It was Liszt’s habit, when preparing the earliest drafts of his works for piano and orchestra, to begin with a score for solo piano, albeit with some indications of instrumentation, and then to expand it, orchestrating much of the material and then developing quite new textures in the solo part. We can see this process interrupted incomplete in the posthumously published Concerto in E flat major, S125a (sometimes misleadingly called ‘No 3’ – see volume 53a), and the plethora of surviving drafts of the two famous concertos clearly carry the process to a painstakingly refined conclusion if we compare the first results with the last. In the Concerto sans orchestre
recorded here, we are probably dealing with the first complete version of the piece which would eventually become Concerto No 2. All the musical material will be familiar, though almost all of the textures were greatly altered over the years – after all, the final touches to the piece were made a quarter of a century later. As so often, many of the technical solutions had to await the final version; here there are many quite extraordinary difficulties. The things immediately apparent are the work’s originality and freshness – qualities which Liszt managed to retain through all the revisions – and that this is already a splendid work in its own right. We have borrowed the title for the otherwise untitled MS from Schumann.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 2004