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Hyperion Records

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View from the Villa d'Este at Tivoli (detail) by Samuel Palmer (1805-1881)
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Track(s) taken from CDA66448
Recording details: June 1990
St Peter's Church, Petersham, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: July 1991
Total duration: 22 minutes 52 seconds

'More riches from the late piano repertoire of Franz Liszt, performed with skill and authority. Another excellent recording' (CDReview)

Historische ungarische Bildnisse, S205

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Apart from a theme from the Hungarian national hymn, Szózat es Hymnus, there are no folk materials at all in the Historical Hungarian Portraits. Those interested in the complete account of the background to these works will find much information in the notes to volume I/10 of the excellent Neue Liszt-Ausgabe. For the present purpose it is sufficient to say that Liszt set out in some way to write musical epitaphs and characterizations of seven famous nineteenth-century Hungarian statesmen and artists. Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 were all composed in 1885, at which time the whole series took shape: No 4 was adapted by shortening the march from Trauervorspiel und Trauermarsch, also composed in 1885 and, incidentally, using a four-note ground bass derived from a Mosonyi piano piece Lament on the Death of István Széchenyi; No 6 is an extended version of a piece composed in 1877, Dem Andenken Petöfis, which itself derives from a recitation for voice and piano, The Dead Poet’s Love of 1874, and No 7 is a slightly extended version of the c1870 piece, Mosonyis Grabgeleit. Liszt apparently intended to orchestrate the series, but that task was undertaken by his pupil Arthur Friedheim in 1886 (Nos 1, 4, 5 and 2 only), and the whole cycle remained unpublished until 1956. No 1 commemorates a distinguished political reformist and writer in a Hungarian quick march characterized by much unison writing, and introducing a motif of a falling fifth which recurs in several of the pieces. No 2, a slower march for another politician, has a lyrical central section, while No 3 quotes the theme of the Szózat to which the poet Vörösmarty contributed with Egressy. The politician and writer Teleki’s persecution and suicide are fittingly represented in a grim funeral march. No 5 is another quick march for a politician and writer. The last two pieces, because of their earlier origin perhaps, are much softer and more comforting in their nature. No 6 is an elegiac march in memory of a great poet, while the march element is finally suppressed by frequent excursions into 5/4 in the last piece, full of tolling bells for the distinguished Hungarian composer whose career Liszt had encouraged, not least in making a transcription from Mosonyi’s opera Szép Ilonka.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1991

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