ASPECTS OF LISZT
Steven Spooner (pn)
STEVEN SPOONER private issue (no number); Available at CD Baby (DVD: 80:06) Live: Lawrence, KS 9/13/2011
Lose, Himmel, meine Seele
Piano Sonata No. 2,
The Last Resistance.
St. Francis de Paul, Merchant of the Seas.
Like Volume 5 of the
Historical Piano Recital Series
, this DVD is, with but one notable exception, devoted entirely to the music of Liszt, and affords an opportunity to see Steven Spooner in performance, as well as hear him play. Unfortunately, due to the almost total absence of credits and citations accompanying this DVD, I can’t tell you for sure if the duplication of the Schubert
transcription and Liszt’s
No. 13 come from the same recital heard on the Volume 3 CD, though I suspect they do.
Of particular interest on the DVD is the Piano Sonata No. 2, titled
The Last Resistance
, by Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz. It was written specifically for Steven Spooner, and commissioned by Reach Out Kansas, Inc., a non-profit, cultural outreach organization, affiliated with Kansas University. In
35:4, in a review of a CD of string quartet works performed by the Borromeo Quartet, I encountered Fairouz for the first time, logging a fairly positive reaction to his piece,
Lamentation and Satire.
On the current DVD, Fairouz makes a personal appearance, speaking in brief about his sonata and its inspiration, a collection of essays of the same title,
The Last Resistance
, by Jacqueline Rose. The sonata is in four movements, each a musical reflection of some aspect of the horror, resilience, defiance, recollection, healing, and the folly (the reference being to the Iraq war) of the American people in the wake of 9/11.
Despite its stated programmatic objective, with descriptive titles captioning its movements, Fairouz’s sonata is a fairly conventional work, both in terms of form and content, and I will say that my previous positive response to the composer’s
Lamentation and Satire
is here magnified tenfold. I’m prepared to call the sonata a masterpiece. Fairouz’s musical vocabulary is almost more romantic than it is modern. Many passages would not raise an eyebrow if they bore Liszt’s name. Much of the piece is traditionally tonal with regular and often predictable harmonic progressions and cadential resolutions. It’s also a tremendously demanding, virtuosic showpiece, performed with enormous physical strength and emotional power by Spooner. I’m not, by any means dismissing the rest of the DVD. Spooner plays everything with commanding technical assurance and real musical finesse. But the DVD is compulsory for Fairouz’s sonata. Here walks among us a major composing talent.