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150-Year Wait For a Lost Liszt

Two-continent debut will feature 1839 piano concerto. MUSIC

AUDIENCE members will be on the edge of their seats when a piano concerto by Franz Liszt receives its world premi`ere tonight in Chicago's Orchestra Hall. Performance of the ``new'' work has been eagerly awaited by music enthusiasts and Liszt historians, ever since 1988, when a doctoral student from the University of Chicago announced he had stumbled upon missing manuscripts while doing research in Europe.

``It's a huge find,'' says pianist Janina Fialkowska, reached by phone, who will play the work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of associate conductor Kenneth Jean. Ms. Fialkowska ranks the piece as a major piano work, sure to excite the classical musical world.

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The European debut of the piece is tomorrow in The Hague, Netherlands, where Stephen Mayer performs with the Resedentie Orkester at The Hague Museum.

The concerto, similar in form to the composer's other two, appears to date from 1839. ``At that time, we think of [Liszt] as a virtuoso pianist who was stunning audiences around Europe,'' said Jay Rosenblatt, discoverer and editor of the work, in a phone interview. ``This is a good opportunity for the general public to realize Liszt was always concerned with the serious side of composing.''

The 15-minute work, written in one continuous movement, includes cadenza passages for the soloist at the beginning, ``a lovely second theme, which is really quite beautiful,'' says Fialkowska, and a ``marvelously virtuosic'' ending, she adds.

When Rosenblatt went to Europe to research Liszt's works for piano and orchestra, he had no idea he would unearth a lost concerto. From archival materials, he was able to piece together a hitherto unknown composition, which had become dispersed over three countries. Some pages had been wrongly identified as drafts of Concerto No. 1 and shuffled into piles of unrelated manuscripts.

Liszt had scratched out a few passages of the solo part, ``and there is no question he intended to come back and revise it,'' Rosenblatt says. But the original notes are still legible under the cross-hatch, making a performance of the work possible.``It's an example of where his development was at the time he wrote it.''

Fialkowska says the premi`ere ``gives me an amazing sense of power'' because there is no precedent for how the concerto should be played. ``There are no dynamics markings, no tempo indications - just the bare notes.''

Subsequent performances are slated for Chicago (May 5 and 8); Santa Barbara, Calif., by the Festival Orchestra of the Music Academy of the West (Aug. 5); New York, by the New York Philharmonic (Jan. 3-5, 1991); and Youngstown, Ohio, by the Youngstown Symphony (Jan. 12, 1991).

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