The two transcriptions which Liszt eventually issued together under the title Arabesques
were conceived separately, and Solovei
appeared in an earlier, rather boisterous version with a title page which attempted to make Cyrillic letters from Roman ones—with laughable results. The revised version used to be a staple encore piece, refashioning a charming song by a rather neglected minor Russian master with attractive emphasis on the imitation of the nightingale’s song. The printed editions of the Chanson bohemienne
make no mention of the melody’s origins, but it seems to be the work of one Pyotr Petrovich Bulakhov (not to be confused in any way with Konstantin Bulhakov—see below), about whom the present writer is sadly uninformed. As with many of Liszt’s song transcriptions, the piece is tantamount to a set of variations.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1995