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Hyperion Records

CDA66951/3 - Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 31 – The Schubert Transcriptions I
Bank of the River Spree at Stralau (1817) by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)
CDA66951/3

Recording details: June 1994
St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: March 1995
DISCID: 7D120A09 5B113907 5711CD08
Total duration: 225 minutes 37 seconds

'His idiomatic grasp and utter reliability remain as admirable as in earlier instalments. Excellent sonics and informative notes by the performer' (American Record Guide)

'His devotion, consistency of playing, and stamina continue to amaze me. And his program notes alone are worth the price' (Classical Pulse)

'A must for all lovers of Schubert and followers of Liszt's devotion to him' (Yorkshire Post)

The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 31 – The Schubert Transcriptions I
CD1
No 3: E major  [9'58]
No 5: G flat major  [10'36]
No 6: A minor  [7'02]
No 7: A major  [6'23]
No 8: D major  [10'50]
CD2
No 1: Andante  [17'29]
No 3: Allegretto  [23'40]
CD3
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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Although the young Liszt was in Vienna in the early 1820s, and although he was met and encouraged by Beethoven, he does not seem to have encountered the other master who was to have the greatest influence upon his musical style. The only Viennese connection between Schubert and Liszt, which also includes Beethoven, is that they were each commissioned by Diabelli to contribute a variation on his ‘cobbler’s patch’ waltz for his grand publication comprising variations from all the available luminaries of the day.

But Liszt the pianist immediately took up Schubert the composer by performing the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy (which Schubert had deemed unplayable), along with other important keyboard and chamber works. Liszt’s proselytizing zeal for Schubert never diminished, and his transcriptions cover a period of some fifty years. Liszt was also to conduct the first performance of Schubert’s opera Alfonso und Estrella; he conducted the ‘Great’ C major Symphony (without the cuts which Schumann had found necessary) and he even attempted to collect material to write a Schubert biography which, alas, he was not to complete. Liszt published instructive editions of Schubert’s sonatas, fantasies, impromptus, moments musicaux, dances and music for piano duet, and he produced a very acceptable version of the ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy for piano and orchestra. He made a version for solo voice, chorus and orchestra or piano of Die Allmacht, and published orchestral accompaniments to Die junge Nonne, Gretchen am Spinnrade, Lied der Mignon and Erlkönig. (He announced future publication of orchestral versions of Der Doppelgänger and Abschied, but only a manuscript for the first of these has been found to date.) And he produced an excellent set of four marches for orchestra or piano duet, all re-workings and re-combinings of various duet pieces by Schubert. But the greatest testimony to Schubert is Liszt’s extensive catalogue of transcriptions for solo piano of songs and of piano duets.

It seems almost unthinkable that such a beloved composer as Schubert should have had some difficulty in establishing a reputation during his life and that his posthumous fame was not guaranteed by the general public for quite some time after his death. For example, in Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts, Alfred Brendel reports Rachmaninov’s asseveration, amazing if true, that he did not know that Schubert had written piano sonatas. (He did record the great Duo Sonata with Fritz Kreisler, however.) The early nineteenth century viewed the lied as an essentially domestic commodity. Liszt’s transcriptions, more than anything else, got this music into the concert hall, whence it has never departed since. As Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has written: ‘It was Franz Liszt, with his much scorned transcriptions, who, through piano arrangements alone, assisted greatly in the propagation of German song.’ The Schubert revival of the twentieth century, and especially the view of the song oeuvre as a whole, has also been largely at the hands of pianists – specialist accompanists like Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons and Graham Johnson – who have politely coerced singers into broadening both their repertoires and their understanding of the best songwriter of them all. And now that Schubert’s originals stand in no fear of neglect there is much complementary pleasure and edification to be had from Liszt’s vast library of lovingly crafted piano pieces based upon Schubert’s music.

The present survey of Liszt’s Schubert transcriptions comprises nine compact discs in three sets of three and contains all versions and variant readings known at the time of writing (with the exception of a few brief ossia-simplified alternative passages). It will be immediately clear to any student of the published Liszt catalogues that there are many variant versions of some of the works which are either unknown to the cataloguers, or so insufficiently described as to make unclear the differences in the various editions and manuscripts. Whilst to cover all of Liszt’s alternative readings of all of his works – especially if the variation applies just to a few bars – would increase this recording project beyond all decent bounds, Liszt’s particular zeal with his Schubert transcriptions makes this exception a worthy one.

The Soirées de Vienne addressed such a real need and an obvious difficulty that their present neglect is quite shameful. Schubert produced several hundreds of short dance pieces for piano, many of them in sets which were possibly intended for continuous dancing or domestic entertainment but which are, because of their individual brevity, the sameness of their length, and their often unvaried tonality, very awkward to programme in concert. For the same reason the few surviving dance sets for piano by Mozart and Beethoven are largely ignored by recitalists. But these dances contain a wealth of delightful music which, as Liszt perceived from the beginning with his customary astuteness, requires rescuing and assorting with discreet habiliments for public use. Liszt concocted continuous suites from selected dances, often making a better point than Schubert did of the sheer originality of them by the use of contrasting tonality, and from time to time allowing himself the occasional variation, introduction, interlude or coda. Schubert’s sometimes rather rudimentary style of piano writing is generously and touchingly filled out without the slightest recourse to the applause-gathering trickery to which many a nineteenth-century piano waltz falls victim. These refined waltz sequences laid the ground for the structures of some of the most memorable of the Strauss waltzes, and find echoes as late as Prokofiev. The adventures of the various dances are easily followed and, for the comfort of the searchers amongst the available sources, Schubert’s original themes are identified in each work in the order in which Liszt has them appear.

In all, Liszt uses thirty-five Schubert dances from seven different sets. No 1 of these nine Valses-Caprices is based upon three, No 2 upon six (with an extra theme at the coda of Liszt’s own devising, but most Schubertian nonetheless), No 3 upon seven themes (the fifth of which combines two to make one), Nos 4 and 5 upon just two apiece, Nos 6 and 7 each upon three, No 8 upon seven, and No 9, which is a piece apart, upon just one. No 9 is really an original set of variations with an introduction and coda upon the so-called Trauerwalzer from Schubert’s Op 9, and if Liszt had not called it a transcription it would have found its way into the canon of his original works without question. The shape of the set overall presents two groups of three where a more extrovert work with introduction and coda follows two intimate pieces which concentrate upon gentle, lyric pieces, then a contrasting pair, the second of which is the grandest of the whole collection, and finally the delicate pendant of the variations in No 9. Liszt aficionados will recall that the second theme of No 4 had already appeared in the third of the Apparitions (see Volume 26 of this series) – so Liszt clearly knew these dances by 1834 at the latest – and the first theme of that piece is introduced with a gesture obviously intended to show a relationship with Beethoven’s Sonata, Op 31 No 3. No 6 of the Soirées de Vienne was a great favourite in Liszt’s day and was much recorded earlier in the twentieth century. (Liszt made two further versions of that piece which will be discussed later.)

Liszt uses themes from the following Schubert collections:

Zwölf Walzer, siebzehn Ländler und neun Ecossaisen, Op 18/D145
Sechsunddreizig Originaltänze (‘Erste Walzer’), Op 9/D365
Sechzehn Ländler und zwei Ecossaisen, Op 67/D734
Vierunddreizig Valses sentimentales, Op 50/D779
Sechzehn Deutsche Tänze und zwei Ecossaisen, Op 33/D783
(from Zwölf Deutsche Tänze genannt ‘Ländler’, Op posth 171/D790: No 2, which is virtually identical to D783/I/1)
Zwölf Valses nobles, Op 77/D969

In the nine Valses-Caprices the following themes are used:

No 1: D783/I/15; D365/22; D734/14
No 2: D365/1; D145/II/3; D365/6; D145/II/4; D145/II/5; D365/32
No 3: D145/I/1; D783/I/4; D365/19; D365/20; D365/25 elided with the second part of D365/20; D145/I/6; D145/I/9
No 4: D365/29; D365/33
No 5: D365/14; D969/3
No 6: D969/9; D969/10; D779/13
No 7: D783/I/1; D783/I/7; D783/I/10
No 8: D783/I/9; D779/11; D779/2; D783/I/5; D783/I/14; D783/I/13; D783/I/2
No 9: D365/2

The art of composing – or, for that matter, playing – piano duets has always been relegated to the periphery of musical importance, despite the rather high quality of much of the literature, and perhaps because of the amateur nature of much of the performing. Like the lied, the duet was conceived for domestic use, but if Mozart could produce something as wonderful as the F major Sonata, K497, or Schubert the F minor Fantasy, Op 103/D940, then this music must surely claim the attention of the concert hall. Liszt too wrote a good many duets, but usually in the nature of arrangements for private study or performance of his own orchestral or piano music. His solo versions of Schubert duets seem determined to show, in the way that duet performances are not often able, the extraordinary breadth of Schubert’s imagination in a garb more suitable for presentation to the many, without doing any kind of disservice to Schubert’s original thoughts.

Schubert’s piano duet Divertissement à l’hongroise, Op 54/D818, is a late work of enormous breadth, comparable to the last piano sonatas, the string quintet and the last symphony in the almost leisurely length of its working-out. The title belies the work’s serious intent, but the Hungarian flavour turns up everywhere, obviously in the march, but very delicately and wistfully in the outer movements. No folk songs are apparently employed but the style of the gypsy improvisation is worked into a piece more tightly constructed than its sprawling length might suggest. Liszt was clearly entranced by the piece, probably for its Hungarian qualities as well as for his general enthusiasm for things Schubertian, but, typically, resisted Schubert’s title (Liszt wrote very little music that he considered to be ‘diverting’) and allowed for the three pieces, which he simply called Mélodies hongroises, to be performed separately (after all, in Liszt’s very respectful but colourful arrangements the whole work takes nearly fifty minutes in performance). The outer movements are in G minor and each consists of three statements of a theme, varied upon repetition, interspersed with two entirely different alternative sections, in every case in a complex ternary form entailing the reprise of almost every section with ornamental variation. (The scheme may be simply described as something like: A–BCB–A–DED–A–coda.) The march forms a splendid foil for these grand works and it became independently famous in its day, to the extent that Liszt reissued it many times with all manner of alterations to the shape and effect of the piece. These versions will be discussed as they appear.

Now this first group of Liszt’s Schubert transcriptions passes to his first and last offerings in this field – Die Rose, in the first version of 1833, and Der Gondelfahrer, which Liszt transcribed some fifty years later. (Many catalogues suggest 1838 as a date for this work. This is apparently a case of dyslexia which has been perpetuated without checking down the years. The manuscript and corrected proofs, which the present writer has seen, leave no doubt whatsoever that 1883 is the correct date.) Although Die Rose later appeared in various assortments of Schubert/Liszt song transcriptions (and this is an absolutely labyrinthine nightmare for the researcher), it was first published as a single number. The present writer had the good fortune to study this piece from a copy of the first edition signed and inscribed by Liszt ‘à son ami F. Chopin’. Schubert’s song, Op 73/D745a (nothing to do with Heidenröslein despite various catalogues’ erroneous suggestions) sets Schlegel’s poem which is the brief autobiography of a rose which regrets the brevity of its life once in bloom. Liszt turns this simple piece into something of a symphonic poem in which he captures both the fragility and the underlying passion of the song. The song Der Gondelfahrer, D808, was probably not known to Liszt (it was not published until 1872), but the version for men’s chorus and piano, Op 28/D809, likewise written in March 1824, was the basis for the last and one of the sweetest of Liszt’s Schubert transcriptions. Mayrhofer’s poem tells of a gondolier pondering the human condition whilst plying his craft through water upon which the ghostly moon and stars dance, and the clock in St Mark’s strikes midnight. Neither Schubert in his miniature masterpiece, nor Liszt in a response typical of the lonely restraint of his late manner, gives us twelve strokes, and Liszt’s mysterious coda allows the clock to strike again and again, disappearing without the comforting keynote at the root of the final chords.

Sophie Menter (1848–1918) was one of Liszt’s most gifted piano students who toured the world to great acclaim. Liszt made alterations to several of his published compositions for her personal use: an extra little cadenza to the Don Giovanni fantasy (see Vol 6, ‘Liszt at the Opera’ I), some excellent improvements to the Masaniello tarantella (see Vol 42, ‘Liszt at the Opera’ IV), and the two pieces recorded here. (He also helped her with the composition of a ‘Concerto in the Hungarian Style’ called Ungarische Zigeunerweisen which was eventually orchestrated by Tchaikovsky in 1892, the actual composition of which has, in recent times, been quite unreasonably attributed to Liszt himself.) These manuscript fragments, all preserved in the Library of Congress (whither must go profound thanks for the use of the material), require adding to the appointed places in the already published editions. In the case of the Soirées de Vienne there is a note in Liszt’s hand in the margin saying that two bars of one extended modulation were the idea of Hans von Bülow. In the more far-reaching alterations to the Marche hongroise Liszt permits himself a new coda, and a quite astonishing rearrangement of key at the recapitulation of the second theme.

Liszt’s interest in the Schubert marches extended well beyond the Marche hongroise. The three large piano pieces based upon various Schubert marches for piano duet incorporate much more than face value might suggest: the extraordinary Trauermarsch, which for sustained sorrow is one of the finest of all such pieces, is faithfully transcribed from the fifth of the Six grandes marches, Op 40/D819, but manages to find even greater profundity than in the original text. The Grande marche is derived from No 3 of the same set but with the addition of a second, slower, trio section which is taken from the Grande marche funèbre, Op 55/D859, and which theme also returns at the coda. Both Schubert works share a delightful ability to slide into unorthodox modulations. More formally complicated is the Grande marche caractéristique which starts out as a transcription of the first of the two marches from Schubert’s Op posth 121/D886, but after the trio section moves into a transcription of the trio from the second march from D886. Then follow the first part of No 2 of the D819 set, and the trio from D819/1. All this material is worked into a very convincing concert piece well worthy of revival. (Liszt made orchestral versions of these three works, along with the ubiquitous Marche hongroise, in his Vier Märsche von Franz Schubert, which he then rearranged as piano duets.)

Liszt’s concert paraphrase on the Marche militaire – the very famous first of the Schubert Trois marches militaires for piano duet, Op 51/D733 – seems to be, without question, the source for Tausig’s well-known transcription of the work, although Liszt’s version is a good deal more subtle. It may be that Liszt withdrew his version in favour of his pupil’s transcription, which Liszt certainly praised in his obituary of Tausig who died in 1871, not yet thirty years old. In any event Liszt’s version was published, even though it is not mentioned in the catalogues, the most recent appearance being the reprint by Kunkel of St Louis, in 1907.

This collection closes with three early song transcriptions, originally issued as single numbers but which were later revised and placed in the collection of twelve songs, S558, or, in the case of the Sérénade, in its appropriate place in Schwanengesang. Schubert’s Ave Maria, Op 52/6/D839, has, despite the efforts of movie moguls and tasteless tenors, nothing to do with the famous Latin prayer but rather is a setting in translation of Walter Scott. But the text is indeed a hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary (the third of Ellen’s songs from The Lady of the Lake) which Liszt overlays with a great deal of well-meant swirling harmony, and, in this version, adds a long coda in which Schubert’s motif is turned into a very serious piece of private devotion. The ever popular Sérénade, D957/4, underwent many subtle changes, even additions and eliminations of pairs of bars of musical echo, between this very beautiful transcription and its equally beautiful revisions. Erlkönig, Op 1/D328d, is too familiar, even in transcription, to require much elucidation. This version is really quite similar to its successor, excepting at the child’s cries of ‘Mein Vater’ in terror at the wraith’s approach, where Liszt requires quite a lot of movement amongst the inner parts.

Leslie Howard © 1995


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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 41 – The Recitations with piano' (CDA67045)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 41 – The Recitations with piano
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 42 – Liszt at the Opera IV' (CDA67101/2)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 42 – Liszt at the Opera IV
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 43 – Deuxième Année de Pèlerinage' (CDA67107)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 43 – Deuxième Année de Pèlerinage
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 44 – The Early Beethoven Transcriptions' (CDA67111/3)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 44 – The Early Beethoven Transcriptions
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 45 – Rapsodie espagnole' (CDA67145)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 45 – Rapsodie espagnole
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 46 – Meditations' (CDA67161/2)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 46 – Meditations
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 47 – Litanies de Marie' (CDA67187)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 47 – Litanies de Marie
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 48 – The Complete Paganini Études' (CDA67193)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 48 – The Complete Paganini Études
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 49 – Schubert and Weber Transcriptions' (CDA67203)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 49 – Schubert and Weber Transcriptions
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 50 – Liszt at the Opera V' (CDA67231/2)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 50 – Liszt at the Opera V
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 51 – Paralipomènes' (CDA67233/4)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 51 – Paralipomènes
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 52 – Ungarischer Romanzero' (CDA67235)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 52 – Ungarischer Romanzero
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra I' (CDA67401/2)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra I
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra II' (CDA67403/4)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra II
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 54 – Liszt at the Opera VI' (CDA67406/7)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 54 – Liszt at the Opera VI
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 55 – Grande Fantaisie' (CDA67408/10)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 55 – Grande Fantaisie
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 56 – Rarities, Curiosities, Album Leaves and Fragments' (CDA67414/7)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 56 – Rarities, Curiosities, Album Leaves and Fragments
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'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 57 – Hungarian Rhapsodies' (CDA67418/9)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 57 – Hungarian Rhapsodies
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'Liszt: Piano Music' (LISZT1)
Liszt: Piano Music
LISZT1  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
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