Fantasie und Fuge über den Choral Ad nos, ad salutarem undam aus der Oper Der Prophet von Meyerbeer, S624
Although the great Ad nos, ad salutarem undam
Fantasy and Fugue was not originally issued with the Illustrations
, Liszt referred to the work in his correspondence as the ‘Illustration No 4’ (and it is so designated in the Searle/Winklhofer catalogue) and so it seems right to include it here, the more so since its theme is finally given the development it deserves—Liszt having metrically reorganised it in a chorale-like 4/4 time meanwhile. (There is no question of this melody being a church chorale, despite the errors of many commentators. It is certainly Meyerbeer’s melody.) Liszt had the work published in a full score which combines the versions for organ or pedal piano with the version for piano, four hands. He never made a version of it for solo piano. Busoni did, however, make a very free solo arrangement which, for all its intrinsic merit, does not impress as a work of Liszt so much as a transcription by Busoni, so, with best respects to the Italian master, Liszt’s own version for four hands has been preferred for the present recording. The score of the work shows how carefully Liszt sought to make an effective duet version, for whilst the secondo
part often consists of an octave doubling or trebling of the organ pedal line, there are many passages in which all the material is redistributed about the four hands—so the composite score often runs to seven staves. It would have been an exciting challenge to record the pedal piano version, but it was not possible to find an instrument in sufficiently good condition to cope with not just this work, but, for the sake of a continuity of sound quality, with all the Prophète
pieces. Furthermore, the duet version, by its reinforced texture, is better able to encompass the grandeur of the far better known organ version than the pedal piano version could ever hope to do. On a personal note, it is a marvellous and rare chance to collaborate with Geoffrey Parsons, whose playing is all too seldom encountered senza voce.
Unlike the other three Illustrations, the ‘Ad nos’ Fantasy and Fugue is really a completely original work of Liszt’s but based on Meyerbeer’s theme. Meyerbeer was so impressed with it that he seriously suggested its use as an overture to the opera—which would certainly make it the longest ever overture by a hefty margin. It would be unkind but accurate to add that this music is also of a much richer worth than anything in Meyerbeer’s score. Liszt treats the theme as something to be discovered in the course of the work, and the whole Fantasy deals with fragments of the theme at a time. The melody finally emerges at the beginning of the central Adagio, which is full of the most gracious harmonic inspiration. A dramatic interruption leads to the Fugue which, although conscientiously worked out to begin with, impatiently transforms itself into a freer contrapuntal fantasy which culminates in the grandest possible statement of the newly-harmonised theme. The whole piece is one of Liszt’s finest, and has properly been comp ared in its breadth and achievement with the Sonata in B minor.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1992