the turmoil within man, analogue of the external turbulence of the literal storm and the discord of war.

Thunder and lightning are rendered in musical phrases that echo throughout the work.

Power was the keynote of the performance, Fellegi confessing to love loud music. However, it resulted in some undue forte and insufficient contrasts of volume. Subtleties, such as the pianissimo markings in the opening bars of the Alla Marcia, were neglected.

The Scherzo was purposeful while the songful treatment of the Trio, that kept the melodic line to the fore, was very lovely, though, even here, more softness would not have been amiss.

The final movement, with its burst of joyful heroism, suffered from noticeable separation between the recorded choir and the live keyboard.

Fearing that the baby grand piano would be lost against the amplified voices, Fellegi decided to enhance electronically the instrument as well, resulting in a metallic harsh timbre.

Despite that, one was left uplifted with the idealism of composer, poet, and performer. To play the transcribed Ninth Symphony is truly an act of love and purpose, emblematic of Fellegi's own desire for harmony in diversity, collective concord, and equality.

MALINI WHITE

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