Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 17 – Liszt at the Opera II
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No 1: Prière – Hymne triomphal – Marche du sacre
No 2: Les patineurs: Scherzo
No 3: Pastorale – Appel aux armes
Although Liszt’s subtitle accounts for the main material of the piece, the movement is seriously infiltrated by the Coronation March which appears, ghostlike, at the outset, and whose trio section dominates the peroration. The Prière is rather fragmented but introduces the theme ‘Ad nos’ in Meyerbeer’s original compound time (cf. the ‘Ad nos’ Fantasy and Fugue). Quite the most impressive passage is the fanfare which leads from the Hymne to the Marche du sacre, which is itself defiantly four-square.
The mighty ‘Skaters’ scherzo used to be a regular recital war-horse for all players of sufficient stamina from Busoni to Kentner and is the most tightly-constructed piece of the set. Liszt’s sliding effects far exceed the predictable use of glissando and, as everywhere in the collection, his subtle improvements to Meyerbeer’s harmonies, his reorganisation of the original tonalities in order to make a symphonic key structure, and his hinting at one theme whilst exploring another make these pieces superior to many of their kind.
The third piece begins as an engaging variation upon pastoral material, but works itself to a feverish pace before the ‘Ad nos’ theme ushers in the ‘Call to Arms’ march, which itself becomes frenetic and suddenly and brilliantly resolves into the Orgie and a headlong conclusion.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1992