Francesco Piemontesi plays Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage: Switzerland

A docu-recital with sweeping Swiss vistas

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Program notes

Pianist Francesco Piemontesi invites us to his native Switzerland to follow in the footsteps of Franz Liszt, rendering the first of his Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage) with refinement and brio. Shifting between “torrid virtuosity and a delicately expressive touch” (Presto), Piemontesi rounds out his expansive and lyrical interpretations with background details about the pieces he knows and loves so well.

Between pieces, director Bruno Monsaingeon provides viewers with an up-close look at the beauty of the Swiss country, taking us on a virtual voyage to the locales that inspired the music. From the lilting Pastorale and the crystalline Au bord d’une source through Vallée d’Obermann’s epic journey to self-discovery, these are landmark works that never fail to transport and transfix.

In 1833 Liszt began a romantic relationship with the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who was already married. To avoid the heat of scandal in Paris, the countess joined Liszt in Geneva in 1835, and the two traveled extensively in the countryside before their first daughter was born in December of that year. Liszt set his impressions of those landscapes to music in this first of three Années de pèlerinage, often considered the pinnacle of his mature output as a piano composer. 

A closer look: featured composers

Further listening: featured works

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