None other than the German poet Heinrich Heine coined in 1844 the term Lisztomania. It described the state of frenzy that regularly befell the female audience of Franz Liszt’s piano concerts. The marks of this Lisztomania were distinct enough to have Heine suspect medical reasons as underlying causes: magnetism, galvanism, and whatever else the people of the mid-nineteenth century had recognized as forces of influence to the human body. Consequently, he engaged medical doctors of his time in conversation on this.
While the concert this past Palm Sunday here at the church did not lead the audience into a state of hysteria, it surely created pure admiration for the composer, the pianists and the soloist. Dr. Sohee Lee and Mr. Hong Kiew Kim gave an incredible performance. At times, it almost seemed, as if their incredible talent brought our Steinway to its limits. This was beautifully supplemented by the full voice of mezzo-soprano Barbara Mergelsberg.
In addition to the musical quality, the special part of a concert like this is the opportunity to learn about the historical and political background of the music performed. We mentioned that night the cosmopolitan relationships Liszt entertained with the great musicians and composers of his time: Berlioz, Saint Saëns, Grieg, Wagner, Chopin, Brahms and so forth. We also talked about the Revolution of 1848 and the friendship that Liszt had with authors like Heine and Victor Hugo.
The beneficiary of the concert was, of course, our church family who received the proceeds as yet another contribution to its ambitious preservation project. As most of us know, the project did not come a moment too late, and it is high time for the church roof to be replaced. And so we thank Dr. Sohee Lee, Mr. Hong Kiew Kim, and Ms. Barbara Mergelsberg for their wonderful generosity in offering this benefit concert for us. We also thank Ben Berman, our organist and choir director, for organizing this incredible little series of preservation concerts.