Liszt’s Berceuse is the most interesting example of his relationship with Chopin’s style, embodying imitation almost to the point of plagiarism. Chopin’s own Berceuse—also in D flat major, also built on increasingly elaborate variations on a simple four-bar theme, also unfolding over a sustained tonic pedal-point—is clearly Liszt’s model. In fact, the situation is rather more complicated as Liszt’s piece exists in two very different versions, the first written in 1854, and the second in 1863. The first version (recorded here) is actually simpler in conception than Chopin’s Berceuse, largely free from florid embellishment and therefore lacking one of the defining features of Chopin’s work. The more familiar second version, while it retains the harmonic plan and the melodic basis of the original, is saturated with an almost overwhelming amount of filigree decoration, and is also much longer. In its simpler guise, Liszt’s Berceuse is a tranquil, contemplative work, akin to the Consolations in its quality of unspoilt innocence.
from notes by Tim Parry © 2000