LISZT: Scherzo und Marsch / Lieberstraume / Berceuse / Elegie (Gunter Appenheimer/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.553595)
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Womaniser, romantic, extrovert and musical genius were the constituent parts of Franz Liszt. But below his ever changing personality was a deeply religious person, who, particularly in his younger life, had ideas of making his life in the church.
Born in Hungary in 1811, he was an infant prodigy, composing and playing in public by the age of 8, and money was found to ensure that he enjoyed the best possible education in Vienna. He was soon involved in aristocratic circles and met with such famous composers as Beethoven and Schubert.
When the family moved to Paris he was aged 13, and there he made a sensational debut, a success he repeated in England later in the year. At 16 his father died and he supported his mother as a popular pianist. His compositions were at first influenced by Chopin, Weber and Berlioz, and new works poured from his pen.
His success brought him financial rewards, though the help he gave to many young composers, gave an impression of greater wealth than actually existed. But when short of money, he simply returned to his life as a travelling virtuoso pianist.
In 1848 his life took another path, and he became conductor in Weimar. That gave him time to review and revise all his compositions to that time, and it was over the next twelve years that he wrote most of the works for which he is now best known.
Another romantic quest took him to Rome in 1861, and he made his home there until he died in 1886 during a visit to Bayreuth to see Wagner. It was during those last few years that the church eventually reclaimed him, and he took holy orders.
It is strange that the Scherzo and March has never become popular, as it belongs to that same period, 1850, which saw the creation of the famous Sonata in B minor.
It is also cast in the same mould, and is full of virtuosity and the volatility of the Mephisto Waltzes. Around the same time Liszt was to compose the Liebestraume, in a much more restrained mood, as three love-songs without words.
The gentle Berceuse was originally composed to mark the marriage of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in 1854. He returned to the work nine years later and developed it into a much more substantial score from a time aspect, while retaining the atmosphere of idyllic repose. Another royal personage, Louis Ferdinand, was the inspiration for the ?ëlegie. He had been sent a book of works by the talented Prince, and from it he extracted a melody of considerable charm to form the theme for his composition. It was completed in 1842, about the same time as he wrote the original Romance. He revised it in 1848, though it was not published until the early part of this century.
Two very short works complete the disc, the Feuilles was for publishing in a magazine, a regular feature of such publications of the time, while the Albumblat is a simple statement of a brief melody.
Jando has become the most prolific recording pianist of the CD era. He is Hungarian and came to world prominence when winning the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concurs. Since then he has travelled to many parts of the world both as a concert soloist and recitalist. Of his recent Liszt recordings, Penguin Guide to Compact Discs wrote, "one has the sense of Liszt himself hovering over the keyboard".
Was made in the Clara Wieck Auditorium in Sandhausen, Germany, during September 1995.
This mixture of the better-known and relatively unknown works has no direct equivalent in the catalogue. Leslie Howard on Hyperion is the obvious competitor as he has over a number of discs recorded this music, but as we have said on previous occasions, his cycle of Liszt has received mixed response. While he is trying to meet all the wildly differing moods of this composer, Naxos are playing on the strengths of a number of outstanding Liszt exponents.