The first Mephisto Waltz, the only one that follows the event at the village inn in detail, begins with a characteristically devilish outrage of convention as Mephistopheles tunes his violin and Liszt piles fifth upon fifth into a harmonic accretion that must have seemed a howling dissonance to his contemporaries. The music Mephisto plays to the villagers is as uninhibited as his preparation for it. His turbulent and unstoppable dance most effectively offsets the central theme of the work, a contrastingly sensitive and hesitantly syncopated but highly erotic waltz tune, marked espressivo amoroso. A seductive of D flat major waltzes, it is awarded to Faust himself to further his enterprise in the wood outside. After an extended and beautifully scored virtuoso development, Faust’s waltz tune is combined at the climax of the construction with allusions to the first theme and driven into an infernal gallop. The voice of the nightingale is heard in poetic isolation just before the rumbling onset of a short but dramatic coda.
from notes by Gerald Larner © 2009