Percy Grainger – The complete 78-rpm solo recordings
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Emil Gilels – Schumann, Beethoven, Liszt & Prokofiev
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Irene Scharrer – The complete electric and selected acoustic recordings
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Walter Gieseking – The complete Homocord recordings and other rarities
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No 01 in E major: Rapsodie hongroise I
No 02 in C sharp minor/F sharp major (abridged): Rapsodie hongroise II
No 02 in C sharp minor/F sharp major, with cadenza for Toni Raab: Rapsodie hongroise II
No 02 in C sharp minor/F sharp major: Rapsodie hongroise II
No 03 in B flat major: Rapsodie hongroise III
No 04 in E flat major: Rapsodie hongroise IV
No 05 in E minor: Rapsodie hongroise V 'Héroïde-élégiaque'
No 06 in D flat major/B flat major: Rapsodie hongroise VI
No 07 in D minor: Rapsodie hongroise VII
No 08 in F sharp minor: Rapsodie hongroise VIII
No 09 in E flat major: Rapsodie hongroise IX 'Le carnaval de Pest'
No 10 in E major: Rapsodie hongroise X
No 11 in A minor/F sharp major: Rapsodie hongroise XI
No 12 in C sharp minor/D flat major (abridged): Rapsodie hongroise XII
No 12 in C sharp minor/D flat major (second half): Rapsodie hongroise XII
No 12 in C sharp minor/D flat major: Rapsodie hongroise XII
No 13 in A minor: Rapsodie hongroise XIII
No 14 in F major: Rapsodie hongroise XIV
No 15 in A minor: Rapsodie hongroise XV 'Rákóczi-Marsch'
No 16 in A minor (second version): Rapsodie hongroise XVI
No 17 in D minor: Rapsodie hongroise XVII
No 18 in F sharp minor (with final version of coda): Rapsodie hongroise XVIII
No 19 in D minor: Rapsodie hongroise XIX d'après les "Csárdás nobles" de K[ornél] Ábrányi [sr]
There is some very fine literature about the origin of many of the themes employed in the Rhapsodies, but the subject is far too complex to reduce in any meaningful way for inclusion in this introduction. It is gratefully acknowledged the information provided below owes much to Zoltán Gárdony’s excellent article A Chronology of Ferenc Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies (published in English in the 1995 Liszt Society Journal) and to David Clegg’s subsequent Observations on that article (in the 1996 Journal). It should also be borne in mind that some of the themes might well be Liszt’s own, written in the style of melodies which he had heard.
Liszt may have turned his back upon his earlier piano works in the Hungarian style (as can be seen from his annotations in the Thematic Catalogue of his works) but he certainly used much material from the first cycle of Hungarian Songs and Rhapsodies (see Vol. 29) in the Rapsodies hongroises III–XV. (In Volume 29 there is a table listing the thematic connections between the various works.) But the first and second Rapsodies are quite new. All the works bear dedications to important Hungarians of the day (Szerdahelyi, Teleki, Festetics, Kázmér Esterházy, Mme Reviczky, Apponyi, Orczy, Augusz, Egressy), or to musicians with Hungarian interests (Joachim, Ernst, von Bülow). The later works express an even stronger affinity with Hungary: Rhapsodies XVI–XVIII are entirely original compositions in the Hungarian manner, whilst XIX returns to the methods employed in the earlier works, this time citing the origin of the themes. The last four Rhapsodies were all published in Hungary, generally with Hungarian and German titles, and with Liszt’s name in his now-preferred Hungarian style: Liszt Ferenc. Extraordinarily, there are still some modern editions of the Rhapsodies that simply omit the last four (although Peters Edition has recently added them in exchange for the inappropriately included Rapsodie espagnole that originally ended the second volume). As we have previously remarked, Liszt deliberately employed Roman numerals to distinguish this set from the earlier publication, where Arabic numerals were used.
In the present recording, the main texts of the pieces are presented. Various earlier versions and alternative readings will be found in Volume 56. But since Liszt wrote two cadenzas for the second Rhapsody, one of them is included here. The pieces themselves probably need very little introduction: many of them adopt the pattern of the slow first section (lassú) and second fast section (friss) familiar from so much improvised Hungarian music, and yet the variety of expression is astonishing. In the introduction to the volumes of the Rhapsodies in the Neue Liszt-Ausgabe, the editors Zoltán Gárdonyi and Istvan Szelényi make the following important observations: ‘It is not merely for reasons of authenticity that the present new edition is intended to put an end to the various and often completely contradictory interpretations of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies. To this day these works are principally but erroneously looked upon as more or less trivial products of keyboard literature for the very reason that they use folklore themes and employ them in the style of popular gypsy bands. We have here the reason for the general inaccuracy in performance and the tendency to indulge in vivid though rough showmanship. It is high time that Liszt’s Hungarian folklore studies were placed before interpreters in all their variety and their idiomatic richness. It should be pointed out that in performance, despite all the virtuosity they demand, mere technical bravura should never predominate. If the Hungarian Rhapsodies—apart from the Héroïde élégiaque—have no programme that can be formulated in words, we must not overlook the poetic basis of both their content and their expression.’
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1999