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12 Transcendental Études, S. 139

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The Transcendental Études are a collection of 12 piano pieces by the Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. Together with the Piano Sonata in B minor, they are considered part of the major works by Liszt and, in general, they are unanimously recognised as some of the most difficult works ever written for this instrument. Robert Schumann affirmed that the 12 Études could be played only by “ten or twelve pianists in the world, at best.” But, as was the case for Chopin’s Études Op. 10 and Op. 25, these pieces are not only a mere demonstration of virtuosity: they are some of the most authentic musical compositions! And the new expressive possibilities that Liszt explored in his 12 Trascendental Études—even beyond the canonical piano playing—had an important influence on the composers of the next decades, including Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Béla Bartók, György Ligeti, and many others! Come and discover this masterpiece, played by some of the best pianists including Yunchan Lim at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition 2022!

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Composed between 1826 and 1852, the first version of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Études was published under the title of Études en douze exercices, when the composer was only 15 years old! Together they form a cycle of 12 program music pieces, and in fact, 10 of the 12 Transcendental Études are titled by the author himself with names evocative of their nature. They include, among others: No. 3 Scenery, No. 4 Mazeppa, No. 5 Wills o’ the Wisp, No. 8 Wild Hunt, No. 11 Evening Harmonies, No. 12
Snow-Whirls. Besides, many of the titles from Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Études reference literary works. Liszt drew inspiration from Victor Hugo, Goethe’s Faust—which in turn would inspire Hector Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust—from Beethoven “Eroica” Symphony, Brothers Grimm, Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal… And you, are you able to find other references? On medici.tv, you can find some of the best interpretations of Liszt’s 12 Transcendental Études, played by some of today’s best artists, including Evgeny Kissin, Alim Beisembayev, and Yunchan Lim.