I began my series of “Homage Etudes” for solo piano in 2009 as a means of exploring aspects of keyboard writing through the ages, choosing piano works from an array of different composers as the starting point for each one.
They are therefore homages to individual styles, eras and approaches in writing for the piano. At the same time they’re etudes, not only for the pianist who takes them on but also for me as composer, trying on different hats as I study varying stages of keyboard technique and its development from Bach through to Kurtag (so far!).
My most recent addition to this collection is Faustian Pact, a homage to that most mercurial of pianist-composers, Franz Liszt.
Not possessing the pianistic “chops” myself to come to grips with his extraordinary piano pieces first hand, he has remained for me something of a mystery for too much of my life.
Through my years as an orchestral musician, encounters with his music were largely limited to warhorses such as his piano concertos and Les Preludes. (The Faust Symphony certainly grabbed my attention however!)
Spending time more recently studying works such as the Transcendental Etudes and hearing the wonderful dedicatee and instigator of this new work of mine, Benjamin Grosvenor, performing Liszt’s extraordinary b minor Sonata, has been an eye-, ear- and mind-opening experience.
My Faustian Pact pays homage to this marvelously inventive mind in a brief musical argument that touches on Liszt’s harmonic quirkiness and originality as well as his daringly phosphorescent pianism and surprising moments of mystical reflection.
Brett Dean, 2024