Novel and audiobook for Liszt anniversary

Nicholas Clee

25 January 2011

A six-year obsession with Franz Liszt has led John Spurling to produce – in time for the composer’s bicentenary – an unusual novel, with an innovative audiobook to accompany it. A BOOK OF LISTZS, coming from the Calcutta-based Seagull Books (distribution by University of Chicago Press) on 17 May, is a novel in 15, self-contained chapters, telling the story of Liszt’s life in different styles and from different points of view.

From Chrome Audio, STORIES FROM A BOOK OF LISZTS contains two CDs of readings from the novel, interspersed with pieces played by Hungarian pianist Janos Balazs; a third CD has 79 minutes of Listz’s music.

Spurling is a playwright and novelist, and husband of biographer Hilary. He began his researches, and listening to Liszt’s music almost exclusively, after buying a CD of Harmonies po├ętiques et religieuses, played by Steven Osborne. Writing A BOOK OF LISZTS was a “homeopathic remedy”. Seagull, his publisher, has a distinguished catalogue of international literature.

Spurling had worked previously with Catriona Oliphant of Chrome Audio on a proposal for Radio 4. They came up with a format for the audiobook to accompany the novel, and decided that they should commission a young Hungarian pianist to perform the pieces. Oliphant approached the Hungarian Cultural Centre, which put her in touch with Janos Balazs and the Budapest Palace of Arts, where the recording took place. The readings from the novel are by Jonathan Keeble and Jilly Bond.

Spurling will publicise the novel and audiobook at various festivals including the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, where he will take to the stage with pianist Grace Francis.

http://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/

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