Prince Elim Meshchersky, a poet-prince of Tartar descent (reportedly from one of Genghis Khan’s sons), died at the age of thirty-six in Paris in 1844, the year Liszt first set his poem Bist du
to music. The song was subsequently revised for publication in 1879, with a piano introduction typical of late Liszt in its unharmonized, skeletal prefiguration of the song’s initial musical gestures. What follow are declarations that the beloved is as lovely as a moonlit night, pure as a pearl, cold as an Alpine glacier, strong as a rock, clear as the heavens, and so forth, a catalogue of love’s analogies in Nature of the sort that Shakespeare had earlier parodied in his Sonnet 130: ‘My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.’ Liszt’s chordal pulsations for the cosmic realms of light, love, and beauty from which the beloved came are wonderfully rich specimens of this composer’s harmonic language.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2010