Liszt: Dante Sonata / Fantasia Quasi Sonata (Pletnev)
A colourful and transcendent recording by Pletnev, who always manages to bring unexpected textures into relatively well-trodden works.The Dante Sonata, the most important piece from Liszt's Annees de Pelerinage, is an extraordinary work in many ways. Where harmony is concerned, you have tritones (quite literally everywhere, occasionally transmuted into fifths), impressionistic changes in harmony (see 4:06), modal effects (see 6:39, although note the entire chorale-like second theme is modal), a single and rather shocking instance of bitonality (12:53), incredible passages with whole-tone harmony (at 16:41, the roots of the chords are:D-C-Bb-Ab-Gb, and at 11:43 you get D-C-Bb-Ab-Gb-E-D-C-Bb-Ab), and the unusual closing cadence (IV-ii-I), which is a cunning variant of the plagal or "Amen" cadence. (Think of the subject of this sonata!)Structurally, there is a huge amount of thematic transformation going on here. Here is just a brief illustration that follows the first theme through the piece.Theme I: 2:11. An agonising chromatic lament.Transformation 1: 5:53Transformation 2: 7:21Transformation 3: 8:14 (an intricate and shimmering passage)Transformation 4: 8:52 (here the chromaticism is removed, leaving a scalar reduction)Transformation 5: 12:02 (Although the focus is on the LH tritone motif)Transformation 6: 13:10Transformation 7: 15:53 (a variation on transformation 3)Transformation 8: 16:12 (a variation on transformation 4, played beautifully and with a rather unconventional texturing)Transformation 9: 16:29 (a recapitulation of sorts)A similar exercise could very easily be done with the second theme (4:23), or any of the three opening motifs: the opening tritone descent, the sequence of chords which follows, and the brief scalar runs up and down the piano after that.This work is in some ways a close cousin of the B minor sonata, and certainly paves the way towards the prgrammatic music of Wagner and Berlioz and the French impressionists (think of 8:14).