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2013 ALS Festival in San Francisco, May 30-June 1

by William Wellborn, President
ALS San Francisco Chapter

It is my great pleasure to invite you to attend the 2013 American Liszt Society annual festival, which will be held this year in San Francisco at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The festival dates are May 30- June 1, 2013, with the main activities beginning on the morning of Thursday May 30. The closing banquet will be held on Saturday evening June 1. I am especially pleased to announce that the 2013 festival will be co-hosted by the Wagner Society of Northern California.

The theme for the 2013 festival is "Franz Liszt: Anniversaries and Connections," and celebrates the 200th anniversaries of three of Liszt's contemporaries: composers Giuseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner, and Charles-Valentin Alkan, as well as the 150th anniversary of composer and conductor Felix Weingartner. Liszt's connections to these individuals varied from acquaintance (Alkan), to admiration (Verdi), to pupil (Weingartner) to deep friendship and artistic kinship (Wagner). During the course of our three-day festival, Liszt's connections to these and other important figures will be examined in a variety of lectures, presentations, and concerts.

As part of our tribute to Verdi and Wagner, during the course of the festival the Verdi-Liszt and the Wagner-Liszt opera transcriptions will be performed by a variety of ALS and guest artists. There will also be transcriptions of music by Verdi and Wagner by composers other than Liszt. In the realm of historic recordings, Donald Manildi (from the International Piano Archive at Maryland) will give a presentation of Wagner-Liszt and Verdi-Liszt transcriptions by legendary pianists of the past. Alan Walker's lecture "Liszt and the Keyboard" will no doubt provide fascinating insight into Liszt's superb abilities as a transcriber.

Along with the Verdi opera paraphrases, we'll also hear Liszt's rarely encountered transcription of the "Agnus Dei" from Verdi's Requiem, and Giuseppe Martucci's Fantasia su Un Ballo in Maschera, Op. 8 for piano four-hands (performed by Jay and Sandra Mauchley). Liszt's colorful pupil Hermann Cohen ("Puzzi") composed fantasies on Verdi's Nabucco and I Lombardi, and these works will probably be a first hearing for many in the audience. In addition to performing these works, the always-entertaining Justin Kolb will provide background on the wily Cohen.

The opening night concert will consist of the Wagner-Liszt paraphrases, and the Wagner Society will host a champagne reception after this program. In another session we will hear additional transcriptions from Tristan und Isolde and Die Walküre (the ever-popular "Ride of the Walkuries") by Liszt's pupil Carl Tausig, as well as Ferruccio Busoni's transcription of "Siegfried's Funeral March" from Götterdämmerung.

In addition to paraphrases and transcriptions, original works by Verdi and Wagner will also be performed. A pleasant surprise for many will be the discovery of Verdi's String Quartet in E Minor, performed by the Ives Quartet, an ensemble of musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory and Stanford University. A group of Verdi songs will be presented by soprano Denise Ritter Bernardini and pianist Michael Boyd. I am also especially delighted to welcome the Austrian pianist Stephan Möller for a recital of rarely-heard solo piano music of Wagner. Möller has recorded the complete piano music of Wagner, and will perform the "Wesendonk" sonata on a concert coupled with the Wesendonk Lieder (with baritone Kevin McMillan and pianist Gabriel Dobner). A lecture by Wagner scholar Hans Rudolph Vaget detailing Wagner's relationship to Mathilde Wesendonk further illuminates this topic. Also relevant to our examination of the relationship between Liszt and Wagner, Geraldine Keeling will lecture on the topic of Liszt and the premiere of Lohengin.

Two sessions will be devoted to music of Alkan and Weingartner. José López and I will share a lecture-recital, performing and discussing music of Alkan, including the Trois petites fantasies, Op. 41, and excerpts from the Esquisses, Op. 63. Richard Zimdars will give a lecture about the life and career of Felix Weingartner, in addition to performing songs of Weingartner with tenor Greg Broughton.

An exciting program is sure to be the Friday night solo recital with Van Cliburn prize winner Antonio Pompa-Baldi, who will perform the complete Lyapunov Transcendental Etudes, Op. 11. Paul Barnes will present N. Lincoln Hanks' "Monstre sacré - the life of the self-indulgent artist," to which he wryly added "fits Wagner perfectly!" Original music of Liszt will be featured in two programs, including a concert by winners of the 2012 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. One recital will also be devoted to Liszt songs. Among the many wonderful performers who have not yet been mentioned are Eugene Alcalay, Mark Alexander, Benjamin and Elizabeth Arnold, Alexander Djordjevic, Alexandre Dossin, Giulio Draghi, Daniel Glover, Gila Goldstein, Jay Hershberger, John Hord, Yun Ha Hwang, Jeremy Jordan, Lachezar Kostov, Corey McVicar, Gwendolyn Mok, Judith Nesleny, Ksenia Nosikova, Matti Raekallio, Robert Schwartz, and Viktor Valkov.

For more up-to-date information, visit our Facebook page. You may also access the official 2013 Festival Brochure by clicking on the link.

To register for the conference or to obtain a brochure, please contact Joshua Saulle. With specific questions or concerns, you may also contact me personally at the following address: William Wellborn, 2370 20th Avenue #9, San Francisco, CA 94116, or by email at William Wellborn. Accommodations for the festival will be at the nearby Whitcomb Hotel (1231 Market Street San Francisco, CA 94103), which is within walking distance to the events at the Conservatory. For reservations, contact the hotel directly at 415-626-8000 or by e-mail at Whitcomb Hotel. To receive the special group price of $109, be sure to mention the American Liszt Society festival. I hope you will make plans to attend this year's festival, and I look forward to welcoming you to San Francisco.

Originally posted January 9, 2013
Revised April 2, 2013