Liszt composed his Grand Solo de concert
for a competition at the Paris Conservatoire—the manuscript is dated 1850, although most commentators allow that work probably began on the piece in the previous year. As is well known, Liszt altered the work before publication (as Grosses Konzertsolo
), introducing an internal slow movement, adding two other passages, and making numerous other smaller changes. But there is a tightness in the construction of the original work which makes the earlier version in many ways a more satisfying piece, and the section which Liszt was to remove to make way for the added Andante is of rare beauty. (The first version which he prepared for piano and orchestra follows the original form; the second, made in collaboration with Eduard Reuss, follows and extends the two-piano version: Concerto pathétique
.) The funeral march towards the end of the piece is laid out on four staves, and it is clear that Liszt wishes the upper chords to be sustained whilst the lower drum-roll imitations are to be kept relatively clean. Of course this is easily possible using the sostenuto pedal of the modern concert grand, but in 1850 Liszt can at best have had pianos with divided sustaining pedals—such as Beethoven had had before him.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998