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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67015
Recording details: June 1995
St Peter's Church, Petersham, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Marian Freeman
Release date: February 1996
Total duration: 21 minutes 33 seconds

'A rewarding collection, very well played and recorded' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'Prueba evidente del absoluto dominio y comprensión musical que posee el intérprete de la obra del compositor hungaro' (CD Compact, Spain)

Trois Études de concert – Trois caprices poétiques, S144
circa 1848

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Trois Études de concert—or Trois Caprices poétiques as they were called in the second edition—are merely numbered I, II and III in the manuscript. A later French edition bears an Italian title for each piece and, however appropriate they may seem, exactly whence these titles come remains a mystery. They may well have nothing to do with Liszt himself, although they were in use during his lifetime and employed in at least two editions prepared by Liszt’s students within the master’s lifetime, and thus might have had his nodded approval. In any event, it is by these Italian titles that these admired studies are universally known. II Lamento is an extended piece with a capricious introduction which returns at the close. The main body of the work presents, extends and varies a lyrical theme, which continues with a sequential development allowing the most far-reaching modulations before the most ardent climax returns the music to the original A flat major, and a rather gentle series of concluding variations.

La Leggierezza (‘Lightness’) also begins a capriccio, but quickly finds its main material in a very simple single line in each hand, and the unusual tempo direction ‘Quasi allegretto’ (which is almost always ignored in performance in favour of something more frenetic). Like the other pieces in this set, it is monothematic, but the contours of the original theme must be sensed more than observed under the delicate decoration with which it is subsequently varied. Liszt’s quiet ending did not seem sufficiently applause-gathering to the great Polish pedagogue (but very minor composer) Theodor Leschetizky (1830–1915). He embellished the piece with a new coda which used to be regularly adopted in concert. With best respects, the present writer prefers not to be a hostage to those that already find Liszt vulgar (and how this conclusion is reached specifically for Liszt without embracing many another prolific Renaissance man—Haydn, for example?—is itself a conundrum, although Liszt’s music has frequently been performed vulgarly enough), and Liszt’s gentle Picardie cadence is retained here.

Un Sospiro (‘A sigh’) is the best known of the set, and was much taught by Liszt in his later years. The felicity with which, in a single work, Liszt took the speciality of Sigismund Thalberg (1812–1871)—the technical sleight of hand whereby a melody is surrounded or supported by arpeggios such that an impression of three hands at the keyboard is given—and ennobled it once and for always with one of his finest melodic inspirations has kept this piece in demand from the beginning. (For the benefit of anyone who has not seen this piece performed, it should be mentioned that the melody notes are taken by left and right hand in turn whilst both hands maintain the flowing accompaniment.) In his masterclasses Liszt took to adding a cadenza at the fermata before the return of the theme in the home key—where it is ever more cleverly divided between the thumbs whilst the accompaniment manages to travel far and wide in both hands. The cadenza that he wrote for Auguste Rennebaum in 1875 is included at this point, but, because it would be a pity not to have them, the cadenzas that he wrote for Henrik Gobbi (date unknown) and for Lina Schmalhausen (1885) are included by way of an optional preamble. Lina Ramann preserved Liszt’s late alternative coda in the Liszt-Pädagogium, and this text is adopted here. Liszt at once preserves the mediant progressions of the transition sections of the etude in the ascending right hand whilst introducing a descending whole-tone scale in the left.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996

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