Liszt wrote to Marie d’Agoult in December 1840 that he had written a work upon themes from Der Freischütz
(the manuscript is untitled) and wished to do something similar with Don Giovanni
– which he did, to great acclaim – and, possibly, Euryanthe
– which sadly he did not pursue. He worked on the Freischütz
piece in tandem with the Sonnambula
fantasies in 1841, and he may well have played it, but there the story ends. The manuscript is to all intents and purposes complete. It requires a tiny amount of editing for practical use (the addition of one bar at a point where Liszt specifies an addition without providing one, and one chord at a transition where Weber’s original chord can be easily inserted, as well as all dynamics, pedallings and performance directions, some of which can be deduced from Weber’s score). The first section of the fantasy is based on Agathe’s aria from Act III ‘Und ob die Wolke’ and continues into a pastoral rethinking of the rustic chorus from Act I, gently combining the two themes. The following section, based on the scene in the Wolf’s Glen, complete with shrieking owls, is an extraordinary piece of recomposition: Weber’s melodrama would not work in a straightforward piano transcription, and Liszt, in order better to get the music to flow, takes some considerable licence with the material, and yet serves only to illuminate it. The Huntsmen’s Chorus and the theme familiar both from the overture and the end of Agathe’s Act II aria ‘Leise, leise’ generate the third section of the work, and the rustic waltz returns for the coda. We do not know why this piece remained unprepared for publication – it is a worthy companion to Liszt’s other Weber transcriptions and fantasies, and is dramatically a very successful reflection of the spirit of the opera.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1999