Look Ma, three hands!
June 12, 2021 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Liszt's beautiful etude, Un Sospiro is a piece written using the Three-hand effect. This is a means of playing on the piano with only two hands, but producing the impression that one is using three hands.

Ironically, the Three Hand Effect was originated by Sigismund Thalberg, at the time, Liszt's greatest rival. Liszt criticized the technique and then....changed his mind.
posted by storybored (22 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Wow this is great. It must have been hot shit at the time!
posted by rhizome at 1:49 PM on June 12

Liszt was indeed hot shit at the time.
posted by emelenjr at 1:53 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]

Like Paganini, Liszt was followed by rumors that he had sold his soul to the Devil in order to be able to play like that.
posted by theoriginalkdawson at 2:15 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Ah ha, I had heard of the movie but had no idea it was a real thing (it takes me a while to get around to watching Roger Daltrey movies).
posted by rhizome at 2:16 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Still hot shit today; he's a go-to composer for piano-shredding encores.
posted by bfields at 3:05 PM on June 12 [6 favorites]

Liszt. What a show-off.

Good stuff.
posted by dazed_one at 3:15 PM on June 12

Hot damn bfields, thanks for sharing that Evgeny Kissin video. I couldn’t play that piece if I had twelve hands.
posted by obfuscation at 4:49 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

If you think that's impressive, wait until you hear his three leg etude
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:14 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Quite the showboat. My wife and I maintain he was Liberace's grandfather...
posted by jim in austin at 5:30 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

Very cool.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 6:02 PM on June 12

This was so neat! Thanks for posting the video, what a cool effect.

The Wikipedia article on three-hand technique was pretty interesting as well. My favorite part:

"In Paris of the 1830s, bravura piano technique became very fashionable. Various intricate problems in piano playing were solved during this period, and unusual techniques invented. Advances in piano technology also enabled innovative techniques."

Such a fascinating perspective on piano playing; almost reducing it to a series of key presses and tricks to hit certain sequences and obtain unusual effects, like drifting a car or landing a kickflip (or speedrunning a Doom level?).
posted by miltthetank at 6:08 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]

Still hot shit today; he's a go-to composer for piano-shredding encores.
posted by bfields

Top comment from that vid

Liszt: I paid for 88 keys I'm gonna use 88 keys
posted by lalochezia at 7:24 PM on June 12 [10 favorites]

People, I was a freaking music major (albeit many years since active), and I can barely keep up just reading the score.

I'm sitting here listening and watching and thinking, if you're ever a little depressed about the human race, remember there are people who can write and play music at this level.

(And this comment from the Barton YouTube link:
"Liszt probably wrote this one morning waiting for the kettle to boil, and trying to remember the name of the woman still asleep in his bed.")
posted by NorthernLite at 9:25 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]

thanks for sharing that Evgeny Kissin video

I think my favourite part is where he takes his bow at the end and the back of his jacket is just soaked with sweat.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with the action on this piano"
posted by flabdablet at 10:59 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]

Here's James Hill with much the same effect on ukulele.
posted by flabdablet

Since we're doing top YouTube comments:
I heard James Hill was walking home from school with $1 when he was young when he ran into the devil. The devil asked him what his greatest desire was. James said he wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world. The devil said that would be no problem, but it would cost James his soul. James did not want to give up his soul, so he asked what he could get for his dollar. The devil offered to make him the greatest ukulele player in the world, and they had a deal.
posted by a car full of lions at 9:39 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]

"1838, Vienna: It is very well known that not every piano can withstand the passionate, virtuoso play of the young composer and artist Franz Liszt. Recommended by his friends he decides to select a Bösendorfer Grand for his concert in Vienna. Due to the superb crafting and high quality delivered by Bösendorfer Liszt does not have to hold back his artistic spirit - to his surprise. The audience is thrilled. Bösendorfer becomes famous over night and following this concert many more shall follow. A close friendship between Liszt and Bösendorfer develops."

About Bösendorfer.
posted by bz at 11:33 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]

Very cool--and what a gorgeous video!
posted by helpthebear at 2:53 PM on June 14

Time for a story. My brother was an astounding pianist early on - not a surprise: our mom was an accomplished pianist in her own right. Around age 14, Mike got bored with piano. It was, apparently, too easy for him. He all but quit. My mom addressed that by buying recordings of Liszt and got Mike some scores. Mike was surprised to find that he couldn't play it. He returned to lessons with his teacher, a lovely Swiss woman named Heidi Grob who was great if you wanted to learn Debussy or Beethoven. She had to give Mike the bad news that she couldn't teach him to play Liszt because she couldn't play it. My mom tracked down another teacher for him and the game was afoot.

I took this picture in Mike's library. That's about 20 volumes of Liszt alone.

Now about 3 hands. My first reaction was, "Isn't 3 a little low for Lizst? His music often sounds like 4 or 5." Here is a recording of the Legend of Saint Francis Walking on the Waves by Mike. It was recorded in 1986 at Skywalker Ranch where he worked at the time. He was 25.

this is... quite a bar
Boy do I have a surprise for you.

I love virtuosity in playing. It's the ability to make something that is amazingly hard look like it is as easy as breather. For example Tommy Emmanuel. Also love this arrangement of the 3rd movement of the Moonlight Sonata for electric guitar.
posted by plinth at 8:38 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]

plinth, your brother was absolutely incredible in many axes and an inspiration to me, but especially his playing. I wish I could have met him.

As for virtuosity, you might also enjoy Marcin Patrzalek's guitar rendition of Paganini's Caprice no. 24
posted by bz at 5:23 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

« Older Today Is Loving Day   |   A moment of reflection Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments