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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66433
Recording details: April 1990
Kimpton Parish Church, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: April 1991
Total duration: 10 minutes 38 seconds

'Howard's steel-fingered pianistic athleticism is backed by strong musical intuition and there seems no limit to his technical prowess. The recorded sound is a banquet for the ears. Highly recommended' (American Record Guide)

Hexaméron – Morceau de concert 'Grandes Variations de Bravoure pour Piano sur la Marche des Puritains de Bellini', S392
1837; composées pour le Concert de Mme la Princesse Belgiojoso au Bénéfice des pauvres
Suoni la tromba from I Puritani

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Collaboration between composers has never been particularly fashionable, and usually only succeeds when each composer is separately commissioned to write a movement or a variation. Even then, the most famous examples are notoriously uneven: the ‘other’ Diabelli variations, despite contributions from Schubert and the eleven-year-old Liszt, remain a pretty unexciting collection, and who is interested nowadays in the Minkus bits of La Source beside the glorious pages of Delibes? Schumann himself ditched the movements of the ‘FAE’ Sonata by Dietrich and Brahms in order to make a whole sonata of his own, and Rimsky-Korsakov rewrote a complete opera-ballet, Mlada, to expunge the foreign parts—with Mussorgsky among the casualties. But the Hexaméron is really a success, even if its technical demands keep its concert appearances relatively rare.

The Princess Belgiojoso’s concert, actually for the benefit of Italian refugees, took place in Paris on 31 March 1837, but the Hexaméron was not completed in time. The concert has passed into history, nonetheless, for being the occasion of the celebrated pianistic ‘duel’ between Liszt and Thalberg, yielding the Princess’s legendary verdict that ‘Thalberg is the first pianist in the world—Liszt is the only one’. What certainly never took place was a combined performance of the piece by all six composers, despite many later commentaries. Nor did six pianists ever line up in front of an orchestra to perform it until some recent occasions. In any case, the only score in Liszt’s hand of an orchestral version is shortened by half. Curiously, the original solo version has many indications of a proposed orchestral accompaniment which is clearly intended for the entire piece, and a tutti passage is specified in the finale. But since no orchestral version of this passage in Liszt’s, or any other contemporary’s, hand has yet shown up, the passage is recorded here in Liszt’s printed version for solo piano for completeness’ sake. (Liszt also made two quite different two-piano scores of the piece, neither of which is as long as the original, and one of which has an entirely rewritten ending.)

The title and form of this surprisingly well-integrated work are Liszt’s: he collected and ordered the other composers’ contributions, even removing the the last bar of both the Czerny and the Chopin variations to make a better link into two interludes of his own—the first a dramatic interruption, the second a reflective coda before the finale. The noble introduction begins with a theme by Liszt which he often combines and contrasts with Bellini’s theme. Liszt’s variation is restrained and not at all virtuosic, and Chopin stays aloof from the bravura in a beautiful nocturne. Thalberg, with his three-handed effects, Pixis, with his wicked octaves, Herz with his moto perpetuo, and especially Czerny, with a battery of devilish tricks no doubt intended to test even his most famous student, do their utmost to astound. Liszt saves his thunder until the finale, where he cocks a gentle snook at each of his collaborators before a brilliant peroration.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1991

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)  
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