Therefore it was appropriate for Italian pianist Gregorio Nardi to give a Liszt recital in Milan as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the composer's birth.
Liszt's original invention of a concert presented by a single artist originated in a “recital” he gave in the foyer of La Scala, so Nardi presented his programme not in the main auditorium of Milan's Teatro Dal Verme but in the Sala Piccola which lies underneath. Although this theatre was severely damaged during the Second World War, and completely restructured in the 1990s, this is where Puccini's Le Villi and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci received their first performances.
Nardi give a demanding and generous recital of almost two hours with only a brief halfway pause. The third year cycle of Liszt's Années de pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) contains the Les jeux d'eaux à la Villa d'Este (The Fountains of the Villa d'Este) – even though the second year was devoted to Italy, he obviously couldn't get Italy out of his mind! Nardi played it exquisitely. The execution of the score's extraordinary technical demands seemed to follow almost casually Nardi's intentions to re-conjure Liszt's atmospheres and pictures.
The opera transcriptions were obviously loved in this opera town; Verdi's Don Carlos and Rigoletto, Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, and Elsa's Dream from Wagner's Lohengrin. From the Transcendental Etudes (Études d'exécution transcendante) Nardi chose the hauntingly intense “Chasse-Neige”, (literally “snowplow”), the 12th and last. The etude is a study in tremolos but contains many other difficulties with wide jumps and extremely fast chromatic scales. It also requires a very gentle and soft touch in the beginning, and is perhaps the most difficult of the Transcendental Etudes. Nardi has things firmly under control!
The Fantasie & Fuge über das Thema B.A.C.H. provided an exciting finale.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.