LISZT: Capriccio alla Turca / Adelaide / Lieder / An die ferne Geliebte (Paul Myers/ Yung-Wook Yoo) (Naxos: 8.554839)
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Complete Piano Music,Volume 16
Capriccio alIa Turca
Piano Transcriptionsof Beethoven's Songs
\From the thoughtful performance of Adelaide, incidentally, many singerscould learn how this song should be sung. How little, how negligible the poorpiano is compared to the sound of a human voice, and yet what music theseartistic hands knew how to elicit from the instrument!"
-Heinrich Adami, Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (7th April 1846)
Franz Liszt as a performer combined a degree of showmanship withremarkable gifts of interpretation, as contemporary comments on his playingmake clear. It is all the more surprising to find that he retired from paidpublic performance relatively early in his long career.
Born in 1811, the son of Adam Liszt, a steward in the service of Haydn'sformer patrons, the Esterhazy Princes, Franz Liszt had early encouragement fromhis father's employers and other members of the Hungarian nobility, allowinghim in 1822 to move from his birth-place of Raiding to Vienna, for lessons withCzerny and a famous meeting with Beethoven, and from Vienna to Paris. ThereCherubini refused him admission to the Conservatoire, but he was able toimpress audiences by his performance, now supported by the Erard family, pianomanufacturers whose wares he was able to advertise in the concert tours onwhich he embarked. In 1827 Adam Liszt died, and he was now joined again by hismother in Paris, while using his time to teach, to read and benefit from theintellectual society with which he came into contact. His interest in virtuosoperformance was renewed when he heard the great violinist Paganini, whosetechnical accomplishments he now set out to emulate.
The years that followed brought a series of compositions, includingtranscriptions of songs and operatic fantasies, part of the stock-in-trade of avirtuoso. His relationship with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult,led to Liszt's departure from Paris for years of travel abroad, first toSwitzerland, then back to Paris, before leaving for Italy, Vienna and Hungary.
By 1844 his relationship with his mistress, the mother of his three children,was at an end, but his concert activities continued until 1847, the year inwhich his relationship began with Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Polishheiress, the estranged wife of a Russian prince. The following year he settledwith her in Weimar, the city of Goethe, turning his attention now to thedevelopment of a newer form of orchestral music, the symphonic poem, and, asalways, to the revision and publication of earlier compositions.
It was in 1861, at the age of fifty, that Liszt moved to Rome, followingPrincess Carolyne, who had settled there a year earlier. Divorce and annulmentseemed to have opened the way to their marriage, but they now continued to livein separate apartments in the city. Liszt eventually took minor orders anddeveloped a pattern of life that divided his time between Weimar, where heimparted advice to a younger generation, Rome, where he was able to pursue hisreligious interests, and Pest, where he returned now as a national hero. He died in 1886 in Bayreuth, where hisdaughter Cosima, widow of Richard Wagner, lived, concerned with the continuedpropagation of her husband's music.
Beethoven's incidental music for Kotzebue's The Ruins of Athens wasoccasioned by the celebration of the opening of a new imperial theatre in Pestin 1812. The music was written towards the end of the summer, while thecomposer was at Teplitz. Kotzebue's play shows the goddess Minerva waking froma sleep of two thousand years to find Athens in Turkish hands and the Parthenonin ruins. Art, however, has survived in Pest, thanks to enlightened imperialrule. The music includes the famous Turkish March. Liszt's CapriccioalIa Turca was written in 1846 and was followed by a Fantasia forpiano and orchestra and a solo piano derivative during the following years. The Capriccio is based primarily on the march itself, with an excursion into anothersupposedly Turkish element of the music, the Chorus of Dervishes.
Beethoven had long held Goethe in reverence and had ser poems by himeven during his early years in Bonn. In the summer of 1812 the two had actuallymet during holidays spent at Teplitz and Karlsbad. Goethe found Beethoven a'completely untamed personality' and commented on his attitude to a world thathe found hateful, not making life for himself any more pleasant thereby. Thesix songs transcribed by Liszt date from 1809 and 1810 and the transcriptionswere made in 1849. The first of the set, Mignon, takes the well knownwords of the gypsy waif of the title, Kennst du das Land, wo die Zitronenbl??hn? ('Do you know the country where the lemon-trees flower?') fromGoethe's Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre ('Wilhelm Meister'sYears of Apprenticeship'), transcribed with little change from the original.
The second song, Mit einem gemalten Band ('With a Painted Ribbon'),accompanies the gift of the title, its melody appropriately transcribedprincipally in the tenor register.
Freudvoll und Leidvoll ('Joyful and Sorrowful') and Die Trommel ger??hret ('TheDrum Sounds'), from the play Egmont, lend themselves to more dramaticpiano arrangement, while Es war einmal ein Konig (Once upon a time therewas a king), Mephisto's Song of the Flea from Faust, has agreater degree of transformation. Wonne der Wehmut ('Delight inSadness') again transcribes the vocal part into the appropriate register.
Beethoven published his setting of Matthisson's Adelaide in 1797,with a dedication to the poet. Liszt's transcription dates from 1839 and offersa considerable elaboration of the original love-song, in which the poet wandersin the garden of spring, seeing everywhere the image of his beloved.
The writer and poet Christian F??rchtegott Gellert belongs to an earliergeneration. His Geistliche Oden und Lieder ('Spiritual Odes and Songs'),the source of a number of Protestant hymns, was published in 1757 andBeethoven's setting of six of these poems dates from before 1802. The first ofthese in Liszt's transcription, Gottes Macht und Vorsehung ('God's Mightand Providence'), elaborates a second verse of the simple hymn. The second, Bitten('Entreaties'), remains in its original form and the third, Bu?ƒlied ('Song of Penitence')adds embellishment to the end of the first section, augmenting this veryconsiderably as the song reaches a climax, when God hears the penitent's cry. VomTode ('Of Death') adds a second verse varied by syncopations of the sombreaccompaniment and DieLiehe des Nachsten ('Love of One's Neighbour')retains much of its original simplicity. This allows Liszt to make a contrastwith his final more dramatic transcription of Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur ('TheHonouring of God through Nature').
Beethoven's song-cycle An die ferne Geliebfe ('To the DistantBeloved') was completed in 1816 and dedicated to Prince Lobkowitz. The words of the sixsongs that form the work were by a young medical student, Alois Jeitteles, andwere perhaps commissioned by the composer. They express a mood of longing andresignation, perhaps in part, at least, a reflection of Liszt's feelings as hemade the transcription in 1849. The piano version makes still clearer theessential unity of the cycle, an effective guide and model for later composers.