La romanesca is a Spanish dance melody which used to be strangely ascribed to Italy in various Liszt catalogues. Liszt published his first elaboration of it as a ‘fameux air de danse du seizième siècle’ in 1840. Unusually for Liszt in a secular composition, it is laid out in 4/2 (with a little 3/2 in the introduction), and the first statement of the melody is presented by the left hand alone. The only secondary material is a repeated foot-stamping gesture on a C major chord with trills in both hands; otherwise the theme is subjected to ornamental variation. It is of no small interest to compare this version with the later one, published in 1852 as a ‘nouvelle édition entièrement revue et corrigée par l’auteur’ (how often Liszt used that expression for his second thoughts!), where the note-values—but also the tempo—are halved, the whole thing is more nostalgically viewed, and the coda is largely recomposed.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1997