No 1, second version: Étude in G minor incorporating Schumann's Op 10 No 2
No 1: Étude in G minor
No 2: Étude in E flat major
No 3: Étude in A flat minor
No 4/I: Étude in E major
No 4/II: Étude in E major
No 5, alternative text: Étude in E major
No 5: Étude in E major
No 6: Étude in A minor
Liszt’s second study is based on Paganini’s seventeenth Caprice. Apart from the familiar thinning of textures, the second version sounds similar to the first, but the differences in the arrangements of the hands to make the best musical solutions between the one version and the other are subtleties worthy of close observation. (For many years it was the fashion to ‘improve’ the little valedictory coda Liszt composed for this work with a crass flourish. Fortunately this practice has almost entirely ceased.)
The third study is commonly known by its title in the second edition, La Campanella, a reference to the little bell employed by Paganini in the rondo of his Second Violin Concerto. Uniquely in this study, Liszt does not preserve Paganini’s original tonality (B minor) or structure. In the ‘Clochette’ Fantasy, Liszt transposed the main theme and a ritornello theme from the Second Concerto into A minor. In the first version of the study, he used A flat minor—which puts all the nastier leaps between black notes, which are much easier to target—and mixes in a repeated-note elaboration of the first theme of the rondo of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto transposed into A flat major from the original D major (or E flat, as Paganini first conceived it). This study turns out to be quite a boisterous affair and could not be in greater contrast with its second version, now in G sharp minor (for ease of reading, no doubt) and with the theme of the First Concerto expunged. La Campanella has, over the years, often been utilized by unthinking players as some gigantic warhorse, whereas (and just listen to Joseph Lhévinne play it—even on a piano-roll!) it is clearly a study in quiet playing with a mystical quality to it. It is marked Allegretto until the last pages and only grows in volume towards the end. Forte never occurs, but fortissimo is indicated once—just for the last eleven bars.
Paganini’s first Caprice (which quotes Locatelli’s seventh) is the basis for Liszt’s fourth study. In the first edition it appears in two versions, the one accompanying the original arpeggiated chord with further arpeggios in the left hand, the other doubling the arpeggios in both hands. Even though they are both marked Andante quasi Allegretto, they inhabit the very edge of the technically possible with their stretches, leaps and hand-crossings. Liszt adds grand melodic lines in counterpoint to the straightforward broken chords of the original. In the 1851 version 4 the piece is marked Vivo and the music is printed, uncannily like Paganini’s original to the casual view, on one stave; the hands intrically alternate in a neatly woven replica of the Caprice, shorn of all added melodies.
La Chasse is the nickname often given to Paganini’s ninth Caprice—a study in double-stopping—as well as to Liszt’s fifth study which is based upon it. Both Paganini and Liszt mark the opening theme as imitando il flauto, and the lower repetition as imitando il corno. The spiccato phrases tossed from one register of the violin to another in the middle section are cleverly adapted by Liszt, right down to some rather violinistic fingering which produces just the right articulation. The first version is somewhat thicker in texture than the second, and Liszt’s staccato scales in octaves and chords in the first version become double glissandi in the second. The first version also has a simpler alternative text for the majority of its length. This produces in effect another version of the work whose character is quite different.
The twenty-fourth Paganini Caprice is certainly the best known, or at least its theme is, since it has been widely employed by so many other composers for variations of their own. Paganini wrote eleven variations and a coda, and Liszt sticks to this plan in both editions of his sixth study. The many differences between the two Liszt pieces cannot be enumerated here; the second version is, as one would expect, not as monumentally treacherous as the first and the textures vary enormously—especially in Variation IX with its different attempts to compensate for the wondrous effect of left-hand pizzicato on the violin.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1998