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Track(s) taken from CDA67598

Fantasia on two themes from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

late 1842; unfinished; Fantasie über Themen aus Figaro und Don Giovanni, S697
1912; completion and reworking, omitting Giovanni themes; the arias used are Figaro's 'Non più andrai' and Cherubino's 'Voi che sapete'

Stephen Hough (piano)
Recording details: November 2006
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon
Release date: March 2008
Total duration: 15 minutes 25 seconds

Cover artwork: Garden of Eden (oil on linen) by Anthony Mastromatteo (b?)
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist / Private Collection


‘There are all too few pianists with the equivalent of Hough's three Michelin stars … opening with two of Mozart's solo masterpieces, the ear is welcomed into an intimate, pellucid sound world with a sophistcated grading of dynamics … [Liszt-Busoni Fantasy on Non piu andrai] provides a hair-raising bravura display that deserves to be heard more often. At least, when played like this’ (Gramophone)

‘A bold and dramatic account of Mozart's K475 C minor Fantasia opens this memorable and imaginatively devised recital. While emphasising the prophetically romantic nature of the music, Stephen Hough takes great care not to overplay its more forceful passages … the final party piece, the Liszt/Busoni Fantasia on themes from The Marriage of Figaro, is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser given an exhilharating performance guaranteed to bring the house down’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘A scintillating exploration of Mozartian style in tribute works by other composers. Easily the most attractive is by Stephen Hough himself, who takes three small pieces and reinvents them in the style of Poulenc. The result is a seductive, spicy and totally original addition to the genre, and a nice counterweight to the Liszt-Busoni Figaro fantasia, which the prodigiously talented Hough plays with his trademark intensity’ (The Observer)

‘We look forward to Hough's recordings. They are never disappointing, and this one is a classic. With excellent engineering and Harriet Smith's very informative notes, only those who do not value great pianism can afford to miss it’ (American Record Guide)

‘Hyperion's imaginative new collection shows this protean artist to be equally at home in the Classical repertoire. Not surprisingly, he offers romantic and highly pianistic Mozart … the result is a trio of performances of splendid variety … the recital ends rousingly with Liszt's Figaro Fantasia. Compared to the other post-Mozartian rarities, of course, this is standard fare—but it sounds freshly minted in this improvisatory reading … notable for his revelatory inner-line clarity even in the most congested textures and for his ability to reveal the underlying gestures in passages, that, even in Gilels' hands, emerge as a mere blur of notes. Excellent Hyperion sound and useful notes by Harriet Smith only add to the virtues of this first-rate release’ (International Record Review)

‘In a typically well-made progamme, the compelling British pianist springboards of Mozart into a series of tributes. The virtuoisic challenges are handled with liquid clarity and intelligent expression. Mesmerising in the Mozart, the transition to a more modern take comes surprisingly fluently’ (The Times)

‘Here's another winning, imaginatively conceived disc from Britain's finest pianist … it is unexpected and delightful programme-building. Prized for his pianism, Hough is also a superb Mozartian. He lends these Fantasias an almost Beethovenian weight and depth of expression … Hough's playing is dazzling throughout’ (The Sunday Times)

‘A new record from Stephen Hough is always something to look foward to, and A Mozart Album is no exception … altogether an outsanding disc released by Hyperion’ (Liverpool Daily Post)

‘Hough's Mozart playing is so fresh, so sensitive to the harmonic twists and the way the prase can simultaneously suggest different feelings … this 2006 Keener and Eadon production from St George's, Bristol, is impeccably presented, with a congenial note by Harriet Smith’ (International Piano)

‘In this deft tribute to Mozart's genius, splendid pianist Stephen Hough leads with a pair of the composer's own works before segueing into transcriptions, homages and his own Poulenc-inflected 'transformations'. Hough is incapable of an unengaging performance, as he demonstrates right off with an account of the Fantasia in C minor, K475 that pulls back from stormy drama for something more tactfully measured and delicate. An unfinished Liszt fantasia on 'The Marriage of Figaro' music, amended by Busoni, gets a wittily theatrical treatment’ (San Francisco Chronicle)

‘Stephen Hough generally does not disappoint in terms of programming … [his] Mozart is exemplary, with the Fantasias approached with a free sense of tempo and a careful attention to the dynamic contrasts and articulations in the score … the pendant piece is the Liszt-Busoni fantasia on themes from Marriage of Figaro, in which Hough displays his considerable technical wizardry and whimsical attention to details’ (IonArts.com)

‘[Hough] is certainly one of today's most thoughtful and thought-provoking pianists, as his latest thematic Hyperion set underscores … playing with a mix of depth and detail that only the best pianists achieve … he connects kindred spirits in a witty, lovely way’ (The Star-Ledger, USA)
Franz Liszt’s Fantasia dates from late 1842. He seems to have played it just once—in Berlin on 11 January 1843. The piece was left incomplete, lacking an ending, and the manuscript appears to be a work-in-progress, with question marks over certain passages, and no tempo indications or dynamics. Uniquely among Liszt’s opera paraphrases it takes the themes of not one but two operas—The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni—though at no point are they combined, as one might expect. Busoni’s version—renamed Fantasia on two themes from Mozart’s ‘Le nozze di Figaro’—dates from 1912 and is far tauter than Liszt’s original, omitting the Giovanni music altogether and bridging the resulting gap with a ten-bar passage, a simple enough process given that the transition to and from this section is in C major. Busoni also provided sixteen bars to conclude the Fantasia. His touch is subtle, restoring to circulation a forgotten Liszt piece without overlaying his own musical personality too emphatically. Mozart was, for him, a god-like figure, far removed from the earlier nineteenth-century view, and Busoni was among the first to appreciate the true depths of his music.

The Fantasia is based on two arias: ‘Non più andrai’, sung by Figaro to Cherubino as he despatches him off to join a regiment, adding that womenkind will be able to breathe freely once more; and ‘Voi che sapete’, in which Cherubino serenades the Countess and Susanna. The work begins almost nonchalantly, with a snippet of ‘Non più andrai’ which is gradually transformed by Liszt in a substantial introduction full of melodramatic ardour, tremolos and eye-watering virtuosity. ‘Voi che sapete’ then appears complete, in a more lyrical section characterized by a delicacy which gradually warms as the texture increases in complexity and brilliance. The virtuosity, however, is never allowed to obscure the crystalline beauty of Mozart’s aria. Colours darken, tremolos and double octaves build up the tension in a transition passage culminating in a rising scale of double sixths and thirds which heralds the triumphant reappearance of ‘Non più andrai’, marked deciso and later marcatissimo, emphasizing the martial nature of Cherubino’s fate. If Liszt was already unsparing in his demands on the pianist, Busoni adds to these with such instructions as con eleganza in textures thick with notes. Liszt continues to tease, with Figaro’s theme veering off in unexpected harmonic directions until he finally deconstructs it, leaving little more than a rhythmic torso, against motoric left-hand figuration. Busoni attempts no clever tricks in his ending, stylistically remaining utterly in keeping with Liszt.

from notes by Harriet Smith © 2008

Franz Liszt composa sa Fantaisie à la fin de 1842 et ne la joua, semble-t-il, qu’une seule fois: à Berlin, le 11 janvier 1843. Encore l’a-t-il laissée inachevée, sans conclusion, dans un manuscrit qui tient de l’œuvre en devenir, avec des points d’interrogations à certains passages, mais sans la moindre indication de tempo, sans dynamiques. Fait unique dans les paraphrases opératiques lisztiennes, elle emprunte ses thèmes non pas à un mais à deux opéras—Le Mariage de Figaro et Don Giovanni—, même si, contre toute attente, ils ne sont jamais combinés. La version de Busoni, rebaptisée Fantaisie sur deux thèmes de «Le nozze di Figaro» de Mozart, date de 1912 et est bien plus tendue que l’original lisztien: elle saute carrément la musique de Don Giovanni, un passage de dix mesures venant combler le trou ainsi creusé—ce qui est assez simple vu que la transition qui mène à cette section est en ut majeur, tout comme celle qui en sort. Busoni propose aussi seize mesures permettant de conclure la Fantaisie. Avec subtilité, sa touche remet en circulation une pièce lisztienne oubliée sans surimposer avec trop d’insistance sa propre personnalité musicale. Tenant Mozart pour une figure divine, à rebours de l’image qui prévalait jusqu’alors au XIXe siècle, il fut l’un des premiers à en apprécier les authentiques profondeurs.

La Fantaisie repose sur deux arias: «Non più andrai», chantée par Figaro lorsqu’il envoie Cherubino au régiment, ajoutant que les femmes vont de nouveau pouvoir respirer librement; et «Voi che sapete», où Cherubino chante la sérénade à la comtesse et à Susanna. L’œuvre s’ouvre presque nonchalamment sur une bribe de «Non più andrai», que Liszt transforme peu à peu en une introduction substantielle, gorgée d’ardeur mélodramatique et de trémolos, avec une virtuosité qui enjolive tout. «Voi che sapete» apparaît alors en entier, dans une section plus lyrique marquée par une délicatesse qui s’échauffe à mesure que la texture gagne en complexité et en brio. Jamais, cependant, la virtuosité n’est autorisée à obscurcir la beauté cristalline de l’aria mozartienne. Les couleurs s’assombrissent, les trémolos et les doubles octaves amplifient la tension dans un passage de transition qui culmine en une gamme ascendante de doubles sixtes et tierces annonçant la réapparition triomphante de «Non più andrai», marquée deciso puis marcatissimo, ce qui accuse la martialité du sort de Cherubino. Liszt n’était déjà pas avare d’exigences envers le pianiste, mais Busoni ajoute, dans des textures saturées de notes, des injonctions comme con eleganza. Persistant dans la taquinerie, Liszt fait virer le thème de Figaro dans des directions harmoniques inattendues jusqu’à finalement le déconstruire pour ne laisser guère plus qu’un fragment rythmique sur fond de figuration motorique à la main gauche. Dans sa conclusion, Busoni ne s’essaye à aucun tour astucieux et demeure en intime adéquation stylistique avec Liszt.

extrait des notes rédigées par Harriet Smith © 2008
Français: Hypérion

Franz Liszts Fantasie datiert von Ende 1842. Er scheint sie nur einmal gespielt zu haben—in Berlin am 11. Januar 1843. Das Stück wurde unvollendet, ohne Schluss, hinterlassen, und das Manuskript scheint ein noch in Arbeit befindliches Werk zu sein, mit Fragezeichen über gewissen Passagen und ohne Tempobezeichnungen und Dynamik. Es ist die einzige Opernparaphrase Liszts, die Themen aus nicht nur einer sondern zwei Opern nimmt—Die Hochzeit des Figaro und Don Giovanni—obwohl sie nirgends, wie man erwartet hätte, kombiniert werden. Busonis Fassung—unter dem neuen Titel Fantasie für Pianoforte über zwei Motive aus W. A. Mozarts Oper „Die Hochzeit des Figaro“—datiert von 1912 und ist wesentlich straffer als Liszts Original, lässt die Don Giovanni-Musik ganz aus und überbrückt die entstandene Lücke mit einer Passage von zehn Takten—leicht genug, da es von C-Dur nach C-Dur geht. Busoni lieferte auch sechzehn Takte zum Abschluss der Fantasie. Er handhabt es feinfühlig und bringt ein vergessenes Stück Liszts wieder in Umlauf ohne ihm allzu emphatisch seine eigene Persönlichkeit aufzustempeln. Mozart war für ihn eine gottesgleiche Gestalt, weit entfernt von der Ansicht des frühen 19. Jahrhunderts, und Busoni war einer der Ersten, die die wahre Tiefe seiner Musik würdigte.

Die Fantasie basiert auf zwei Arien: „Non più andrai“, die Figaro an Cherubino richtet, als er ihn zum Regiment weg schickt, und hinzufügt, dass Frauen jetzt wieder aufatmen könnten; und „Voi che sapete“, der Serenade Cherubinos an die Gräfin und Susanna. Das Werk beginnt nahezu nonchalant, mit einem Schnipsel aus „Non più andrai“, das Liszt nach und nach in eine gewichtige Introduktion voll melodramatischer Inbrunst, Tremolos und köstlicher Virtuosität transformiert. „Voi che sapete“ erscheint dann komplett in einem delikaten lyrischeren Abschnitt, der sich zuspitzt, indem das musikalische Gewebe zusehends komplexer und brillanter wird. Er erlaubt der Virtuosität jedoch nie die kristallne Schönheit der Mozart-Arie zu verschleiern. Die Farben verdunkeln sich, und Tremolos und Doppeloktaven erhöhen die Spannung in einer Überleitungspassage, die in einer aufsteigenden Skala von Doppelsexten und -terzen kulminiert, die die triumphale Rückkehr von „Non più andrai“ ankündigt, hier deciso und später marcatissimo markiert, wodurch die marzialische Natur von Cherubinos Schicksal besiegelt wird. Wo Liszt schon schonungslose Ansprüche an den Pianisten gestellt hatte, erhöht Busoni sie noch mit Anleitungen wie con eleganza in einem dichten Gewebe von Noten. Liszt reizt uns weiter, indem er Figaros Thema in unerwartete harmonische Richtungen ausweichen lässt, bis er es schließlich ganz auseinandernimmt und kaum mehr als einen rhythmischen Torso zurücklässt, der gegen die motorische Figuration der linken Hand gesetzt wird. Busoni versucht mit seinem Ende keine schlauen Tricks, sondern bleibt stilistisch ganz mit Liszt im Einklang.

aus dem Begleittext von Harriet Smith © 2008
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

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