Some music fans consider the Three Years of Pilgrimage to be the pinnacle of Liszt’s music. Not only do they have quintessential Romantic qualities, but they also show how his style evolved through his life. The second “year” is a set of piano pieces inspired by his trip to Italy: literature and locations. This sonata is seen as the highlight of the set, and the form itself is more like a constructed fantasy [hence the title “Fantasia quasi sonata”. It was inspired by Dante’s Inferno, but the music isn’t all doom and gloom: while the main themes are built from chromatic decisions and tritones, they are transformed into longing, and even heroic themes, as the work develops. It may be notoriously difficult, but the work isn’t virtuosic for the sake of showing off: unlike earlier and more superficial Liszt, this sonata has more weight as a well crafted composition. While walking around in the wooded area in Wisconsin near the house, one of the main themes came to my head, and wouldn’t leave. It’s the chromatic theme re-worked as a descending major scale (at 8:53 in the video), it’s one of those melodies that aches. That sounds like glittering stars, despite the source material of hell fire and demons and what not.