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‘Liszt and Damnation’ comes to UNT

‘Liszt and Damnation’ comes to UNT

Hein Jung performs Tre Sonetti di Petrarca by Franz Liszt. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

‘Liszt and Damnation’ comes to UNT
September 19
09:10 2015

Anjulie Van Sickle


Students, professors and music lovers from all over the world come to experience the American Liszt Society Festival each year. The three-day “Liszt and Damnation” festival was in Denton this year from Sept. 16 – 18.

The Liszt Festival has happened every year since 1965 and travels all around the United States and Canada. Franz Liszt was a 19th-century Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist who wrote a large body of work during his lifetime.

“Because of Liszt’s strong Catholic faith, listeners associate many important Liszt works with religious themes, but there was a very dark, often sinister, aspect to a significant body of his works,” Jo Banowetz, the Festival Artistic Director, said in a letter to attendees.

People who attended this year’s festival explored the darker character of Liszt’s music. This year focused on vocal recitals and piano performances. A total of 27 pianists came to play at the festival, either performing or giving lecture/recitals.

The festival was held in the Paul Voertman Concert Hall as well as in the Murchison Performing Arts Center.

American Liszt Society members and non-members alike enjoy coming to the festival for the performances, the deep connection they make with each other and the composer’s works. One of this year’s event organizers, Matt Bowers, has studied Liszt’s works for years. He has worked with Banowetz for about a decade.

“When you study Liszt’s work, you get to know his thought process,” Bowers said. “His is a particularly conflicted sort with his theme of religion, damnation, that sort of thing. He’s a very conflicted person, so you end up sharing a bit of that conflict.”

Artists performing at the festival had CDs on sale throughout the event.

Artists performing at the festival had CDs on sale throughout the event. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor

Nancy Lee Harper, a UNT graduate pianist, played at Thursday evening’s memorial concert dedicated to the late Thomas Mastroianni, the immediate past president of the society who passed away last year. She performed Etude in D-flat major from Liszt’s “Trois estudes de concert.”

“I only met the president a couple of years ago, but I liked him immensely,” Harper said. “This concert was very special to me.”

Thursday evening’s performances included several pianists who were personal friends and fans of Mastroianni. They all confirmed his dedication to the Liszt Society.

Thursday afternoon’s voice performance by soprano Hein Jung, an associate professor of music at the University of Tampa, impacted students and members alike.

“I wanted to get exposed to Liszt and get exposed to an older singer, because we’re usually listening to ourselves among the voice students,” Alicia Suschena, a third-year master’s student studying voice performance, said. “It’s nice when you get to see older singers and figure out what you’re looking for.”

Richard Fountain, a professor at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, became a society member six years ago and has loved being a part of the society ever since.

“It’s not just about great piano music or great singing, but the people are really special,” he said. “One of the neatest things about the society is that the vast majority of them are so friendly and encouraging.”

Anne Oncken, the festival’s managing director, said he has learned a lot about Liszt and his music in the past several months of organizing the festival.

“To see these scholars who’ve based their academic lives on his life and everything is amazing,” she said.

Long-time member Dmitry Rachmanov is in charge of next year’s American Liszt Society Festival, which will be held in southern California. The theme will be “Liszt and Russia.”

Like many others who attend the festival each year, Rachmanov said he loves being a part of the gathering.

“It’s a gathering of like-minded people who have a very high level of scholarship and artistic achievements,” he said. “It’s a very broad-minded society with lots of topics and themes to be explored on a yearly basis.”

Featured Image: Hein Jung performs Tre Sonetti di Petrarca by Franz Liszt. Meagan Sullivan | Associate Visuals Editor 

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