Mélodies hongroises d'après Fr. Schubert, S425
Schubert’s piano duet Divertissement à l’hongroise
, Op 54/D818, is a late work of enormous breadth, comparable to the last piano sonatas, the string quintet and the last symphony in the almost leisurely length of its working-out. The title belies the work’s serious intent, but the Hungarian flavour turns up everywhere, obviously in the march, but very delicately and wistfully in the outer movements. No folk songs are apparently employed but the style of the gypsy improvisation is worked into a piece more tightly constructed than its sprawling length might suggest. Liszt was clearly entranced by the piece, probably for its Hungarian qualities as well as for his general enthusiasm for things Schubertian, but, typically, resisted Schubert’s title (Liszt wrote very little music that he considered to be ‘diverting’) and allowed for the three pieces, which he simply called Mélodies hongroises
, to be performed separately (after all, in Liszt’s very respectful but colourful arrangements the whole work takes nearly fifty minutes in performance). The outer movements are in G minor and each consists of three statements of a theme, varied upon repetition, interspersed with two entirely different alternative sections, in every case in a complex ternary form entailing the reprise of almost every section with ornamental variation. (The scheme may be simply described as something like: A–BCB–A–DED–A–coda.) The march forms a splendid foil for these grand works and it became independently famous in its day, to the extent that Liszt reissued it many times with all manner of alterations to the shape and effect of the piece.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1995