The Grand Solo de concert
has already been recorded in its original unpublished version for solo piano (in Volume 51). As is very well known, the piece was extended in about 1850 by Liszt with the interpolation of a slow movement, and issued as Grosses Konzertsolo
, and later rearranged for two pianos as Concerto pathétique
(for further details see Vol 53b), but the present concertante version has remained in obscurity. It is clear from the manuscripts—one for solo piano with instructions to Raff for preparing the composite score (which does not seem to exist), and the other for orchestra, but without the solo part (containing some instructions for the adaptation of the extant piano part to fit the orchestral version)—that Liszt was proceeding in his customary manner until he had second thoughts about the overall shape of the piece. The orchestral manuscript was kindly copied to the present writer by its current owner, the Marquess of Londonderry, who had previously copied it to Humphrey Searle. Unfortunately Searle was unaware of the original piano piece and tried to put together some kind of compromise version using the published Grosses Konzertsolo
, adding orchestration of his own, and omitting all passages in the original score which did not square with the published solo (which version was performed several times for the BBC), and, with all due respect to a pioneer, sadly making a large number of deliberate alterations and accidental misreadings the while. (Searle refers to the orchestral manuscript as showing ‘all the hallmarks of an inexperienced orchestrator’. It does show many signs of haste, especially in the transpositions of the four horn parts, two in E, two in C, but requires no touching up, as the listener is invited to agree. In any case, Searle was quite unaware of the many earlier examples of Liszt’s original orchestration, and credits other hands with much work which is indubitably Liszt’s or at the very least prepared under his minute instruction—in the manner so ably described above by Mr Rosenblatt.) The score has been prepared anew for this performance and for publication using all available manuscript sources.
The Grand Solo takes the familiar form of a concert Allegro and the opening gesture generates much of the binding material for the work. In the traditional way, E minor proceeds through a modulatory transition to give way to G major for the second subject, and this leads into a passage of troubled repose where elements of both themes appear (unfortunately this excellent passage disappears in the later versions of the work). The transition material begins the recapitulation, but is interrupted by the orchestral stretta which does duty for the return of the first theme. The second theme returns as a funeral march bo and grows in confidence to form a triumphal coda.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998