Although the Consolations
have always been very popular among Liszt’s works, especially amongst amateurs relieved at the relative absence of transcendental technical requirements, they are not so often encountered as a complete set. The final version of the pieces seems to require hearing in toto from time to time – no matter how demonstrable it may be that the third is a masterpiece in its own right (and it is interesting that this piece was a replacement of another in E major, which eventually found its far more appropriate resting-place – since it is a setting of a Hungarian folksong – in the first of the Hungarian Rhapsodies). The title originated with an anthology of Sainte-Beuve which had appeared in 1830, although there are no specific references by Liszt to that poet’s work. The design of a guiding star printed above the fourth Consolation
gave rise to that work’s now little-used nickname. Although the second and sixth pieces have their moments of extroversion, the general tone of the set is restrained. However, they do not cry out for the desperately ‘worthy’ style of performance to which they are so often subjected!
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1991