Post-Classical Ensemble and Georgetown University’s Dept. of Performing Arts Co-present “Interpreting Liszt” Festival

Acclaimed artists and experts explore the legendary composer/pianist’s music through concerts and discussions incorporating film, art, literature and historic recordings

Jan. 8, 2010 — Washington, D.C. — Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts and Post-Classical Ensemble celebrate the pioneering, virtuosic pianist, composer, and teacher Franz Liszt (1811-1886) with a two-day festival, “Interpreting Liszt,” on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12 and 13, 2010 at Georgetown University. Free daytime conference events will take place in Georgetown’s McNeir Hall, and two ticketed evening concerts will be held in Gaston Hall — all exploring issues in interpreting the piano and choral music of Franz Liszt and showcasing new perspectives on the Romantic artistic personality. The full schedule (detailed below) incorporates film, art, literature, historic recordings, expert speakers, and performances by acclaimed artists performing repertoire ranging from the familiar — the B minor Sonata, the Dante Sonata, Totentanz — to such novelties as the Pastorale from Christus and a pair of religious choral works.

The two evening concerts include “Liszt and Italy” on Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. — incorporating readings and visual art and exploring Liszt’s relationship to masterpieces of literature, painting, and sculpture; and “Angels and Demons” on Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m., conducted by Post-Classical Ensemble Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez — exploring the duality of an artist by turns religious and macabre.

Chair of the Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts Anna Celenza says, “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students and faculty to work collaboratively with professional musicians on a multi-disciplinary creative project that engages their work in the classroom and concert hall.” She notes that “Liszt was the most formidable performer and public intellectual of his era. His musical accomplishments are still visible in popular culture — in Tom & Jerry’s escapades on the piano, film scores such as ‘The Shining,’ and Duke Ellington’s jazz interpretations of Liszt’s ‘Hungarian Rhapsody.’”

A featured participant in the festival is Ukrainian pianist Mykola Suk, whose new Music & Art CD features live performances of Liszt’s B minor Sonata, Dante Sonata and two Hungarian Rhapsodies. American Record Guide praised Suk for “An astonishing blend of muscular power, poetry and utter control—one of the more formidable talents to have appeared in this country in years.”

Joseph Horowitz, Artistic Director of Post-Classical Ensemble, says in the program that given Liszt’s larger-than-life presence at the keyboard and his galvanizing musical imagination, present-day pianists who tackle his works have much to live up to. “Playing the notes is a beginning. More daunting is the act of investment plainly required: volcanic intensity, interpretive sorcery. The challenge is nothing less than to inhabit the music — and therefore the man. Judged by this impossible standard, Mykola Suk is, in my experience, the supreme Liszt interpreter of his generation.”

In addition to Suk, festival participants include pianist Kumaran Arul, who will perform improvisations on Liszt; the Stanford University music historian/pianist George Barth; Liszt scholar Anna Celenza, Chair of the GU Department of Performing Arts; the Georgetown University Chamber Singers; American Liszt Society president Thomas Mastroianni; and music historian/author Horowitz, co-founder of Post-Classical Ensemble.

The Interpreting Liszt festival is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art, and funded in part by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, an agency supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. The American Musicological Society and American Liszt Society are also sponsoring the various activities.

Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts partnership with Post-Classical Ensemble has included past collaborations titled “The Mexican Odyssey” in Nov. 2008 and “Copland and the Cold War” in Jan. 2009.

Tickets for the evening concerts in Georgetown’s Gaston Hall on Feb. 12 and 13 are $25 general admission; $5 for students. Daytime conference events in McNeir Hall are free. For tickets or more information, visit or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787).

A full schedule of events follows:

co-presented by Post-Classical Ensemble and Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts

Gaston Hall (third floor of the Healy Building)
$25 general, $5 student

Friday, February 12 at 7:30 p.m.
Liszt and Italy
Mykola Suk and Kumaran Arul, pianists
Commentary by Anna Celenza with slides and readings by Georgetown University actors

an illustrated piano concert including poetry by Petrarch and Dante, visual art by Raphael and Michelangelo

Liszt: “Years of Pilgrimage,” Book 2 (“Italy”), complete
Each of these “Italian” pieces – including the “Dante” Sonata (played by Suk) — is based on a specific artwork (Raphael, Michelangelo, Dante, etc.). Also:
Liszt: “Fountains of the Villa d’Este” (Suk)
Liszt: “St. Francis Walking on the Water” (an improvisation by Arul)

Saturday, February 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Angels and Devils
Post-Classical Ensemble
Mykola Suk, piano
Georgetown University Chamber Singers
Frederick Binkholder, director
Angel Gil-Ordóñez, conductor
Illustrated pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. by Anna Celenza on the sources of Totentanz: Orcagna’s “Trionfo della Morte” fresco and Holbein’s “Todtentanz” (with slides)

Liszt: Hymne de l’enfant a son reveil and Inno a Maria Vergine
Liszt: Piano Sonata in B minor
Liszt: Pastorale from Christus
Liszt: Totentanz for piano and orchestra



a conference incorporating historic recordings and live performance, and linked to meetings of the American Musicological Society and the American Liszt Society
McNeir Hall (New North Building)
FREE admission

Friday, Feb. 12 from 1:15 to 3:30 p.m.

  • This session is dedicated to historic Liszt recordings (Lamond, Stavenhagen, Rosenthal, etc), with commentary by Stanford University musicologists/pianists George Barth and Kumaran Arul, plus Mykola Suk and Joseph Horowitz (host).
  • Arul will also improvise on the Liszt Legends.

Saturday, Feb. 13 from 1 to 5 p.m. (reception to follow)
Session will include:

  • Anna Celenza on “Liszt in the Jazz Age: Rethinking Virtuosity” (including film clips)
  • Joseph Horowitz on Claudio Arrau and Liszt (including recordings and a live performance of the B minor Ballade by Kumaran Arul)
  • More historic recordings with George Barth and Kumaran Arul (Stanford Univ.) on Liszt interpretation and historic recordings (including further improvisations by Arul)
  • Thomas Mastroianni on religious symbolism in Liszt

Gaston Hall and McNeir Hall are both located on Georgetown University’s main campus (37th and O Streets, NW in Washington, D.C.)

Parking: Street parking is available or patrons may park (for a fee on Friday) in the Leavey Center (entrance on Reservoir Road) or SWQ parking facilities (enter via Canal Road). On-campus parking is free all day Saturday.

For tickets to the evening concerts or information, visit or call (202) 687-ARTS.

About Post-Classical Ensemble
Post-Classical Ensemble performs music in the context of its cultural heritage, including folk song, dance, film, and contemporary popular music, in order to serve existing audiences hungry for deeper engagement and to cultivate broader and younger audiences. Called by The Washington Post “a welcome, edgy addition to the musical life of Washington,” Post-Classical Ensemble was created by Angel Gil-Ordóñez and Joseph Horowitz, and made its official debut in May 2003. “More than an orchestra,” it breaks out of classical music, with its implied notion of a high-culture remote from popular art.

About Georgetown University’s Department of Performing Arts
The GU Department of Performing Arts integrates creative and critical inquiry, emphasizing artistic excellence, interdisciplinary learning, socially engaged performance, and the spirit of collaboration. Now offering two new dynamic majors in American Musical Culture and Theater & Performance Studies, the Department features a nationally recognized faculty and new, state-of-the-art performance and recording venues. The Department is also home to the co-curricular program and supports an active program in dance.

Laura Mertens
Georgetown University Department of Performing Arts
(202) 687-6933