Program Note for Der Virtuos

Der Virtuos is based on a series of caricatures by Wilhelm Busch.  Busch highlights and expands the different musical sentiments of a Lisztian, virtuosic pianist.  Although each drawing has its own character and musical personality, there is also a musical form which is independent from the visual accompaniment.  (The work may also be performed without slides.)  This musical form is controlled by two principal ideas: a semi-tone wedge which contracts and expands to a tritone and a "fixed idea" of a simple tune.   The "wedge" is first presented in a varied form in the introduction and later surfaces in its kernel form as the subject of the fuge del diavolo.  The fixed tune is most prominently heard as the melody of the adagio, but also appears as the countersubject of the fugue.  The appearance of the fugue marks both a structural and dramatic climax.  The ensuing episodes develop material from the first half of the piece and push the pianist to virtuosic extremes.