No 1: Trauermarsch – Grande marche funèbre
No 2: Grande marche
No 3: Grande marche caractéristique
A glance at the list of Liszt’s published works tells you that no composer’s music, other than his own, inspired more transcriptions and arrangements than Franz Schubert. Even his severest critics would be hard pressed not to agree that his fifty-three ‘partitions de piano’ of Schubert’s songs rank as masterpieces of their kind; it is difficult, too, not to fall for the charm of the Soirées de Vienne, nine elaborations of waltzes by Schubert, at least one of which, more often than not, Liszt would include in his recitals. In addition, there are solo piano arrangements of Schubert’s Divertissement à la hongroise, D818 (three pieces, the first and third of substantial length, retitled by Liszt as Mélodies hongroises, S425), both two-piano and piano-and-orchestra arrangements of the mighty ‘Wanderer’ Fantasie, D760, as well as versions of seven songs for voice and orchestra, and the works that Mr Hamelin plays here.
As Sacheverell Sitwell observes (Liszt, Cassell & Co, 1955), ‘Schubert and Liszt is a particularly happy chapter in the immense chronicle of Liszt’s works. […] It was a music which recalled the days of his own earliest youth, when he left his native Hungary for Vienna and stayed there breathing the same air as Beethoven and Schubert, studying with Salieri who had been the rival of Mozart.’ Though we cannot tell how much of Schubert’s music he heard at the time ‘it is, at least, certain that [Liszt and Schubert] actually met, for he was introduced to him by Randhartinger. But there can be no doubt that the music of Schubert had an additional appeal to him because it spoke to him of the simplicities of an older world.’
The Drei Märsche von Franz Schubert, which appeared in 1846, are dedicated to Liszt’s friend, the Franco-Polish pianist [Henri Louis Stanislav] Mortier de Fontaine (1816–1883). They are based on various rarely heard Schubert marches for piano duet; Liszt’s two-hand versions are played even less frequently.
The first of these, Trauermarsch (‘Funeral March’), is a faithful transcription of March No 5 in E flat minor from Schubert’s 6 Grandes Marches, Op 40 (D819).
The Grande Marche, which follows, opens with March No 3 in B minor from the same set and is marked Allegretto fuocoso. However, the Trio (più moderato in B major) is taken from Schubert’s Grande Marche funèbre, Op 55 (D859), composed in 1825 for the death of Tsar Alexander I of Russia, a theme which returns at the coda.
The final Grande Marche caractéristique is a conflation of parts of four different Schubert marches. The opening is a transcription of the first of Schubert’s two Marches caractéristiques in C major, Op posth. 121 (D886) composed in about 1826. After the trio section of the first march, Liszt moves to the trio from the second of these two marches before reverting to the 6 Grandes Marches, D819—the opening portion of the March No 2 in G minor and the trio from No 1 in E flat.
Such was his passion for these pieces that, in 1859, Liszt published orchestral versions of all three marches, adding the Marche hongroise (the second of the Divertissements à la hongroise), to form his Vier Märsche von Franz Schubert, S363. A short time later, he then re-arranged all four for piano duet (4 Marches, S632). Such devotion! Such generosity! Where did he find the time?
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2002