Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music, Volume 5
?á?á?á?á?á Notonly is Liszt's music brilliant, not only does he pour his wealth of ?á?á?á?á pearlsand diamonds down the keyboard, but his pieces rise to great ?á?á?á?á climaxes, aregrandiose in style, overleap all boundaries, and whirl you ?á away with thevehemence of passion.
- Amy Fay(1844-1928), American pianist, author,
pupil of Tausig, Kullakand Liszt.
Franz Liszt held a commanding position in the world ofmusic, his career likened to the passing of some great flaming meteor acrossthe heavens. Good fairies showered gifts upon him at his cradle and the storyof his later life reads more like an extravagant romance than fact. Not onlydid he become one of the most important composers of the nineteenth centurybut, beyond that, he was one of the greatest pianists in the history of theinstrument. When asked what he would have been had he not been a musician,Liszt is said to have replied that he would have been the greatest diplomat in Europe.
As it was, he created a new epoch in the history of the piano. Because the manand his music were one, it was difficult to separate them. Liszt played as helooked, and looked as he played. At the piano his face changed, sometimes nobleand tender, sometimes stormy and defiant, sometimes sardonic, Mephistophelean,and, always underlying everything, expressive of infinite knowledge and power.
The music of other composers was Liszt's to mould,transcribe, exalt, promote and popularise on the piano. For the music ofSchubert, a composer he declared to be the most poetic of al" he had aparticular affection and sympathy and this is reflected in some sixtytranscriptions of Schubert songs. Many of these were written in the late 1830sand formed a popular part of his concert programmes during his years as a travellingvirtuoso. Here he was able to express his own enthusiasm for Schubert and tobring this repertoire to the attention of a wider audience. It has beenobserved that these transcriptions, a number of them made towards the end of hisrelationship with Countess Marie d'Agoult, the mother of his three children,during a period spent on the Rhine island of Nonnenwerth, came at a time whenhis own leanings were moving away from France and the Paris of his adolescencetowards Germany.
The present release includes fourteen transcriptions ofsongs by Schubert. The first of these is among the best known. Schubert's Aufdem Wasser zu singen (To be sung on the water) is a selling of a poem byFriedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg-Stolberg. Liszt's transcription, under thetitle Barcarolle, was published in 1838 with a group of twelve similartranscriptions, eleven of them dedicated to the Countess d' Aragon, and thetwelfth to Marie d' Agoult. Liszt insisted that those who played these songtranscriptions should be aware of the words and that the text should be publishedabove the transcription, as a song text, not, as his first publisher had, placedat the head of the transcription. The poem here is in three stanzas: Amid the shimmerof the reflecting waves glides, like swans, the swaying boat; ah, on gently shimmeringwaves of joy glides the soui, like the boat, for from heaven above on the wavesdances the glow of sunset about the boat. In his transcription Liszt tacklesthe technical problem of incorporating the singing melody with a pianoaccompaniment that has a certain complexity, a problem that faced his rival Thalberg,who was well known for his incorporation of a singing melody in the centre ofan accompanying texture, where left and right thumbs might play their part.
Liszt introduces the melody at first in the left hand, moving into the altoregister for the second verse and allowing a much more elaborate surroundingtexture in the third, before the climax and a prolonged postlude.
Wasserflut (Flood) is taken from Schubert's 1827song-cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey), a selling of twelve poems byWilhelm Muller. The cycle was transcribed by Liszt in 1839 and published thefollowing year with a dedication to Princess Elenore Schwarzenberg, sister-in-lawof Cardinal Prince Friedrich von Schwarzenberg. Having left his beloved behind,the traveller makes his winter journey: Many tears have fallen from my eyesinto the snow; its cold flakes greedily suck in my burning sorrow. Schubert'sautograph has the song in F sharp minor, but it was published in E minor, thekey of Liszt's transcription. Both song and transcription are couched in simpleterms, with the prelude and intervening episodes of Liszt's accompaniment an octavelower than the original.
Der Muller und der Bach (The Miller and theStream) is the nineteenth song in the cycle Die schone Mullerin (TheFair Daughter of the Miller), in which a love-sick young man, hisapprenticeship finished, sets out into the world: Where a true heart dies of love,there lilies wither on every bed; then must the full moon go behind the cloudsso that men do not see her tears; then angels cover their eyes, and sob andsing the soul to rest. The stream answers: And when love escapes from pain, alittle star, a new one, shines in the heaven: then there spring up three roses,half red and half white, that will never wither again, from the thorns, and theangels cut off their wings and every morning go down to the earth. The youngmiller is not comforted: A little stream, dear little stream, you mean it sowell;, ah, little stream, do you know what love does? Ah, down there, downthere, is cool rest; ah little stream, dear little stream, but sing on. Liszt'stranscription, with an expanded accompaniment, captures admirably the mood ofthe song. It was made in 1846 and published the following year in Vienna, withfive other songs out of the Schubert cycle of twenty.
The next two transcriptions are of songs posthumouslyassembled into a cycle under the appropriate title Schwanengesang
(Swan-Song) and published by Tobias Haslinger in 1829. Seven of the twelvepoems are by Ludwig Rellstab, which
Schubert had probably intended to publish together, withsix settings of poems by Heine and one of a poem by Johann Gabriel Seidl. IhrBild (Her Picture), by Heine, is sadly reflective: I stood in dark dreamsand looked at her picture and the beloved face strangely began to come to life;about her lips came a wonderful smile, as tears of sorrow glittered in hereyes; my tears too flowed down my cheeks, and ah, I cannot believe that I havelost you. Liszt omits the briefly repeated notes that form a prelude and takesthe opening, as Schubert does, in simple octaves, before elaborating, very skilfully,what follows.
Standchen (Serenade), a setting of a poem by Rellstab,the seventh song of Schwanengesang, is among the most familiar, vocallyand in the present transcription. A young man sings of his love: Gently pleadmy songs through the night to you, down here in the quiet hedgerow, beloved,come to me: whispering slender tree-tops murmur in the moon-light, do not fearthe hostile listening of the betrayer, sweet one: do you hear the nightingalessinging? Ah, they plead to you, with sweet complaining notes, they plead forme... trembling I wait for you, come, make me happy! The second