Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Complete Piano Music, Volume 12
Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 1 to 9
We are greatly indebted to Franz Liszt for havingbrought into music, to a degree unparalleled by any previous musician, thevitalized experience of an unending active life. There was not a throb hispulse had ever felt that does not somewhere or other find expression in hismusic.
Liszt conceived the Hungarian Rhapsodies as a kind ofcollective national epic. He composed the first in 1846 at the age of 35, andhis last in 1885 at the age of 74. Most of his Hungarian Rhapsodies are in thesectional slow-fast form of the gypsy dance known as the csardas. The HungarianRhapsodies remain undisputedly popular today after almost one hundred and fiftyyears. In them, however, we find the same contradictions in origin and purpose,the same contrast between serious musicianship and virtuoso exhibitionism,which made Liszt himself so fascinating. There is no doubt that Liszt wasdevoted to his country, but he was a Hungarian more by enthusiasm than throughupbringing or ethnic heritage. He could barely speak the language, for Hungariancame third to German and French at home. He left his native province at the ageof nine for the more cosmopolitan cities of Vienna and Paris. When he returned sometwo decades later he was an international hero in need of a national identity,to be achieved through the special musical language of the HungarianRhapsodies.
In order to collect gypsy tunes and absorb the strong flavourof their rhythms, the slow pride of the lassan and the wild frenzy ofthe friss, Liszt visited gypsy encampments. His first fifteen HungarianRhapsodies were published by 1854 (the remaining five were to come in hislast years), after the earlier publication of his Magyar Dallok
(Hungarian National Melodies). Liszt also published in 1859 his own controversialstudy of Hungarian gypsy music, Des Bohemiens et de leur musique en Hongrie
(The Gypsies and their Music in Hungaly). Later research has shown that Liszt waswrong about the gypsy origins of Hungarian music. Half a century later Bela Bartokand Zoltan Kodaly collected thousands of genuine Magyar folk-tunes and showedthat the gypsy contribution was a style of playing, a process of inflection andinstrumental arrangement rather than anything original in form, making use offolk elements and popular art-songs. Hungarian gypsy music, as it is nowcalled, was, nevertheless, the glory of the nation and Liszt's compositions didmuch to spread its fame. Although what he wrote may have lackedethnomusicological authenticity, his free-ranging fantasies and the use in thetitle of the word 'rhapsody' were strokes of genius. In the Hungarian Rhapsodies,Liszt did much more than use the so-called csardas. He miraculously recreatedon the piano the characteristics of a gypsy band, with its solo violin and the compellinglysoft, percussive effect of the cimbalom, the Hungarian zither.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.1 in E major
(composed 1846; published 1851; dedicated to EdeZerdahelyi, pianist and pupil of Liszt)
Stately, grand and rhetorical, the first rhapsody makesuse of three Hungarian songs with many pianistic elaborations and harmonicchanges. The first of these,
Kocsmcirosne, bolt ide az iccebe, was also adaptedby another Hungarian composer,
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C sharp minor
(composed 1847; published 1851; dedicated to the patriotand statesman Count Laszlo Teleky, a friend of Liszt)
The second rhapsody is the best known of the twenty. Itbegins grandly and heroically. Liszt re-creates on the piano at one point thesound of the cimbalom, at others suggesting the brilliant, impetuous gypsyviolin. Liszt wrote of his choice of title:
?á?á?á?á?á By the word Rhapsody the intention has been todesignate the fantastically ?á?á epic element which we deem this music tocontain... The qualification Hungarian which we have applied to theseRhapsodies is due to our feeling ?á?á?á that it would not have been just toseparate in the future what has never ?á?á?á been separated in the past... Thenomad Zygani, though straggling to ?á?á diverse countries and cultivating theirmusic elsewhere, never gave it a value equal to that which it attained uponHungarian soil.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.3 in B flat major
(published 1853; dedicated to the amateur composer CountLeo Festetics)
The third rhapsody is among the shortest, containing oneof the earliest known combinations of a major and minor third in one triad. Thepianist Ernest Hutcheson suggests that this mixed harmony should not besurprising, since it occurs in the overtones of any well-tuned bell and waslater used freely by Busoni and Messiaen, among others. The andante sectionLiszt had published previously as the eleventh piece in his Magyar Dallok.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.4 in E flat major
(published 1853; dedicated to Count Kolzmer Esterholzy)
Liszt chose themes based on music by Antal Gybrgy Csermolk,a gifted Hungarian composer of chamber music, for the fourth of the series, oneof the few which begins and ends in the same key, and also one of those inwhich the customary lassan is replaced by a more academicallytraditional slow movement. Liszt's ability to give the piano an orchestralsound is revealed in this rhapsody, with its rich chords, dazzling runs andleaping patterns which cover the entire keyboard range.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.5 in E minor
(published 1853; dedicated to Countess Szid6nia Revicsky)
According to musicologists, the fifth rhapsody is a freearrangement of a Hungarian dance by Jozsef Kossovits (who was active around1800) heard by itself, this "Heroic" Elegy (Heroide-elegiaque
is the printed subtitle) is unlike the other rhapsodies. Themes recallingChopin's Funeral March (trio) and the "Revolutionary' Etudesuggest that the subject of this elegy was actually Liszt's beloved friend, whodied in 1849.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 in D flat major
(published 1853; dedicated to Count Antal Apponyi)
The sixth rhapsody is a masterful arrangement of fourHungarian songs popular in
Liszt's time and opens with a march-like Tempo giusto
in D flat, proceeding through a short and sprightly Presto to a brilliantoctave development. The traditional gypsy text of the moving lassan
translates roughly as follows. "My father is dead, my mother is dead, andI have no brothers and sisters, a