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New novel creates overnight surge in Liszt sales

A novel by Haruki Murakami always causes a bookstore rush in Japan. His latest, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, has sold a million copies in its first week of release.

It contains a description of Franz Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage suite, in a 1977 interpretation by Lazar Berman. Downloads of the album rocketed it to top spot in the Japan charts and DG are having to reprint the CD.


Memo to novelists: remember to sign the label deal, along with the book contract.

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  1. There’s no such thing as “Franz Liszt’s Annees de Pelerinages suite”. There are three collections called “Années de pèlerinage”; Suisse, Italie, and a third with no title. They are not suites, if suite is understood in the strict sense of a group of pieces which are intended to be played in sequence as a coherent whole (for example Bach’s suites). It’s more usual for individual pieces from the various Années to be performed on their own (I’d guess that Vallée d’Obermann and Après une lecture de Dante are the best known, and perhaps the second Petrarch sonnet) than it is for them to be played entire.

    Wikipedia I notice refers to them as suites, but that’s Wikipedia for you.

    • Title of first edition of book 1, pub. by Les Fils de B. Schott, 1855: Années de pèlerinage : suite de compositions : première année : Suisse.

      Title of first edition of book 2, pub. by Les Fils de B. Schott, 1858: Années de pèlerinage : suite de compositions pour piano : deuxième anneée, Italie.

      Title of first edition of book 3, pub. by Les Fils de B. Schott, Années de pèlerinage : suite de compositions pour piano : troisième année.

      Letter from Liszt to Louis Kohler, 1852 : “I should be very glad if you find anything that suits you in my next impending piano publication (the new, entirely revised edition of my Studies, the “Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses,” and the two years of “Années de Pèlerinage, Suite de Compositions,” etc.).”

      Letter from Liszt to Carl Reinecke, 1852: “I expect that in the course of this summer the twelve Grands Etudes (definitive edition) and the ‘Harmonies Poétiques et Religieuses’ will successively appear, and in December or January next the ‘Années de Pèlerinage, Suite de Compositions pour le Piano….’”

      Letter from Liszt to Louis Köhler, 1854: “…in the course of the summer my ‘Années de Pèlerinage, Suite de Compositions pour le Piano’ will appear at Schott’s; two years—Switzerland and Italy.” (all trans. Constance Bache)

      But that’s Wikipedia for you.

  2. But the key thing here is that the cycle has been bought to the attention of thousands of people who hadn’t otherwise heard it. I’m very happy to hear about this.

  3. Ghillie Forrest says:

    Isn’t this just a version of collecting “Opera Goes to the Movies” or some such? Do these surges ever make much of a difference in truly bringing new people to good music? Despite the difference in the quality of the products, isn’t this just a version of the spike in Spem in Alium sales after 50 Shades came out? At least one of Jilly Cooper’s novels had an accompanying album released, containing the music named in the book (which was about a musician, rather than the usual horses). I know people who recall with passionate affection something they call the British Airways commercial, but tell them it’s part of the Flower Duet from Lakme and they glaze over.

  4. Liberius says:

    Murakami provoked the same sort of fascinating with his last novel, the massive masterpiece *1Q84*, which includes in its opening section a mention of Janacek’s *Sinfonietta.* Perhaps he should consider a “label deal,” though I would imagine he isn’t thinking at all in those terms.

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