From the end of the 1860s until his death in 1886 Liszt maintained much closer relations with his native Hungary than he had managed to do during his years as a touring artist and his time as Kapellmeister at Weimar. He made sporadic attempts to master the Hungarian language, writing a few songs and a couple of choral works in that tongue. But his Hungarian was never to become fluent and it is not surprising that A holt költö szerelme
(‘The Dead Poet’s Love’) emerges as Liszt’s best musical work to a Hungarian text. This famous poem by Mór Jókai refers to his friend the great Hungarian poet Sándor Petöfi (1823-1849) who disappeared, believed killed in battle, during the War of Independence which he had championed. Liszt used the slow march theme from his recitation for a piano piece in Petöfi’s memory (Dem Andenken Petöfis
, later revised as Petöfi Sándor
– see Volumes 11 and 12 of this series, respectively). Liszt issued this recitation with the text in Hungarian alongside a parallel poetic translation in German, which we include amongst the complete texts here given.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996