Hyperion Records

Fantasia on two themes from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
late 1842; unfinished; Fantasie über Themen aus Figaro und Don Giovanni, S697
1912; completion and reworking, omitting Giovanni themes; the arias used are Figaro's 'Non più andrai' and Cherubino's 'Voi che sapete'

'Mozart: Stephen Hough's Mozart Album' (CDA67598)
Mozart: Stephen Hough's Mozart Album
Track 11 on CDA67598 [15'25]

Fantasia on two themes from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro
Franz Liszt’s Fantasia dates from late 1842. He seems to have played it just once—in Berlin on 11 January 1843. The piece was left incomplete, lacking an ending, and the manuscript appears to be a work-in-progress, with question marks over certain passages, and no tempo indications or dynamics. Uniquely among Liszt’s opera paraphrases it takes the themes of not one but two operas—The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni—though at no point are they combined, as one might expect. Busoni’s version—renamed Fantasia on two themes from Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’—dates from 1912 and is far tauter than Liszt’s original, omitting the Giovanni music altogether and bridging the resulting gap with a ten-bar passage, a simple enough process given that the transition to and from this section is in C major. Busoni also provided sixteen bars to conclude the Fantasia. His touch is subtle, restoring to circulation a forgotten Liszt piece without overlaying his own musical personality too emphatically. Mozart was, for him, a god-like figure, far removed from the earlier nineteenth-century view, and Busoni was among the first to appreciate the true depths of his music.

The Fantasia is based on two arias: ‘Non più andrai’, sung by Figaro to Cherubino as he despatches him off to join a regiment, adding that womenkind will be able to breathe freely once more; and ‘Voi che sapete’, in which Cherubino serenades the Countess and Susanna. The work begins almost nonchalantly, with a snippet of ‘Non più andrai’ which is gradually transformed by Liszt in a substantial introduction full of melodramatic ardour, tremolos and eye-watering virtuosity. ‘Voi che sapete’ then appears complete, in a more lyrical section characterized by a delicacy which gradually warms as the texture increases in complexity and brilliance. The virtuosity, however, is never allowed to obscure the crystalline beauty of Mozart’s aria. Colours darken, tremolos and double octaves build up the tension in a transition passage culminating in a rising scale of double sixths and thirds which heralds the triumphant reappearance of ‘Non più andrai’, marked deciso and later marcatissimo, emphasizing the martial nature of Cherubino’s fate. If Liszt was already unsparing in his demands on the pianist, Busoni adds to these with such instructions as con eleganza in textures thick with notes. Liszt continues to tease, with Figaro’s theme veering off in unexpected harmonic directions until he finally deconstructs it, leaving little more than a rhythmic torso, against motoric left-hand figuration. Busoni attempts no clever tricks in his ending, stylistically remaining utterly in keeping with Liszt.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2008

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67598 track 11
Recording date
7 November 2006
Recording venue
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Simon Eadon
Hyperion usage
  1. Mozart: Stephen Hough's Mozart Album (CDA67598)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: March 2008
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