Liszt’s only song in Russian is a setting of Graf Alexey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, Ne brani menya, moi drug
, of 1866. Tolstoy’s much longer poem Slyepoi
(‘The Blind Man’) was the text for Liszt’s last recitation and he later adapted the music as a solo piano piece in 1878 (see Volume 11 of this series). The poem itself runs to some thirty verses and Liszt leaves quite a number unaccompanied. But the music somehow seems to preserve its continuity, notwithstanding, as in each of these pieces when Liszt allows the poet centre stage. This last recitation also manages something which the others do not: a radiantly triumphant peroration. This work was first published with the original Russian text with a parallel poetic German translation (included here), although the version as printed in the old collected Liszt-Stiftung unaccountably omitted the Russian.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996