Hyperion Records

Concerto pathétique in E minor, S365b
1885/6; version for piano and orchestra by Liszt and Eduard Reuss
1885/6; version for piano and orchestra by Liszt and Reuss

'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra II' (CDA67403/4)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53 – Music for piano & orchestra II
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
MP3 £160.00FLAC £160.00ALAC £160.00Buy by post £200.00 CDS44501/98  99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
Movement 1: Allegro energico ed appassionato, ma non troppo presto – Patetico – Agitato
Track 1 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [4'35] 3CDs
Track 1 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [4'35] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 2: Grandioso, un poco meno allegro – Andante
Track 2 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [2'38] 3CDs
Track 2 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [2'38] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 3: Andante sostenuto
Track 3 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [6'05] 3CDs
Track 3 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [6'05] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 4: Allegro agitato assai – Più moderato
Track 4 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [1'41] 3CDs
Track 4 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [1'41] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 5: Più mosso – Stretta
Track 5 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [2'46] 3CDs
Track 5 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [2'46] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 6: Lento quasi marcia funèbre – Andante sostenuto – Allegro mosso – Allegro trionfante
Track 6 on CDA67403/4 CD2 [7'35] 3CDs
Track 6 on CDS44501/98 CD98 [7'35] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Concerto pathétique in E minor, S365b
The Concerto pathétique represents Liszt’s last thoughts on a work which had occupied him on and off for over thirty-five years. The first version was the Grand Solo de concert for piano, S175a, and then with orchestra, S365. Then came the extended Grosses Konzertsolo for piano, S176, and the version for two pianos: Concerto pathétique, S258, was made in about 1856, and enjoyed much popularity amongst Liszt’s students, even though it was not printed until ten years later. A second edition of that version appeared in 1884, with a section of twenty-seven bars towards the end replaced with forty bars newly composed by Hans von Bülow—with Liszt’s apparent blessing. Possibly as early as 1872, Liszt’s student Eduard Reuss had made a version of the 1866 edition for piano and orchestra, and it is this version which came to Liszt’s notice in 1885. (Another of Liszt’s students—Richard Burmeister—had already made a concertante version of the work, but Liszt does not seem to have seen it. More recently, a version by Gábor Darvas has been published in Hungary and recorded, but this has nothing to do with Liszt either.) There was a lively correspondence between Liszt and Reuss as Liszt gradually took the piece under his own control; having first indicated to Reuss how pleased he was, Liszt then made copious alterations and revisions as late as January 1886, before he approved the work for publication. (The incomplete manuscript in the Library of Congress does not represent his final thoughts, and we do not have the engraver’s copy to see what changes were made at the proof stage. In any case, the publication took place after Liszt’s death, as did that of the two-piano reduction by August Göllerich.) Apart from altering the instrumentation, and adding a new introduction and coda, Liszt’s main aim was to lift the piano out of the orchestral texture by adding various new solo linking passages—a strange but effective plan, since they are almost all in the sparse style of his late works and in some contrast to the opulent textures of his middle years which inform the rest of the work. In his typically kind way, Liszt arranged for the piece to be published with full credit to Eduard Reuss, and with no mention at all of his own considerable collaboration and rewriting—a circumstance which has led to the work being unjustly omitted from most Liszt catalogues.

The opening of the Concerto pathétique is a newly composed passage of ten bars in octaves for the orchestra, and the orchestra keeps the ensuing statement of the first theme to itself. The piano enters for a brief cadenza leading to the lyrical contrasting melody which still forms part of the first subject group, and plays throughout the agitated transition to the second subject which is preceded by the first of Liszt’s interpolated solos. This Grandioso theme is taken by brass and drums—the drum rhythm is significant, because it was newly invented by Liszt, who wrote to Reuss (on 10 January 1886) that it would produce a better effect than his original plan of quick reiterated fifths copied from the two-piano piece, and that it would also serve twice as a rhythm for new transition material, and again at the end of the piece. So there is a new added passage in this rhythm for solo piano before the music again follows the two-piano score with the next statement of the second theme with horn and harp (this is the only concertante work of Liszt to include a harp). Liszt modifies the end of this passage and inserts further new material in the link to the Andante sostenuto. Further new material is found before the second, decorated statement of this theme, and the following phrases characterized by initial falling fifths have each been extended with trills and other-worldly harmonies for three bars at a time.

Another extension leads into the Allegro agitato assai, which is a further development of material from the first group, leading directly into a development of the second subject. This breaks off suddenly with another added solo derived from the opening bars, and the recapitulation begins, as in all the versions of this piece, with the reprise of the agitated transition material. Another interpolation precedes the Stretta—a developed reprise of the first theme—which, in this version, is taken by both piano and orchestra, and yet another new passage connects to the funeral march. Here we have muffled drums and solo trumpet in an astonishingly avant-garde piece of orchestration, and Liszt adds to the gloom by adding eight extra bars to the middle of it. The above-mentioned timpani rhythm returns in another new passage—and it is probably no accident that this rhythm is identical to that of the moment in the Stabat Mater speciosa in the oratorio Christus where it is associated with the text ‘Quando corpus morietur, Fac, ut animae donetur Tui Nati visio’ (‘When the body die, grant that the spirit receive a vision of thy Son’); Liszt does not seem to have used this rhythm elsewhere—and the Andante sostenuto is recalled with its previous phrase extensions and a new connecting passage. The succeeding reprise of the second subject was in E major in all the other versions of the piece. Astonishingly, and to great effect, Liszt drops the tonality by a semitone, and then engineers a marvellous chord change to restore E major for the triumphant coda, which is introduced by more new material and extended by some twenty-five bars of defiant but not virtuosic octaves from piano and orchestra.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998

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