Franz Liszt's Transcendental Etudes are exercises in name only. Only pianists with blockbuster technique who are miles past the study phase can play them. And only pianists with an equal endowment of brilliance and confidence can play them really well. Liszt composed the first version of these wickedly difficult pieces at age 15 and re-created them in 1837, at age 26, under the title of Douze Grande Etudes, a version so fiendish that it was virtually impossible for anyone but the composer to play. So, in 1852, Liszt revised the etudes a third time, into the Transcendental Etudes, which are only “nearly impossible,” says virtuoso Adam Nieman, who will present the entire 12-etude cycle at “Camerata Pacifica: The Transcendental Etudes.” Nieman considers the works to be Liszt's greatest contribution to piano literature. “It's the range of motion, expression, dynamics, colors for the instrument,” he observes. “It's the blending of poetry and imagery to an unprecedented level.” Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford St., San Marino; Tues., Oct. 18, 8 p.m. Also at the Colburn School of Performing Arts, Zipper Auditorium, 200 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Thurs., Oct. 20, 8 p.m.; $45, $10 student rush. (805) 884-8410,

Thu., Oct. 20, 8 p.m., 2011

LA Weekly