It is probably only just that the best known work of the greatest transcriber in the history of Western music should be a transcription, but fortunate, at least, that it should be a transcription of one of his own works. The third of the Liebesträume
, often quite erroneously entitled ‘Liebestraum No 3’ (the plural applies to each piece), is one of the world’s most treasured melodies, and it has been the piano transcription, rather than the equally splendid original song, that has claimed a permanent place on the short-list of best love-inspired themes. But all three pieces are characterised by generous melodic lines, and they work very well as a group—as do the original songs. Each piece bears the title ‘Notturno’, and the subtitle—the song title, in fact—and the full text of the song follow. As a triptych, the Liebesträume
invite comparison with the three settings of Petrarch sonnets, which also became better known as piano pieces. (In this series of recordings those transcriptions will appear in due course in both versions.) For the German songs, however, Liszt used two different poets: Ludwig Uhland’s Hohe Liebe
speaks of the heaven on earth that has come from being drunk in the arms of love, and his Seliger Tod
(the piece has often been known by the poem’s first line: ‘Gestorben war ich’) makes the conceit of love being a happy death awakened by a kiss, while Ferdinand Freiligrath’s O Lieb!
enjoins us to love whilst we may, for love lost is miserable. (There is an earlier piano piece based on the second of these songs which will appear later in this series, and a later echo of it in the second of the Meyendorff Klavierstücke
, which has already been recorded on volume 11: Late Pieces.)
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1992