LISZT: Song Transcriptions
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Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music, Volume 6:
Complete Song Transcriptions of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann
Liszt must be heard - and also seen; forif he played behind the scenes a great dealof the poetry of his playing would be lost.
- Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
When I think of Liszt as a creative artist, he appears before my eyes rouged, on stilts, and blowinginto Jericho trumpets fortissimo and pianissimo.
- Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849)
I have not seen any musician in whommusical feeling ran, as in Liszt, into the very tips of the fingers and therestreamed out immediately.
- Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Liszt cannot be compared to any otherplayer - he is absolutely unique. He arouses fear and astonishment and yet is avery kind artist. His appearance at the piano is indescribable - he is anoriginal - totally involved with the piano...
- Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was an inveteratetranscriber. Whether the melody was a simple folk song, a complex symphonicwork, a lengthy chamber piece, an operatic aria, or a beautiful art-song, Lisztcould not resist the urge to lovingly transform it into a piano work. More thanhalf of his compositions are transcriptions, paraphrases, reminiscences, orfantasies on other composers' music. Liszt possessed an amazing response topoetic imagery. He believed that purely musical images of poetic ideas arecapable of being projected to the listener and that he could illustrate suchimagery without words. This was his lifelong aesthetic. Liszt transcribed about150 songs. More than a third of these were songs by Schubert. The rest wereLiszt's tributes to the genius of other songwriters, including Beethoven,Chopin, Robert Franz, Mendelssohn, Anton Rubinstein, Eduard Lassen, OttoLessmann, Josef Dessauer, Hans von B??low, and Clara and Robert Schumann. Thisvolume in the Naxos Liszt series contains all of Liszt's song and choral-songtranscriptions of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Robert and Clara Schumann.
Fryderyk Chopin's Polish Melodies, Opus74, are without doubt the least known of the composer's works. Composed between1828 and 1845 and collected posthumously, they are compositions of a lifetime -the product of continuing inspiration, and the reflection of Chopin's verysoul. Liszt first met Chopin in 1831, immediately after Chopin's arrival inParis. Their association was unlucky at best, and often flawed bymisunderstandings and little warmth. It was Liszt who introduced George Sand toChopin, resulting in a questionable and difficult relationship. When Chopinlent Liszt his apartment, Liszt used it for an assignation. This is somethingthat Chopin discovered later and of which he did not approve. After Chopin'sdeath, Liszt showed abominable taste in publishing a terrible book on Chopin.
The small volume was turgid at best, full of useless digressions andmisinformation. Today most musicologists agree that the book was the handiworkof Liszt's mistress, Carolyne Wittgenstein. Be that as it may, among Liszt's songtranscriptions are six by Chopin. They are some of Liszt's most popular andendearing transcriptions. The transcriptions were created by Liszt during aperiod of thirteen years, from 1847 to 1860 and dedicated to the Princess Marievon Hohenlohe-Schillingsf??rst [also known as Princess Marie vonSayn-Wittgenstein, daughter of Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein]. Thefirst song in the cycle is Zyczenie ("Madchens W??nsch";"The Maiden's Wish"). Composed by Chopin in 1829 to a poem by S.
Witwicki, it is the most often performed of the set. With its mazurka rhythm,simple, singable melody, and facetious gaiety, it pays homage to beauty, loveand feminine coquetry. The second song, Wiosna ("Fr??hling","In Spring") was composed by Chopin in 1838 and is a lament of onewho wanders through a pleasant valley only to be reminded by its beauty of abeloved person who is dead. Pierscien ("Das Ringlein","The Ring") was written by Chopin in 1836 and has to do with a youngman who discovers his ring still on a young woman's finger, although she hasturned him down and married someone else. Hulanka ("Bacchanal")is an ode to love and wine, and the fifth song transcription, Mojapieszczotka ("Meine Freuden", "My Joys") is a sheerlyrical outpouring of virile expressions of love: not only is she the mostbeautiful, but a look from her is enough to set one aflame. The lover cannotresist the pleasure of taking her in his arms and wildly kissing her... to amazurka rhythm. Narzeczony ("Die Heimkehr","Homeward") is a picture of a man on horseback riding through asnow-swept forest, not knowing that his beloved is dead and will meet him inher winding-sheet.
Liszt transcribed three songs by ClaraSchumann (1819-1896), and published them as a set with seven additional songsby Robert Schumann in 1872. The first of these, Warum willst du anderefragen? ("Why would you ask more questions?") was written byClara Schumann on June 8, 1841 to a text by R??ckert and published as the thirdsong in Opus 12. This beautiful song is a musical plea not to question alover's sincerity. The second song Ich hab' in deinem Auge ("Inyour eyes have I seen eternal love") is also to a text by FriedrichR??ckert. Clara Schumann composed this love song in June 1843 and published itas the fifth song in her Opus 13. Geheimes Fl??stern hier und dolt ("Mysteriouswhispers here and there") is a love and nature poem to a text by Austrianpoet Hermann Rollet composed on June 10, 1853 and published as Opus 23,no.3. Liszt's transcriptions are modelsof simplicity and transparency, maintaining the original structure with littleembellishment.
Robert Schumann made a special trip toLeipzig to meet Liszt in 1840. Although they had corresponded for several yearsprior to this trip, exchanged scores, and each hadwritten complimentary articles on the other, this was to be their firstmeeting. Schumann, who was already suffering from delusions, found Liszt in theflesh an unsettling experience. He wrote: "How extraordinarily he plays,boldly and wildly, and then again tenderly and ethereally! I have heard allthis. But this world - his world I mean - is no longer mine. Art, as youpractice it, and as I do when I compose at the piano, this tender intimacy Iwould not give for all his splendor - and indeed there is too much tinsel aboutit." Liszt, nevertheless, remained an arch supporter of Schumann's music.
He performed many of the most important piano works and introduced Schumann'sopera Genoveva in Weimar, in addition to Schumann's less acceptedmusical hybrids for voice and orchestra, Faust, Manfred and Paradiseand the Peri. In all, Liszt made transcriptions of twelve Schumann songs (Widmungappeared in two different versions). Fr??hlings Ankunft ("Comingof Spring"), Des Sennen Abschied ("The Cowherd's Farewell"),Er ist's ("The Spring It Is"), Weihnachtslied ("ChristmasSong"), and Die wandelnde Glocke ("The Changing Bells")were all part of Schumann's Opus 79 and published in Liszt's transcription(along with Clara's three songs) in 1872. These are simple, straightforwardsettings by Liszt of some of Schumann's less well-known, but most-intimate,songs. Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt ("None but the lonelyheart") and