LISZT: Bunte Reihe Transcriptions
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Franz Liszt (1811-1886): piano Works Vol. 14
No composer was as prolific in the art oftranscription as Franz Liszt. If one were to play only Liszt's paraphrases,reminiscences, transcriptions, free arrangements or improvisations, it wouldtake at least sixty hours non-stop. No matter how important (the Beethovensymphonies, for example) or inconsequential the original was (for example,Pezzini's mazurka Una Stella arnica)- all was grist for Liszt'stranscription mill.
Ferdinand David (1810- 1873) was an eminentGerman violinist and teacher. He was born in Hamburg and studied with therenowned composer Ludwig Spohr and the equally celebrated theorist MoritzHauptmann at Kassel. Both Spohr and Hauptmann were superb violinists, and it isno surprise that David became one of their prize pupils. At the age of fifteen,he played in the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and two years later became amember of the Konigstadt Theatre Orchestra in Berlin. He became first violin inthe private quartet of a wealthy and influential amateur, Baron von Liphardt,whose daughter he later married. David lived in Russia unti11835, when, atFelix Mendelssohn's insistence, he was appointed the leader of the GewandhausOrchestra in 1836. When the Leipzig Conservatory was opened in 1843, Davidbecame violin professor there. He was so influential and important that duringhis lifetime the Leipzig Conservatory became most famous as a finishing schoolfor violinists. According to contemporary sources, David presided over theGewandhaus Orchestra "with the rigour of a martinet. And as leader of theorchestra he had the wonderful faculty of inspiring the players with his ownenthusiasm." As a teacher he was "obeyed with fear and trembling as adrill-master, and admired as a virtuoso combining the sterling qualities ofSpohr's style with the greater facility and piquancy of the modern school,David was revered as the teacher of the most distinguished violinists of thetime, among them being August Wilhelmj and Joseph Joachim."
Ferdinand David's student editions of classicalworks embraced nearly all compositions of the standard violin literature of thetime. Felix Mendelssohn became David's close and warm friend, frequently askinghis advice and deferring to his judgement, probably the most famous instance ofthis being Mendelssohn's famous Violin Concerto in E minor, Op.64. Duringits writing David was continually consulted, and he also gave the firstperformance of he work in Leipzig in March 1845. When Mendelssohn died twoyears later, David was one of the pall-bearers at the funeral service in thePauliner-Kirche, with Hauptmann, Gade and Moscheles. Despite his success as aviolinist and teacher, David the composer has been almost completely forgotten.
He wrote two symphonies, five violin concertos, the opera Hans Wacht (1852),a sextet, string quartet and numerous other chamber works, including pieces forviolin and piano. The author musicologist and editor of Liszt' s letters, LaMara (Marie Lipsius), gives a list with fifty opus numbers.
In examining Ferdinand David's compositions, oneis struck by his accomplished musical language. His music does not astonish,nor does it leave a lasting impression. What we find is workmanlikefastidiousness. His music does not have the abandon of Liszt, nor the flightsof fancy of Mendelssohn, nor the recognisable style of Schumann. David's musicis simple, understated and often elegant. The symphonies and violin concertosare perhaps his best works, and they represent some of his most energetic and ambitiousefforts. In these works we hear a composer who had enormous musical feeling andunderstanding, who knew his audience and who created music for a time and placenow long gone. Having given this somewhat less than inviting assessment ofDavid's compositional abilities, we must note that the music was successful andmuch admired in his day. A re-examination and recording of his major works isdefinitely warranted.
Franz Liszt work closely with David on variousoccasions. He gave David much support and even recommended the publication ofthe Bunte Reihe to a publisher in France. The unusual nature of David's Opus30 is that he created a work traversing the 24 major and minor keys. BunteReihe, literally translated, means "varied series" - a variedseries of violin and piano pieces. "Moods" is, perhaps, a morefitting description of these nostalgic and lyrical pieces They are miniaturesnapshots of a more sentimental time. Liszt combines the violin line with thepiano part to create a seamless set of pieces. In Liszt's version, we do nothave any sense that they were not originally written for solo piano. As aresult, there are some pianistic difficulties, for example in the Etude.
Toccata, the Allegro agitato, and the Scherzo, which are moreeasily played on the violin. Liszt was much taken by the nineteenth piece inthe set, the Ungarisch, and wrote two versions. The second version ismore military in flavour, and cast in a more improvisational language. Ratherthan separating the two versions, Valerie Tryon plays them back-to-back, aspublished in the original complete Kistner edition.
Marina and Victor Ledin
Valerie Tryon's career as a concert pianist began when shewas still a child. Before she was twelve she had broadcast for the BBC, and wasappearing regularly before the public on the concert platform. As a scholarshipstudent at the Royal Academy of Music she won many prizes, receiving thehighest award that is conferred on a performer. In 1955 she was awarded thecoveted Boise Scholarship which enabled her to study in Paris with JacquesFevrier. A year later, she became a prize winner at the Liszt Competition inBudapest. Her place among Britain's acknowledged artists was assured when aCheltenham Festival debut recital in 1959 brought her the enthusiastic acclaimof the country's foremost critics. She has given concerts throughout the worldand in 1967 was presented with the Harriet Cohen Award in recognition of herservices to music. Her repertoire ranges from Bach to contemporary composersand includes over fifty concertos. Now a resident of Canada, Valerie Tryon ispianist-in-residence and faculty member at McMaster University, Hamilton,Ontario.