LISZT: Piano Sonata in B minor / Vallee d'Obermann (Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550510)
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Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Sonata in B Minor
Les jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este
Franz Liszt was born in 1811 at Raiding (Doborjan) near?ûdenburg (Sopron) in a German-speaking region of Hungary. His father, Adam Liszt, was asteward in the employment of Haydn's former patrons, the Esterhazy Princes, and anamateur cellist. The boy showed early musical talent, exhibited in a public concert at?ûdenburg in 1820, followed by a concert in Pressburg (the modern Slovak capitalBratislava). This second appearance brought sufficient support from members of theHungarian nobility to allow the family to move to Vienna, where Liszt took piano lessonsfrom Czerny and composition lessons from the old Court Composer Antonio Salieri, who hadtaught Beethoven and Schubert. In 1822 the Liszts moved to Paris, where, as a foreigner,he was refused admission to the Conservatoire by Cherubini, but was able to embark on acareer as a virtuoso, displaying his gifts as a pianist and as a composer.
On the death of his father in 1827 Liszt was joined again byhis mother in Paris, where he began to teach the piano and to interest himself in thenewest literary trends of the day. The appearance of Paganini in Paris in 1831 suggestednew possibilities of virtuosity as a pianist, later exemplified in his Paganini Studies. Aliaison with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d' Agoult, a blue-stocking on the modelof their friend the novelist George Sand (Aurore Dudevant), and the subsequent birth ofthree children, involved Liszt in years of travel, from 1839 once more as a virtuosopianist, a r??le in which he came to enjoy the wildest adulation of audiences.
In 1844 Liszt finally broke with Marie d' Agoult, who latertook her own literary revenge on her lover. Connection with the small Grand Duchy ofWeimar led in 1848 to his withdrawal from public concerts and his establishment there asDirector of Music, accompanied by a young Polish heiress, Princess Carolyne zuSayn-Wittgenstein, the estranged wife of a Russian nobleman and a woman of literary andtheological propensities. Liszt now turned his attention to new forms of composition,particularly to symphonic poems, in which he attempted to translate into musical termsworks of literature.
Catholic marriage to Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein had provedimpossible, but application to the Vatican offered some hope, when, in 1861, Liszttravelled to join her in Rome. The couple continued to live separately in Rome, starting aperiod of his life that Liszt later described as une vie trifurqueee (a three-prongedlife), as he divided his time between his comfortable monastic residence in Rome, hisvisits to Weimar, where he held court as a master of the keyboard and a prophet of the newmusic, and his appearances in Hungary, where he was now hailed as a national hero.
Liszt's illegitimate daughter Cosima had married the pianistand conductor Hans von B??low, whom she later deserted for Wagner, already the father oftwo of her children. His final years were as busy as ever, and in 1886 he gave concerts inBudapest, Paris, Antwerp and London. He died in Bayreuth during the Wagner Festival, nowcontrolled by his daughter Cosima, to whom his appearance there seems to have been lessthan welcome.
The Sonata in B minor was published in 1854, at a time whenLiszt was busy revising his earlier symphonic poems. Unlike these last, the sonata has noliterary or extra-musical programme, but is itself a remarkable summary of Liszt's owncharacteristics as a composer and performer. In a much enlarged structure of sonata form,it includes within its single, continuous movement, a remarkable formal innovation initself, a slow movement and a rapid finale.
The sonata opens with a brief introduction, containing thefirst theme, a descending scale. There follows a more energetic and dramatic figure, withan accompanying secondary melody, forming the first subject proper of the sonata. Amodulating passage leads to the second subject, in the form of a third theme, markedGrandioso. A third subject is added, derived from the second element of the second theme,now in a form that Chopin would have recognised. The development of the sonata is in twoparts. At first the three themes are treated in various ways, before giving way to thefourth theme, which serves as a first subject for the slow movement, marked Andantesostenuto. The subsidiary element of the original second theme now appears as a secondsubject, the other themes re-appearing in a middle section, before this part of the sonatacomes to an end. As the music fades to the softest dynamic marking, the development of thewhole work resumes with a fugal treatment of part of the second theme, followed by arecapitulation and a coda in which earlier thematic material returns, the second and firstthemes, in that order, bringing the whole sonata to an end, a formal tour de force.
Liszt's earlier years of wandering, during the course of hisrelationship with Marie d'Agoult, had given rise to two collections of piano pieces,described, in terms hardly complimentary to his mistress, as years of pilgrimage. Thesewere followed in the final period of his life by a third collection, Annees de pelerinage, troisieme annee, music of amore reflective cast with distinct Roman connotations. The fourth of these seven piecesbears the title Les jeux d'eau a la Villa d'Este.
Liszt was a frequent visitor to the Villa, occupied by Cardinal Prince Gustav Adolph vonHohenlohe-Schillingsf??rst, who had made rooms permanently available to him at Tivoli. Thepeace and beauty of the Villa d'Este is directly recalled in two of the pieces of thecllection, completed in 1877 and published in 1883.
La Vallee d'Obermann wasfirst included in Liszt's Album d'un voyageur, written in 1835 and 1836, and celebrating ahappy period spent with Marie d'Agoult after their elopement to Switzerland for the birthof their first child, Blandine. In Geneva, where the couple at first settled, everyattempt was made to take part in the social and musical life of the place, their sense ofisolation lightened by a visit from Chopin and George Sand, with her own two children. TheVallee d'Obermann, the most extended piece in the Album d'un voyageur, was included inthe subsequently revised version of the collection, published in 1855 under the title Annees de pelerinage; premi?¿re annee, Suisse.
It translates into musical terms the beauty of the Swissmountain landscape, a newly discovered cause of wonder to the romantic imagination. La Campanella had its origin in a paraphrase of thelast movement of Paganini's B minor Violin Concerto
written by Liszt in 1831/2, with the title GrandeFantaisie de bravoure sur La Clochette. The same theme, La Campanella, was the basis of the third of Liszt's Etudes d'execution transcendante d'apres Paganini, awork that makes demands of virtuosity on the performer comparable with those madeoriginally by Paganini, whose performance in Paris in 1831 had excited such interest.
Liszt's La Campanella was written in 1838and revised in 1851. The Paganini Studies were dedicated to the future wife of RobertSchumann, the pianist Clara Wieck, whom he had first met in Vienna in the same year.
Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, in south Hungary, in 1952. Hestarted to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academyof Music under Katalin Nemes and pal Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on hisgraduation in 1974