For some reason the piano transcription of the ever-popular Turkish March from The Ruins of Athens
disappeared from view, to be replaced in pianists’ affections by the well-known transcription by Anton Rubinstein. Liszt’s version—every bit as interesting—is one of his rarest works. The identical pages stand at the head of the score of Capriccio alla turca
, a much more extensive piece in Liszt’s virtuoso manner, in which the March (No 4 in Beethoven’s score) is succeeded by the Dervishes’ Chorus (No 3 in Beethoven’s score; also, at one time, known in a piano transcription by Saint-Saëns) in a section marked Andante fantastico, full of diabolical trills. Eventually the March returns, much transformed, and both themes are used to produce a triumphant coda. Possibly because of its difficulty, the Capriccio
gave way to Liszt’s last work on the same material, the Fantasie
, which started life as a work for piano and orchestra but which was substantially revised and reissued together with versions for solo piano, piano duet, and two pianos. The Fantasie
begins with a transcription of the orchestral part of the March and Chorus (which form Beethoven’s No 6, and which Beethoven reissued as opus 124 with minor changes for the music to Die Weihe des Hauses—‘The Consecration of the House’) which breaks out with a cadenza in octaves into a much more fantastic working of the material, which then subsides into the Dervishes’ Chorus. From this point, there are many resemblances to the Capriccio
but the atmosphere is rather more controlled and the fireworks held in abeyance until the coda. There, closing passages of the March and Chorus lead into a final peroration upon the other two themes.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1992