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How do you begin to get to grips with the Liszt Piano Sonata in B minor? Learning the notes may seem a big enough challenge, and then you will want to understand the structure of the piece and have some knowledge of the composer. Imagine how useful it would be to get inside the mind of a great player who has performed this piece. Well, with this IPAD app created by Stephen Hough, you can – and whether you want to play the piece or just gain more understanding of it as a listener, £9.99 will never be better spent. The app is in two sections – The Performance and About the Piece. The first section alone would be well worth the asking price, for Hough is radiantly at home with this piece. Filmed in high definition, the performance can be viewed in various ways. These include an aerial view of hands on keyboard, and a fascinating ‘note-fall’ view displaying every note of the piece, green for right hand, red for left. Common to all these views is a single line of the score, which scrolls along as the piece progresses. The About the Piece section features a thoughtful introduction by Charlotte Gardner, notes on the composer, a full programme note, a structural analysis and a history of sonata form. But perhaps most useful is Hough’s own commentary on the piece, which can be heard or viewed as subtitles. Just before the opening of the andante sostenuto, he says: ‘Unless you have an absolutely enormous hand it’s rather diffi cult to balance these chords in the right hand because they have to be very soft and your hand is stretched at full limit. It’s nice when they work; there’s a certain sense of relief.’ This is a comprehensive tribute to a great work by a brilliant performer. Let’s hope Hough feels inclined to do a similar job on other Everests of the piano repertoire.

KEITH CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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