For some reason the New Liszt Edition is issuing the two ‘Weinen, Klagen’ pieces amongst the volumes of transcriptions and fantasies on other composers’ materials, but that has no more sense than to regard, say, Brahms’s ‘Handel’ Variations in a similar way, for these are certainly original compositions in every sense of the word. Both works bear a dedication to Anton Rubinstein, and both are based on the same wonderful theme. The Prelude
of 1859 is a dignified and restrained piece with just one dramatic outburst, all within the framework of a passacaglia which unfolds 25 variations on the motif. The Variations
are not simply an expansion of the earlier piece, although there are a few fragments in common. The work dates from 1862 and was motivated by the death of Liszt’s elder daughter, Blandine. A fierce introduction leads to the theme and 43 variations, followed by a chromatic development in the shape of a recitative, and then a group of freer, faster variations, culminating with the choral ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ (which also ends Bach’s cantata) and a brief coda in which the two themes are juxtaposed before F minor finally gives way to an unequivocally optimistic F major.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1989