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Hyperion Records

CDA67401/2 - Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra I
Death as an Avenger (1851) by Alfred Rethel (1816-1859)
CDA67401/2
Recording details: July 1998
Budapest Studios of Hungarian Radio, Hungary
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: November 1998
Total duration: 157 minutes 14 seconds

'Exemplary, and superbly recorded' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Howard's dedication is clear in all his playing here, with clear, crisp articulation vividly caught in finely balanced sound' (The Guardian)

'Hyperion's production, as always, is superb. For the Lisztian, this is indispensable' (Fanfare, USA)

The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra I
CD1
Quasi adagio  [5'33]
Lento  [15'57]
CD2
Andante  [4'02]
Grandioso  [3'49]
Ritornello  [0'23]
Tempo di Polacca  [7'55]

This set and its companion (CDA67403/4) are perhaps the most important releases in Leslie Howard's complete survey of Liszt's piano music. In addition to such well known works as the mature Piano Concertos (two of the most popular works in the nineteenth-century Romantic repertoire) and the other lesser known but familiar pieces, several items here receive their first recordings; as a result of Leslie Howard's indefatigable research we can now hear orchestral versions of Hexaméron and the Grand Solo de concert for the first time. Also in new versions are the recently discovered Concerto in E flat, Op posth, and De Profundis. A re-examination of the manuscripts has led our pianist to make refinements to the published scores which provide a more accurate reflection of Liszt's intentions.

All these issues and more are documented in Leslie Howard's characteristically thorough notes.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Allowing for arrangements of other composers’ works, Liszt’s surviving œuvre for piano and orchestra comprises some fifteen pieces, and the earlier version of Totentanz is so different from the final conception that we must extend the total to sixteen, and to seventeen if Liszt’s contribution to the Ungarische Zigeunerweisen (Konzert im ungarischen Styl) is considered proven. There are other Liszt works for piano and orchestra which may well have existed, or which we know he performed, but which have not come down to us: two concertos that he wrote as a teenager have disappeared, and concertante versions of five of his major solo pieces are mentioned in correspondence or by publishers (Clochette Fantasy, Puritani Fantasy, Niobe Fantasy, El Contrabandista and Heroischer Marsch im ungarischen Styl) but still remain tantalizingly undiscovered. Of the music we have, Liszt himself played very little in public—just three works, in fact—and he did not see much of it through the press.

It is easy to imagine the teenage Liszt, in his early conquest of the musical world, being asked to produce works of his own to play with orchestra, and we know that something was produced quite quickly, because there are many contemporary accounts of Liszt playing unspecified concertos of his own composition. But the earliest surviving concertante works were completed in the 1830s, by which time Liszt’s mature style had completely evolved. It is difficult to establish incontrovertibly a chronology of composition, but by the mid-1830s Liszt must have drafted the so-called Malédiction Concerto and the Lélio Fantasy, and probably an early version of the First Concerto. Only one of these works was performed by Liszt at this stage, and that was never prepared for publication: the Lélio Fantasy, which Liszt played under Berlioz’s direction in 1834, when it proved a far more successful piece than the extraordinary Berlioz work from which Liszt took his themes. In that same year, Liszt produced his largest concertante piece—the instrumental psalm De Profundis, which he never performed and which was not published in his lifetime, although he returned to it for material for other works in later years. By the end of the decade, Liszt had given several performances of his orchestral version of the famous Hexaméron variations, but this, too, remained unpublished in its orchestral form.

At the end of the 1830s Liszt was working on three concertos. Two of them would wait twenty years or more for their final published form, and the runt of the litter would be abandoned in rather an unsatisfactory state of completion, to be published a century after Liszt’s death. A further work which would occupy a decade in the search for a final form was Totentanz, whose beginnings date from 1849 and whose first complete version contains material derived from, but never identical to, De Profundis. During the 1850s, when Liszt was concentrating on repairing earlier works for what he regarded as their definitive versions, he revised his Capriccio alla turca, adding the opening march and issuing the work as a Fantasy on themes from the Ruins of Athens, completing the work in 1852. At the same time, he created a version with orchestra of his Grand Solo de concert, but, because he later revised the solo version of the piece, he never published either the solo or the orchestral version of his first conception. However, he did issue his one potboiler: the Hungarian Fantasy, which harks back to the Tenth of the Magyar Dalok, and forward to the Fourteenth Hungarian Rhapsody. He also made his arrangements of the Weber Polonaise and the Schubert ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy at this time, and they achieved instant popularity. By the end of the decade, Concerto No 1 had undergone its final revisions after the premiere Liszt played in Weimar under Berlioz, and the final form of Totentanz was ready although Liszt never played it. Concerto No 2 was finally ready in 1861, but by this stage Liszt was only prepared to conduct the work and never to play the solo part. Nor did he play his revised solo part for the Weber Konzertstück which was published in the early 1870s. Incontrovertible evidence of the extent of Liszt’s role in the preparation at Schloss Itter in 1885 of the Ungarische Zigeunerweisen remains elusive, and in any case it is not a work of the front rank, but the piece is not without interest and, on the grounds that Liszt may have had something to do with it, it is included in this recorded survey by way of a bonus. The version for two pianos of the Grosses Konzertsolo—the Concerto pathétique—became very popular, and two of Liszt’s pupils produced versions with orchestra, one of which Liszt took to his heart and then to his desk for comprehensive rewriting and extension, making it one of the last things he completed—although he then muddied the waters by keeping his part in the work anonymous in the published score.

Leslie Howard © 1998


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