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Hyperion Records

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… the cat sprang up to the roof. She seemed to say something to Silver Hoof. Russian Folk Art
Track(s) taken from CDA66388
Recording details: October 1989
St Peter's Church, Petersham, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: November 1990
Total duration: 32 minutes 46 seconds

'This CD was a revelation—this is great music played with impeccable artistry and flawlessly recorded, one of the best solo piano records I've heard in the past ten years' x (CDReview)

'This pianist seems absolutely in key with Liszt's own musicianship' (Musical Opinion)

Weihnachtsbaum, S186
first sketched 1866; completed 1876; published 1882

Carillon  [1'42]
Schlummerlied  [2'42]
Abendglocken  [3'29]
Ehemals!  [2'55]
Ungarisch  [1'44]
Polnisch  [5'42]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Christmas Tree suite occupied Liszt for quite some time—he was determined to make an especially good job of it to present to his granddaughter Daniela (daughter of Hans von Bülow and Cosima) to whom the set is dedicated—and he also made a charming arrangement of it for piano duet. The bulk of the work was carried out between 1874 and 1876, although Liszt kept touching the pieces up until the time of publication. The first four numbers are marked ‘piano ossia armonium’, and are nowadays additionally included with Liszt’s organ music. The whole work is arranged in three groups of four pieces which, broadly, present traditional carol melodies, a child’s view of Christmas, and a maturer person’s recollections.

Michael Praetorius (1571–1621) composed the choral work which provides the theme for Psallite, or, at least, the central section—Liszt provides a formal march-like introduction and coda, setting a processional air. O Heilige Nacht! is based on an old carol, and Liszt also produced a version of the piece for choir and organ. The melody of Die Hirten … is known to practically everyone, but Liszt’s delicate left-hand pastoral dactyls are one of his happiest inspirations. His treatment of what all English-speaking people will immediately recognize as O come, all ye faithful as a march for the three kings (which has no connection with the eponymous march in Liszt’s oratorio Christus) allows him to introduce some rather dramatic extensions to the well-known tune.

The fifth piece is one of very few scherzi that Liszt wrote—full of humour, and treacherously difficult as children’s pieces go! The double notes of Carillon—the first of two bell-pieces—are similarly unnerving, as is the unresolved ending. The seventh piece is worlds away from Liszt’s independent Berceuse. Here, a very simple melodic fragment with a rippling accompaniment makes several dreamlike excursions into strange harmonic territory before it drifts off into sleep. No 8 actually includes two old French carols, and makes another rather sophisticated little scherzo which leads us to the adult world of the last pieces.

The bells of the ninth piece invoke quiet recollection and, according to Humphrey Searle, the tenth piece—at once wistful and impassioned—is a nostalgic remembrance of the first meeting between Liszt and the Princess zu Sayn-Wittgenstein; the eleventh—a stirring march—a self-portrait, and the twelfth—an exuberant mazurka—a portrait of the Polish Princess. This may be so, although the present writer can find no primary source for Searle’s idea. It should be observed, though, that the Hungarian piece bears an extra dedication to Liszt’s friend, the composer Kornél Ábrányi, and that the extrovert gaiety of the final number belies everything that one has otherwise been lead to believe of the character of the Princess, who smoked cigars, wrote interminable tomes on obscure church problems, and probably never danced a step!

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1990

Other albums featuring this work
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
MP3 £160.00FLAC £160.00ALAC £160.00Buy by post £200.00 CDS44501/98  99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
'Liszt: Piano Music' (LISZT1)
Liszt: Piano Music
MP3 £4.50FLAC £4.50ALAC £4.50 LISZT1  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
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