LISZT: Schubert Song Transcriptions 2 (John Taylor/ Valerie Tryon) (Naxos: 8.554729)
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Complete Piano Music,Volume 17 Schubert Song Transcriptions 2
\In his transcriptions of Schubert songs he created a new farm. That ishis successful attempt to render the melodic and harmonic beauty of the newclassical song as a lyrical whole on the piano alone, perfecting this in thestrength of the song and of declamation, without in any way sacrificing therich resources of the keyboard in his hands."
Carlo (Pietro Mechetti)
Wiener Zeitschrift f??r Kunst, 7th December, 1839
Born at Raiding, in Hungary, in 1811, the son of Adam Liszt, a stewardin the service of Haydn's former patrons, the Esterhazy Princes, Franz Liszthad early encouragement from his father's employers and other members of theHungarian nobility, allowing him in 1822 to move from his birth-place ofRaiding to Vienna, for lessons with Czerny and a famous meeting with Beethoven,and from Vienna to Paris. There Cherubini refused him admission to theConservatoire, but he was able to impress audiences by his performance, nowsupported by the Erard family, piano manufacturers whose wares he was able toadvertise in the concert tours on which he embarked. In 1827 Adam Liszt died,and he was now joined again by his mother in Paris, while using his time toteach, to read and benefit from the intellectual society with which he cameinto contact. His interest in virtuoso performance was renewed when he heardthe great violinist Paganini, whose technical accomplishments he now set out toemulate.
The years that followed brought a series of compositions, includingtranscriptions of songs and operatic fantasies, part of the stock-in-trade of avirtuoso. His relationship with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d'Agoult,led to Liszt's departure from Paris for years of travel abroad, first toSwitzerland, then back to Paris, before leaving for Italy, Vienna and Hungary.
By 1844 his relationship with his mistress, the mother of his three children,was at an end, but his concert activities continued until 1847, the year in whichhis relationship began with Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Polish heiress,the estranged wife of a Russian prince. The following year he settled with herin Weimar, the city of Goethe, turning his attention now to the development ofa newer form of orchestral music, the symphonic poem, and, as always, to therevision and publication of earlier compositions.
It was in 1861, at the age of fifty, that Liszt moved to Rome, followingPrincess Carolyne, who had settled there a year earlier. Divorce and annulmentseemed to have opened the way to their marriage, but they now continued to livein separate apartments in the city. Liszt eventually took minor orders anddeveloped a pattern of life that divided his time between Weimar, where heimparted advice to a younger generation, Rome, where he was able to pursue hisreligious interests, and Pest, where he returned now as a national hero. He died in 1886 in Bayreuth, where hisdaughter Cosima, widow of Richard Wagner, lived, concerned with the continuedpropagation of her husband's music.
In his transcription of six songs from Schubert's song-cycle Dieschone M??llerin Liszt created a smaller scale cycle of his own, with acarefully planned sequence of keys. The original twenty songs are settings ofpoems by the Dessau poet and writer Wilhelm M??ller, published in 1820 andre-issued in 1824 together with the cycle of poems that Schubert later set, Winterreise('Winter Journey'). The poems of the earlier cycle treat the story of ajourneyman-miller who has finished his apprenticeship and sets out on hiswandering: he has fallen in love with his master's daughter, the girl of thetitle, but is rejected by her in favour of a huntsman and finally drownshimself in the waters of the brook that has accompanied his romantic wandering.
Liszt opens his set with a transcription of the first of Schubert's cycle, DasWandern ('Wandering'), transcribing three of the five verses. The first of these follows the original closelyenough, the second elaborates the material with arpeggios and the third placesthe melody in the middle of the more complex texture. The second song, DerM??ller und der Bach ('The Miller and the Brook') is the penultimate song ofSchubert's cycle and is a dialogue between the young miller and the brook, theformer lovelorn and despairing, the latter suggesting encouragement. The boy'swords, in G minor, are represented in the middle register, while the words ofthe brook, in G major and in a higher register, are accompanied by thefiguration that suggests rippling water, a texture that increases in complexitywith the return of the young miller's voice Liszt then turns to the fourteenthsong of Schubert's cycle, Der Jager ('The Huntsman'), his callingrepresented by intervals characteristic of the hunting-?¡horn. Liszt combinesthis in a ternary structure with the seventeenth song of the original cycle, Diebose Farbe ('The Evil Colour'), in which green represents the youngmiller's rival, the huntsman, transposed into C major to match the C minor ofits framework, into which variations on the original material are introduced. Wohin?('Where?') happily restores the optimism of the second of Schubert's cycleand the final Ungeduld ('Impatience'), a declaration of love, theseventh song of the original, is transposed from A to B flat major to completethe set and the cycle of keys. Liszt's M??llerlieder transcriptions werewritten in 1846 and first published in Paris in the same year.
The version of Ungeduldwas the third that Liszt had made. His first transcription, in F major, waspublished in Paris in 1844 as one of a set of six Schubert transcriptions thatalso included a version of Die Forelle ('The Trout'), a setting of apoem by Christian Friedrich Schubart. The second version of the latter was theresult of various revisions over the following years. It retains the generalstructure and the harmonies of the original, while adding considerableelaboration in its vivid suggestion of the scene by the water, as the fishermantraps the trout into taking his bait.
Schubert's Die Rose('The Rose') is a setting of a poem by Friedrich von Schlegel dealing withthe brevity of life, as a rose blooms, suffers the heat of day and dies.
Liszt's first transcription of it was published in Paris in 1833 but thisversion was withdrawn, finally replaced by a revised version that was publishedin Paris but made its first appearance in Vienna in 1838 in Hommage auxdames de Vienne ('Homage to the Ladies of Vienna'). It captures in itscharacteristic way the delicacy and simplicity of the original song.
Meerestille ('Calm Sea') sets a poem by Goethe thatsuggests the ominous depths of the sea. Liszt's transcription echoes this, withits sonorous, deep-sounding arpeggios. It was first published in 1838 as partof a diverse set of twelve Schubert song transcriptions. It is here followed bya song in a very different mood, Der Gondelfahrer ('The Gondolier'), asetting of a poem by Schubert's friend Mayrhofer for male voice quartet.
Liszt's version was published in Vienna in 1838 and preserves the sound of thebell of St Mark's in Venice striking midnight.
Liebesbotschaft ('Love's Message') opens the posthumous cyclecompiled by Schubert's publishers, Schwanengesang ('Swansong'). Theverse by Ludwig Rellstab bids the brook carry a message to the poet's beloved.
Liszt's re-ordered version of the cycle was published in Vienna in 1840.