Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 20 – Album d'un voyageur
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No 01: Lyon
No 02a: Le lac de Wallenstadt
No 02b: Au bord d'une source
No 03: Les cloches de G*****
No 04: Vallée d'Obermann
No 05: La chapelle de Guillaume Tell
No 06: Psaume
No 07a: Allegro
No 07b: Lento
No 07c: Allegro pastorale
No 08a: Andante con sentimento
No 08b: Andante molto espressivo
No 08c: Allegro moderato
No 09a: Allegretto
No 09b: Allegretto
No 09c: Andantino con molto sentimento
No 10: Ranz de vaches [de F Huber] – Aufzug auf die Alpe – Improvisata
No 11: Un soir dans les montagnes [de Knop] – Nocturne pastorale
No 12: Ranz de chèvres [de F Huber] – Allegro finale
Most of the remaining music was composed in Geneva between 1835 and 1836. ‘Le Lac de Wallenstadt’ is very little different from its revised version, and similarly carries a quotation from Byron’s Childe Harold: ‘thy contrasted lake … warns me, with its stillness, to for sake / Earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring.’ A rhythmic ostinato of a triplet and two duplets accompanies the most innocent of melodies. With no change of key or subject matter, ‘Au bord d’une source’ follows immediately. The poem from Schiller describes the spring as the beginning of the play of young nature. It must be admitted that this first version of one of Liszt’s loveliest water pieces contains many technical complications which were more delicately resolved in the revision.
‘Les cloches de G*****’ (why did Liszt wish to conceal the name of Geneva?—at any rate, he revealed it in the revised version) is dedicated to Liszt’s baby daughter Blandine and is an extended nature poem. In the revised version Liszt retained only a brief portion of the work and added a new second section. In this original version, the work develops its material more fully, and a subsidiary theme, discarded in the second version, rises to a passionate climax before the evening calm is restored with filigree decoration.
‘Vallée d’Obermann’ was inspired by a novel by its dedicatee Senancourt rather than by any specific Swiss scene. Although the later version is generally regarded as one of Liszt’s finest works, the original, too, is full of interest. The thematic material is broadly the same, and some of the structure is similar, but other events are distributed in a different order and several passages take on an unfamiliar harmonic hue. Liszt quotes a very lengthy piece of the novel describing the character of alpine scenery and folk music. Although this particular piece contains only original themes, many of the later pieces might be embraced by the same preface.
‘La chapelle de Guillaume Tell’ certainly contains the call of an alpenhorn, but its main theme was taken over from an unpublished and discarded ‘Grand solo caractéristique d’apropos une chansonette de Panséron’, the manuscript of which was sighted at an auction at Sotheby’s in London in 1987, but whose present whereabouts are unknown. The later version, which shares the grandeur of the first, dispenses with the horn call, but has then to do without the excellent coda which derives from it.
The first book comes to a simple conclusion with ‘Psaume—de l’église à Génève’—an elaboration of a melody by Louis Bourgeois (c1510–c1561) prefaced with the opening of Psalm 42: ‘Comme un cerf brame après des eaux courantes …’ (‘As the hart panteth after the water-brooks …’). Like ‘Lyon’, this piece was excluded from the revised collection.
The disarming simplicity of the nine pieces entitled Fleurs mélodiques des Alpes is often contradicted by deceptively difficult piano-writing, which may explain their almost total neglect—for there is much here that deserves a more frequent hearing. (Only two of these pieces were preserved for the Années de pèlerinage.) As so often with Liszt, there is no fine line drawn between an anonymous folk melody and a theme borrowed from a popular art song of the day, and these pieces seem all to be based on external sources, only some of which have been identified—as folk songs, horn calls and the like, and Nos 5 and 8 are based on melodies by Huber. The first group of three begins with a piece in simple ternary form, but the second is a complex kaleidoscope of melodies, later revised and combined with the second theme of the Fantaisie romantique to form Le mal du pays (Nostalgia), while the third became Pastorale in its less rhythmically daring revision. The opening number of the second group starts with a horn call and a simple melody, but the fast middle section is a mysterious march with distinctly Hungarian overtones. Then follow a piece heavily relying upon the tremolo for a rather operatic effect and another folk-song medley which for some reason contains a polonaise. The third group opens with a martial Allegretto which alternates with more fragile themes in triple time. The penultimate piece derives entirely from a horn call. The last piece is perhaps the most interesting: if some of the material is Swiss, a lot of the atmosphere is Hungarian, and some of the raw harmony brings to mind the Liszt of almost half a century later.
The three paraphrases which make up the third book were actually issued separately before the collection was finally put into shape for publication at the end of the 1830s. The text followed here is that of the Liszt-Stiftung, which represents Liszt’s final thoughts (on these first versions: the 1877 revisions, Trois Morceaux suisses, will be recorded elsewhere). Except that the themes derive from Swiss art songs by forgotten minor composers—Ferdinand Huber (1791–1863) and Ernest Knop (d1850), the style and construction of the set bears comparison with some of the longer operatic fantasies. There is a certain amount of confusion over the titles of these pieces, which went through several editions, each of which made its own changes; the titles given here conform to Haslinger’s first edition of the complete Album d’un voyageur. The catalogue in Grove’s Dictionary makes a curious mish-mash of several variants, the revised versions have revised titles, and the London edition even called the pieces ‘Zürich’, ‘Berne’ and ‘Lucerne’! When the pieces were published separately as Opus 10, the titles were: ‘Improvisata sur le ranz de vaches: Départ pour les Alpes (Aufzug auf die Alp) [which should read ‘Alpen’ here and elsewhere] de Ferd Huber’; ‘Nocturne sur le “Chant montagnard” (Bergliedchen) d’Ernest Knop’; and ‘Rondeau sur le “Ranz de chèvre” (Giessreihen) de Ferd Huber’. In the ‘Ranz de vaches’, the opening fanfare becomes a melody subjected to much variation, and interspersed with two other melodies and their variants, the one in a martial 2/4, the other in a frenetic 6/8—by now a long way removed from the cattle-call of the title. ‘Un soir dans les montagnes’ is a beautifully developed song interrupted by a colossal storm, which invokes all the musical tricks of the day (especially reminiscent of the then brand new Rossini opera Guillaume Tell) before the opening music returns. Like the first paraphrase, the third submits a simple motif to great variation, and, although goats may well move faster than cattle, their call is pushed to the very extreme of musical velocity.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1992