The Second Rhapsody needs little introduction. Leaning initially more towards C sharp minor than to F sharp major, it incorporates a friska whose cumulative early effect perfectly suggests members of an ensemble listening, ‘catching on’, and one by one joining in. Three or four of its companion pieces equal the Second Rhapsody’s virtuosity and thematic diversity, but none surpasses it. Before the concluding page (Prestissimo) Liszt calls for a Cadenza ad libitum. It is not widely known that he did in fact supply two himself. His pupil Eugen d’Albert supplied a fine alternative (somewhat indebted to Liszt’s own), Rachmaninov produced a stupendous version of his own, and Vladimir Horowitz typically produced one which seems to synthesize all those he could conceivably have heard. As such a situation creates arguably unanswerable expectation among a live audience of connoisseurs, it is perhaps unsurprising that on the occasion of this recital Marc-André Hamelin defied all predictions. His own cadenza, an ingenious amalgam of thematic superimposition and bitonality, stretches compositional credibility less far than might be idly supposed (the seeds of Liszt’s late works such as the Czárdás macabre
are present in the Rhapsodies), while yet defying the evidence of the senses on pyrotechnical grounds and providing a powerful ‘reminiscence’ of one of the greatest of all exponents of this repertoire, the late György Cziffra.
from notes by Francis Pott © 1997