: it is clear from his correspondence that Liszt was thrilled with the collaborative volume of variations and character pieces on a children’s theme (for some reason identified as ‘Chopsticks’ in some catalogues, but actually just a simple exercise in the widening of the interval of a major second to an octave, very similar to the great organ fugue subject by Bach for his so-called ‘Wedge’ Prelude and Fugue) which first appeared in 1879. As with Dargomizhsky’s Tarentelle
, but with the student player in the treble, the little theme is played throughout as an ostinato, while the composition unfolds below it. For the second edition of these, Paraphrases: 24 Variations et 15 petites pièces sur le thème favori et obligé
by Borodin, Lyadov, Cui and Rimsky-Korsakov, Liszt composed a touching little tribute to be inserted before Borodin’s Polka. On one part of the single-page manuscript Liszt describes his work as a variation, on another as a prelude, the more apt description. Despite the entries in the published catalogues, Liszt’s Prelude is for piano solo. Borodin’s amusing Polka is included to set Liszt’s prelude in context. We are grateful to Philip Moore for so kindly obliging with the ‘thème favori et obligé’!
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1995