It seems scarcely imaginable that there could ever have been a time when anyone was unfamiliar with the overture to William Tell
, and countless abuses of its themes in cartoons, movies and television shows have not dimmed its attractions. Nonetheless, at the time when Liszt made his transcription, the piece was still in need of dissemination. Of course, it also provided a stunning warhorse for Liszt’s own concerts—and it was no doubt much easier to bring off the wicked repeated notes on the light French instruments of the 1830s than it is on the mighty Steinways of the 1990s. Naturally, this is a case of faithful transcription rather than paraphrase of any kind. But the piece must have posed some problems even for Liszt the executant, because there are many passages where alternative solutions are offered.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998