Stephen Porter, piano
Spirituel: A journey through the religious piano works of Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt Sposalizio (In contemplation of Raphael’s painting ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’); Six Consolations; Nuages gris; Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este; Aux Cypres de la Villa d’Este – Threnodie I & Threnodie II; St. Francois d’Assise: La predication aux oiseaux; and St. Francois de Paule: marchant sur les flots
The greatest pianist of the 19th century and one of the first international celebrities in music, Liszt was as worldly and cosmopolitan as one could be, but also deeply religious. His turn away from the concert stage (incredibly at the age of 35) and toward serious immersion in composition, as well as several personal tragedies, put him on the path of an ever-growing spirituality for the remaining 40 years of his life. He responded to art, nature and the teachings of his church with music of an amazing depth, expansiveness and power, but ultimately also contemplation, acceptance and peace. These works can be appreciated on several levels—as unparalleled explorations of the piano’s soundscape, as vivid evocations of nature and religious iconography, and perhaps most importantly as models for spiritual journeys to which every one of us has access, regardless of background.
Stephen Porter has appeared as a soloist in London, Paris, Gothenburg, Sarajevo, Lake Como, Istanbul and Rio de Janeiro, among other cities. He is a three-time artist-resident of the Cité Internationale Des Arts in Paris, and has been the featured soloist of the Bosnia International Music Festival, soloist with the Amadeus Orchestra of London at LSO St. Luke’s, and the guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show in Washington, D.C. Mr. Porter’s recent New York recitals at SubCulture, the Fabbri Mansion and Symphony Space have been praised by the press, with New York Arts calling his 24 Debussy Preludes “a powerful revelation … as if the voice of the composer were speaking to us.” His Schubert playing is widely admired, Early Music America describes it as “pure magic … disturbingly beautiful,” and the Boston Musical Intelligencer says he “reached the level of sublimity.” In the acclaimed biography Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph author Jan Swafford calls his performance of the Appassionata “unforgettable.” Stephen Porter is a graduate of Oberlin College magna cum laude and the New England Conservatory of Music in Piano Performance with Distinction. His final teacher, the eminent French pianist Paul Doguereau, studied with Emil von Sauer who was a pupil of Liszt and member of the composer’s inner circle in the 1880s.