I was puzzled to read, in Geoff Brown’s review (21 October) of the recent recording of Liszt’s piano concertos by Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, that, ‘before this year’s anniversary celebrations, Pierre Boulez kept well away from conducting the scores.’ Liszt is badly served by many conductors and even, beyond a few works, by many pianists, but Boulez has long been a champion. In his first season as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he programmed no fewer than five works by Liszt, the 1971 opening concert featuring Totentanz, with Jorge Bolet as soloist, the second introducing Malédiction, and the third given over entirely to The Legend of St Elisabeth, a work scandalously absent from London halls. The second concerto has received at least one outing, with André Watts in 1974, prior to the present tour with Barenboim. Boulez has directed performances of another of the oratorios, Via crucis, both in New York and in Paris. For the centenary of Wagner’s death in 1983, Boulez presented in a special Bayreuth concert not only Wagner’s Siegfried-Idyll, but also Liszt’s late symphonic poem, Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe. Those examples are indicative rather than exhaustive. There is every reason to lament posterity’s treatment of one of the most visionary nineteenth-century composers, but such advocacy should be lauded rather than denied.
I remain, Sir, your most obedient servant,
(And some people still wonder why most of us do not believe a word we read in the newspapers...)