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Liszt was known to be able to sight-read any piece, even Chopin's Etudes Opus 10 and Grieg's Piano Concerto, both Piano and Orchestral Part.

Since Liszt also composed some Études himself, I was wondering if anyone ever sight-read them?

One thing I always thought is that the reason Liszt was able to sight-read Chopin's Etudes was that they are very chromatic and predictable in their chord progressions.

I am specifically referring to his Transcendental Études since they are way less predictable and dissonant (take for example, Eroica) than, for example, his "Grand Études de Paganini" (The Paganini Etudes such as La Campanella and Caprice 24), since those are way more chromatic and predictable in their chord progressions.

After some research online I didn't find anything about anyone ever sightreading any of his Études, which is why I came here.

Did any pianist in history ever sight-read one of Liszt's Transcendental Études?

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  • Hm, I’m not sure how often sight-reading “makes the news” in the written record. Some folks do it every day… Feb 4 at 20:40
  • You're setting up a problem specifying such famous pieces. How would your really know the person has never seen the music? Feb 4 at 20:56
  • Probably lots of pianists have tried. But how many notes did they get right?
    – PiedPiper
    Feb 4 at 20:59
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    Having heard the music would affect how you sight-read it.
    – Peter
    Feb 5 at 5:00
  • You are not going to be able to play it if you cannot sight-read it.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 7 at 11:27

1 Answer 1

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Sure. In 1977 or so, Bob Spano, who is now the Music Director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (and also a fine pianist), was this crazily talented high school kid who was studying piano at IUSB (as was I, although I was a considerably less talented college kid). One semester at juries, he wasn't happy with anything he had been working on, so in a monumental act of chutzpah he walked into his jury, opened up Liszt's Transcendental Etudes, and sight read one of them. One of the profs said "so that's how Liszt wrote it, Bob?" Bob grinned and said "Every note."

So yeah, he sight read it. No, it wasn't flawless, but he did pretty well convey the music without too much fakery. I believe he got a B.

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  • By any chance, was it the F major Transcendental Etude ("Pastorale")? I've read it's semi-widely considered the easiest of the Transcendental Etudes.
    – Dekkadeci
    Feb 7 at 13:05
  • @Dekkadeci I think not. It was a more stormy sounding one. I can't say much more, as it was 45 years ago.
    – BobRodes
    Feb 8 at 8:16

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