I'm celebrating by listening to Marston Records' newish set, Liszt Illuminated, recordings by Jorge Bolet, Gunnar Johansen, and Claudio Arrau; beautiful music, incisive and beautiful playing.
Alex Ross writes:
Kenneth Hamilton has a fine, unsentimental appreciation in the New York Times...And do I ever disgree.
First, I don't think the article is an appreciation of Liszt. At best, it's a brief survey of critical reaction to Liszt, by composers, critics, and Liszt himself; Hamilton doesn't cite the musicological literature on Liszt to speak of, nor does he quote from the dozens of pianists and conductors who go on playing Liszt year in and year out.
As for the title, "Still Wondering if Liszt Was Any Good," see that last sentence. Those pianist keep performing Liszt for reasons beyond demonstrating their steel-fingered piano skills, and surely good performances of his piano music make Liszt's virtues quite clear. Hamilton is asking the wrong damn question.
And yeah, plenty of composers have some junk in their catalogs. I encourage a look through the works in Beethoven's other catalog, the Werke ohne Opuszahl (works without opus number). Or even listen to Wellington's Victory, an entertaining potboiler.
The sum of the article is: Liszt is madly inconsistent, wrote some good stuff and some bad stuff. Um, discuss why, please. Compare and contrast a few works. Be a critic, not just a reporter.