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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67455
Recording details: April 2003
Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: May 2004
Total duration: 26 minutes 19 seconds

Préludes et Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S171d
8 pieces from 1845/6 in the N5 Sketchbook; performing versions of Nos 4, 6 & 8 by Leslie Howard

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Sketchbook N5, held in the Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv in Weimar, contains complete drafts and sketches to a number of works, and the contents date from some time in 1845 to early 1847. In her doctoral thesis on the volume, Rena Charnin-Mueller refers to it as the ‘Tasso’ Sketchbook, both for ease of identification, and because the volume contains the first draft in short score of Liszt’s symphonic poem Tasso – Lamento e trionfo. The volume also contains the first draft (without organ) of the C minor Mass for men’s voices. Much of the remainder is piano music, and several works have already been in circulation, as well as published and recorded: the Cujus animam transcription (see volume 24 of the Hyperion Liszt Series), Spirto gentil (volume 17), the Cavatine from Robert le Diable (volume 30), and the Sketchbook begins with an untitled work which has been recorded as Prelude, S171d (volume 47). This last piece is re-recorded here together with the seven pieces sketched immediately after it in the N5 Sketchbook under the generic title Liszt wrote at the beginning. These other seven pieces had been previously overlooked because they appeared to be work in progress, and it proved difficult to establish a definitive text until the present writer was able to devote the proper amount of time to examine the Sketchbook personally. Many of these pieces had been published and recorded by the pioneering Albert Brussee in the Netherlands, but the text prepared for the present recording and future Liszt Society publication turns out to be at a wide variance from that of the Brussee project. Liszt’s generic title is the familiar Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, but in brackets he also suggests Préludes et Harmonies poétiques et religieuses and we have taken that as our working title for the present set of pieces in order to avoid confusion with the single piece of 1833–4 (see volume 7), the 1847 set of pieces (see volumes 7 and 47), several single works intended for the project (see volumes 47 and 56) and the ‘definitive’ collection of 1853 (see volume 7).

The first piece is headed ‘Nancy 16 nov 45’. There are some signs of revision, ignored in the present reading, but taken up in the 1847 version of the piece (as in volume 47). The musical material is the only part of the 1845–6 series which makes its way through the 1847 set and into the 1853 set – as part of Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude. (It is clear that the religious aspect of this project grew more firm over the years. After meeting the Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1847, Liszt produced a much more meditative collection, and most of the earlier pieces were dropped.) The second piece (‘20 nov 45’) is very indistinctly titled. If Langueur? is correct (and whatever else it may be, the question mark is Liszt’s), it is not especially reflected in the content of the piece, which is a yearning melody, punctuated by a more hymn-like section – derived from the same theme – which, after the reprise, forms the coda. This is an excellent piece, and Liszt’s subsequent neglect of it is inexplicable. The third, untitled, piece (‘4 dec 45’) is also effectively monothematic, but the appassionato transformation of the material is of such a different character that the kinship with the opening may not seem apparent upon a first hearing.

The fourth piece is a much larger work, and its principal theme will be easily recognized as the forerunner to that of the First Ballade (see volume 2). The title – the question mark of uncertainty is Liszt’s – is the latest of several attempts. It is on a pasted-over new introduction; others are Disjecti membra poetae and Attente. The further title Ballade (?) is a later addition in coloured pencil, and refers to later plans. This complex piece, which ranges over an extraordinary array of key changes, is also the most complicated work in this set in terms of the rewriting, overwriting and expanding of the material. A whole section was added after the completion of the next piece in the book, extending the original suppressed da capo and coda although not, unfortunately, completing the final cadence – supplied here by the present writer. Liszt sleuths will notice that the second theme turns up in a very different guise at the coda of the last of the Consolations (only in the final version – see volume 9).

The fifth piece (untitled, but dated ‘6 dec 45’) is again monothematic, and is an early example of a kind of piano writing often found in Liszt’s compositions in the enharmonic F sharp major, especially those of a religious serenity. Although the thematic material does not recur in Liszt’s œuvre, the style is particularly akin to that of Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude. At the head of this piece is a check-list in the composer’s hand, presumably of the works he was then contemplating for the published collection. The list of eleven pieces begins with number two, presumably because number one was to have been the 1833–4 piece already published. (That piece was revised in 1847 and again for the final publication in 1853, under the title Pensée des morts.) The list reads:

2. mi b [i.e., E flat – the first piece in N5]
3. ut min [C minor – the second piece in N5
4. Elegie Pr de Prusse [On page 4 of N5 is written in Liz't hand the third stanza of the
poem Bei der Musik des Prinzen L[ouis] F[erdinand de Prusse] by Theodor Körner
(1791–1815), along with some fragments which appear to be by Lamartine, the inspirer
of the title and the whole musical project of the Harmonies. Liszt’s Élégie sur des
motifs de Prince Louis Ferdinand
, first version, had been composed in 1844, and was
published in 1847 – see volume 37 – and formed no part of the eventual collection]
5. Marche des P [Liszt’s transcription of Berlioz’sMarche des pèlerins from Harold in
may date from the late 1830s. It was not included in the eventual collection, but
was revised in 1862–3 for publication – see volume 5]
6. M. K. [i.e. Marie Kalergis, inspiration and dedicatee of several Liszt pieces – the
eighth piece in N5]
7. Chopin [piece unidentified – echoes of Schumann’s Carnaval in the title – it can have
nothing to do with Liszt’s later Chopin song transcriptions, and if any one of pieces 3,
6 or 7 in N5 is relevant here we do not know]
8. re b [D flat – the fourth piece in N5
] 9. Prière d’un enfant [a piece from earlier in 1845, S171c – see volume 47]
1 0. sol b [G flat – the present piece – i.e. the fifth piece in N5]
1 1. (2de Sonnet fa #) [The brackets are Liszt’s, and the piece is probably the second
Petrarch sonnet setting, Benedetto sia’l giorno, of which song there are at least two
manuscripts in F sharp major, but no extant piano transcription in that key has turned up]

The sixth piece is entitled Attente, but we have no further clue as to its application to this piece, any more than we know why it was a working title for the fourth piece in the book. Liszt has indicated the reprise of some of the opening material after the contrasting middle section, but has not supplied the coda. The present writer has derived ten closing bars from earlier analogous material.

Although there are some unrelated discarded sketches (one dated ‘Gand 20 janvier’ – and Liszt was only in Ghent on that date in 1846!) amongst the next pages of N5, there are two more pieces which appear to belong to the same collection, especially since the second of them is mentioned in the check-list above. The seventh piece bears the title Alternative, and whether it is merely an alternative to the sixth piece is impossible to divine at this remove in time. This piece is complete on one page, and has virtually the same melody, but with an unfamiliar introduction, as the song Gestorben war ich (best known in the later piano transcription as Liebesträume No 2 – see volume 19). Since, as far as we know, Liszt hadn’t yet written the song (assuming this page to be contemporary with the rest of the book), might he have adapted the melody to the words later? This was not a thing he did often, but we know he did it at least once (Élégie – En ces lieux, S301b was adapted to the music of Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth, S274i). Unsurprisingly, this piece is quite different from all three piano versions otherwise known: S192i (on volume 11), S540a (volume 26) and S541/2 (volume 19). The eighth piece is really only a sketch: an eight-bar Andante ending with ‘etc’, and a rough nine-bar sketch for a middle section. The present writer has attempted a fully developed completion in homage to Liszt.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 2004

Other albums featuring this work
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
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