Alex van Galen //
Notovich is a world famous pianist thanks to his virtuoso interpretations of Franz Liszt (1811-1886), the greatest pianist of his time who composed some of the most challenging piano music ever. But then Notovich’s great love Senna disappears. That night he gives a concert in a trance, while covered in blood. He is released for lack of evidence, but then collapses.
Then one day he sees a woman who looks very similar to Senna walking down the street. It appears to be the lover of the mysterious pianist Valdin, who challenges Notovich to a piano duel. Valdin too plays marvellous interpretations of Liszt. And he also claims to have new evidence about Senna’s mysterious disappearance. As Notovich decides to enter Valdin’s game he is slowly drawn into the madness and emotion of Liszt's music and when Valdin plays Franz Liszt’s hidden Devils Sonata, history seems to repeat itself.
This book makes you want to read, read read. Alex van Galen makes you feel you want to know Notovich in person. As the story unravels, it’s difficult to follow the way he thinks and after a while you realise Notovich is losing his grip on reality and increasingly identifies himself with Liszt as the story continues.
Liszt was one of the first 'devil artists', a pianist with an unprecedented mastery of his instrument. As Liszt played, women fainted in mass numbers. This was partly due to the hype; he was a kind of pop idol avant la lettre. Notovich and Valdin, the competitors in this book are both playing Liszt, and they look a lot like him too. They both charm their audience with his music, particularly the women.
But there is one of Liszt’s sonatas that has never been found in a book or a piece of paper. Notovich dreams repeatedly about it, but once awake from his dream he never seem to remember how to play this magical sonata. Valdin challenges Notovic to a piano duel in which Valdin plays the magical sonata...and called it The Devil’s Sonata.. This magical piece of music influences the pianist, the audience, everyone, or is it all just in Notovich’s head?
text by Rosalie van der Meulen / photo by Dauvit Alexander