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Hyperion Records

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Death as a Friend (1851) by Alfred Rethel (1816-1859)
Track(s) taken from CDA67403/4
Recording details: July 1998
Budapest Studios of Hungarian Radio, Hungary
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: November 1998
Total duration: 21 minutes 2 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)

Piano Concerto No 2 in A major, S125
1839/1849/1853/1857/1861; first performed in 1857, with Liszt conducting, by Hans von Bronsart to whom the publication in 1863 was dedicated

L'istesso tempo  [1'42]

Other recordings available for download
Stephen Hough (piano), Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Litton (conductor)
Arthur de Greef (piano), London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Landon Ronald (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Concerto No 2 in A major has always been especially beloved of the most musicianly Liszt interpreters who are wary of the temptation of the tradition of performing the First Concerto for empty spectacle and in the shortest time possible (Alfred Brendel has written with typically incisive vigour and wit upon this subject and has noted that it has been whipped through in less than fourteen minutes by someone who ought to have known better) choosing instead the work which, for all its demands and grand gestures, remains fundamentally poetic. Of course, Liszt differentiates the characters of the two concertos clearly: the contrast in tonality is maximum, the openings could not be more unlike, the four-movement underlying structure of the First is replaced in the Second with a single movement which extrapolates the boundaries of the sonata principle in the same way that many of Liszt’s symphonic poems do, and the Second Concerto relies on fewer but more distinguished themes than the First.

The first theme is striking for its juxtaposition of distant seventh and ninth chords which nevertheless fail to unsettle the principal key, clear from the opening chord. The piano enters with gentle arpeggios for the second statement, which is then extended into the transition to the second theme in a mellifluous passage with solo horn, oboe and cello. In a reversal of the usual constituents of a sonata exposition, the second theme is powerful and triadic, and is presented in D minor. A second transition presents a new theme which takes the music to B flat minor and a forceful tutti, bringing the exposition to an end. The development may be said to begin from the moment the soloist rejoins the orchestra, when the connection between the tutti theme and the end of the first theme is made manifest, and underlined by the little piano solo which calms things almost to the state of the beginning of the concerto. The tutti theme is then transformed in the orchestra into a gentle introduction extended by a short cadenza, and a reworking of the first theme in 4/4 rather than 3/4, in D flat major, with a solo cello. This is lyrically continued by the piano, eventually joined by oboe then flute in another transformation of the tutti theme, under which the violins play a phrase which at once derives from the first two chords of the concerto and yet outlines the melody (and sentiment) of a Liszt song Freudvoll und leidvoll.

The material of the first transition informs the cadenza which leads to the recapitulation of the second subject, in a robust D flat major, the lower strings playing the tutti theme in counterpoint. The recapitulation continues with a further transformation of the first transition, development of the tutti theme and second subject combined, and a transformed version of the tutti itself. The second transition theme ensues, now in A minor, and the general increase in tempo is finally reigned in with the recapitulation in the original key of the first theme, now transformed into a march and punctuated with fragments of the ubiquitous tutti theme. (Various commentators have been rude about this passage, noting its martial vulgarity and generally failing to see that it is the permissible moment of triumph at the final point of recapitulation of the first theme and the first time we have seen the home key since the opening pages of the work. Even Searle refers to this passage as occurring in ‘the finale’, showing not much appreciation of the structure.) As if to silence potential critics, Liszt uses the second transitional theme again to reintroduce the first theme in the most magical form, running on with a version of the same lyrical extension we heard with the cello solo, and continuing in the same manner through the Freudvoll und leidvoll phrase to a short cadenza. This cadenza, like so much of the binding material of this work, is derived from the alternate falling semitone and tone from the first theme, and these intervals now immediately generate the material of the animated coda. The coda is so superficially appropriate a peroration that it requires a second look to see how well it draws the whole argument together, with every theme represented in one way or another, right to the closing bars.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998

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)  
'Arthur de Greef – Solo and concerto recordings' (APR7401)
Arthur de Greef – Solo and concerto recordings
MP3 £15.49FLAC £15.49ALAC £15.49 APR7401  Download only  
'Liszt & Grieg: Piano Concertos' (CDA67824)
Liszt & Grieg: Piano Concertos
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67824  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available

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