Joyce Morton Plays the Liszt Un Sospiro

After not playing the Liszt Un Sospiro for 10 years, adult piano student Joyce Morton relearns it and encounters both technical challenges and satisfaction.

by | Jul 1, 2013

Joyce Morton plays Un Sospiro from Franz Liszt’s Three Concert Études.

I recently decided to try to build a repertoire of pieces I had once played, and I started with the Liszt Un Sospiro. I love learning new pieces but find it a chore to maintain repertoire, so I never have much in my repertoire at any one time.

When I first picked up the Liszt Un Sospiro again after having deserted it about 10 years ago, I was thrilled to hear the sound of it and could hardly wait to relearn those initially perplexing cross-overs. I wanted to make it flow under the fingers as I remembered doing when I first played it.

My teacher, Matt Harre, stressed counting and awareness of pulse for the Liszt Un Sospiro, so that rhythmic elements were clear. He also helped with balance in the agitated, fortissimo middle section of the piece. With my hearing loss, balance issues are sometimes difficult for me. I hear through digital devices (hearing aids) that alter the sound entering my ears, and I have a compressed dynamic range that makes it difficult for me to determine how loudly or softly I am playing and the balance between the two hands. Matt pointed out that in Un Sospiro’s fortissimo section, I needed to bring out the left hand bass melody so it could be more easily heard above the very busy right hand accompaniment.

The technical challenges are always my greatest challenges. I was almost 14 when I began studying piano, and I took lessons for just five years. When I resumed study as a middle-aged adult, I didn’t have years of scale, trill, and arpeggio practice to recall. As an adult student, my aim has been just to enjoy the music I learn and the process of learning, not to perfect my technical skills.

Now after relearning the Liszt Un Sospiro, I’m not sure it is a good repertoire piece because of the technical challenges. Yet I think I was able to understand more of the composer’s intent and to express that as I played. The physical sensation of playing it again was satisfying.

Guest Writer Joyce Morton is a Senior Research Associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington DC, where she works with other analysts to determine the impact of changes to government policies that affect benefits and taxes. Ms. Morton has studied piano with Matthew Harre in Washington DC for more than 20 years.


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    Joyce, you play beautifully! I’ve never tackled “Un Sospiro” but this video makes me want to do just that. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    Joyce, congratulations! Well-done! I’m working on this piece. What edition did you use? The one I have has no fingering or guidance regarding the cross-hand passages.

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    I use the Henle edition; it has no fingering or guidance on the cross-overs. It might be helpful for you to view the YouTube video of Helen Park, “Un sospiro piano tutorial.” The cross-overs may initially be confusing, but once learned, the music flows so easily under the fingers. Good luck! It’s a beautiful piece of music that your family and friends will enjoy hearing.


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