The fantasy on themes from I Puritani
, Réminiscences des Puritains
, invites comparison with the better known Réminiscences de Norma
in terms of its structure, although Liszt makes less attempt here to encapsulate the line of the drama, which is in any event not of the same quality. Rather, he absorbs and amplifies the character of the work, enriching the harmonic vocabulary and exploiting orchestral sonorities at the keyboard. Much of the martial music (but not ‘Suoni la tromba’, which is the basis for the Hexaméron
variations, which was not in the original Paris version of Bellini’s opera) is used in the dramatic introduction and in transition passages, but the bulk of the work is constructed upon two themes: Arturo’s beautiful cavatina ‘A te, o cara’, and Elvira’s brilliant aria in the form of a polonaise ‘Son vergin vezzosa’. Bellini’s opera was produced in 1835 and Liszt’s fantasy appeared the following year. Unfortunately, the sheer size and difficulty of the fantasy have led to its neglect, and perhaps account for Liszt’s slightly simplified rewriting of the concluding Introduction et Polonaise
of 1840, in which the rest of the fantasy is jettisoned. Certainly, for those interested in a short and effective concert piece, the shorter work is much more practical. Even so, it too is unaccountably passed over by most pianists today.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1996