"Were one looking for a yardstick by which to identify someone’s musical tastes, few composers fulfill the function better than Franz Liszt. You either get him or you don't. His music is to love or to loathe. A few years ago, while compiling a list of the 50 greatest composers for a book, my erudite and music-loving publisher balked at the inclusion of Liszt. 'Liszt?' he moaned. 'What about Tallis and Victoria and Schütz? Far more important!' He did have the grace to admit that he didn’t know much about Liszt the man, and that he had not heard a great deal of his music. His perception was based on a handful of what he characterised as 'flashy' works – and they had not appealed to his refined sensibilities. My publisher’s allergy, I have found, is not uncommon.
On the other side of the fence, those of us who worship at the shrine look on non-believers with the same degree of pity that a doctor reserves for a geriatric with incurable arthritis: we’d like to help but there’s nothing we can do. Ignorance and preconceptions are frequent symptoms of Lisztophobia. My publisher’s affliction was cured, in part, by sending him some representative CDs of some of the best Liszt from all genres in top-class performances. He claimed to be, as a result, if not a convert then at least surprised by the variety and quality of the music, and at how much he had enjoyed these discoveries."
piano music by Liszt that more than meet the criteria held up by Mr Howard. From Earl Wild's excellent Ivory Classics label are a two-disc release by Wild himself (with "Un Sospiro," the "Mephisto Polka," the transcription of Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, the Sonata in B Minor, and more), as well as collections by Ruth Slenczynska, Kevin Fitz-Gerald, and Dame Moura Lympany. From other labels, we have Martha Argerich and Glenn Gould performing Concerto No. 1 and his redactions of two Beethoven symphonies for piano. All at bargain prices!