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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music, Vol. 25
Verdi Concert Paraphrases and Transcriptions
Rigoletto: Paraphrase de concert, S434 (1859) [7:38]
Aida: Danza sacra e duetto final, S436 (1871-79) [11:38]
Il Trovatore: Miserere, S433 (1859) [8:39]
I Lombardi: Salve Maria de Jerusalem, S431 (1848) [6:48]
Don Carlos: Coro di festa e marcia funebre, S435 (1867-68) [7:07]
Reminiscences de Boccanegra, S438 (1882) [11:17]
Ernani: Paraphrase de concert, S432 (1849) [8:49]
Alexandre Dossin (piano)
rec. 9-12 August 2005, Performing Arts Centre, Country Day School, King City, Ontario, Canada. DDD
NAXOS 8.557904 [61:56]

Whoever really wants to know what Liszt has done for the piano should study his old operatic fantasies. They represent the classicism of piano technique.” Johannes Brahms

This volume twenty-five of Liszt’s complete piano music contains seven of Verdi’s operatic paraphrases and transcriptions performed by Brazilian-born soloist Alexandre Dossin. Naxos have really shifted into overdrive with this magnificent series. Only a few weeks ago I nominated volume twenty-four with soloist Giuseppe Andaloro performing the Four Mephisto Waltzes; Two Elegies and the Grosses Konzertsolo as an assured ‘Recording of the Month’.

Biographer Rich DiSilvio holds the view that Liszt was, “one of the most awe-inspiring figures in all of music history.” Although generally regarded as the greatest virtuoso pianist of all time, Liszt’s genius extended far beyond his recitals and concerts. He was also a major influence as a progressive Romantic composer. A highly prolific and versatile composer Liszt produced approaching eight hundred scores covering most genres of which about half of them were piano compositions.

Before performances could be reproduced electronically the majority of music-lovers only had access to orchestral and operatic scores in pared-down arrangements for the piano for performance in the drawing room or salon. Liszt was the undisputed master of the ‘art of the transcription’ making numerous arrangements of songs, operas, symphonies; championing the music of mainly contemporary composers that he felt deserved attention. For example, the reputation of the songs of Schubert was greatly assisted by the liberal advocacy of Liszt’s transcriptions. Just how prolific Liszt was in this genre is revealed in my 1966 edition of Searle’s catalogue of works. The numbers S384 to S577 inclusive are all arrangements, transcriptions, paraphrases for solo piano, selected from a wide range of composers including some of Liszt’s own works. 

Transcriptions and arrangements, sometimes known as piano reductions, were the lifeblood of many virtuoso performers in Liszt’s day. Although providing no profit to the original composer, Verdi did in 1865 acknowledge the value of Liszt’s operatic transcriptions as a way of disseminating his scores to a wider audience. Serving to popularise the melodies from his operas still further and advance his reputation this practice in effect formed part of a ninetieth-century Verdian marketing campaign. Liszt knew many of the operas of Verdi intimately having conducted several of them in his role as Kapellmeister in Weimar. This I believe was not mere plagiarism by Liszt but one great composer’s tribute to another. It seems that opera paraphrases and transcriptions often formed a significant part of a Liszt piano recital programme. 

The designation that Liszt used to differentiate a piece as either a transcription, paraphrase, fantasy, reminiscence or arrangement was not a random operation. A transcription was the most literal and a process he usually applied to songs. Liszt’s description of a paraphrase, reminiscence, fantasy and arrangement denoted his freer interpretation of an operatic section or scene into piano notation. Later in his life Liszt tended to become more literal with his paraphrases as he attempted to encapsulate a single aria rather than almost an entire scene.

Liszt transcribed more of Verdi’s works than any other opera composer except Wagner. Firstly in 1847, Liszt composed a concert paraphrase on the opera Ernani, S431a, followed in 1848 by a transcription of the Salve Maria, S431 from Jerusalem (recast for Paris from I Lombardi of 1842). A year later in 1849 he composed a further paraphrase S432 on Ernani that he revised in 1859 for the use of pianist Hans von Bülow. Liszt in 1859 composed a concert paraphrase of the quartet Bella figlia dell’amore, S434 from Rigoletto and the same year a paraphrase of the Miserere, S433 from Il Trovatore. Later in his career Liszt continued to demonstrate his admiration for Verdi by also publishing transcriptions of the Coro di festa e marcia funebre, S435 from Don Carlos in 1867-68, the Danza sacra e duetta final, S436 from Aida in 1871-79 and in 1877 the Agnus Dei, S437 of the Requiem Mass. In 1882 Liszt’s last work in the genre was a fantasy titled Reminiscences de Boccanegra, S438 from Verdi’s 1881 revised version of Simón Boccanegra.

Naxos have employed a large number of soloists for this continuing project to record the complete piano music of Franz Liszt. This appears to be Alexandre Dossin;s debut disc for the label. A graduate of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory and holder of a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, it appears that Dossin is firmly established on the international concert and recital circuit. A recipient of several awards, he was awarded both the First Prize and the Special Prize at the Martha Argerich International Piano Competition in 2003 held at Buenos Aires, Argentina. Argerich gave Dossin the accolade: “…an accomplished musician and a wonderful pianist…”.

In these Liszt operatic transcriptions, Dossin is able to realise a compelling sense of Verdian drama combined with a broad range of melodic richness. He reveals himself as a polished and discerning musician with an astute sense of phrasing and dynamic expression. Liszt’s technical demands hold no fear for this soloist who avoids any temptation for extra sweetness or flashy over-emphasis. The recital provides many highlights and only the stoniest of hearts could fail to be moved by Dossin’s interpretation of the meltingly lovely melody in Reminiscences de Boccanegra, first heard at 0:26 (track 6).

Splendidly recorded at the Country Day School, King City in Ontario the sound is truthful and well balanced. To add to the excellent presentation Keith Anderson’s booklet notes are written to his usual high standard. There is enough room on the disc to have easily accommodated either the paraphrase from Ernani, S431a or the Agnus Dei transcription, S437 from the Requiem Mass; the two remaining Liszt/Verdi arrangements. 

Naxos enter the winner’s enclosure yet again with this assured piano recital of highly attractive repertoire from Liszt. An eminently enjoyable disc that demands to be heard.

Michael Cookson
 
NOTE:
 
For those wishing to explore beyond the more usual genre of the Liszt solo piano works and symphonic poems I have listed below a number of works from my collection that have provided me with considerable enjoyment. These are I feel all fascinating and rewarding Liszt recordings that can be obtained with reasonable effort. I have indicated those that I recommend especially highly. Revised 30/06/07.
 
Recommended Sacred Works:
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Missa Solennis (Gran Festival Mass) for SATB soloists, chorus and orchestra, S9 (1855; rev. 1857-58)
Klára Takács (alto); Veronika Kincses (soprano); György Korondi (tenor); József Gregor (bass); Budapest Symphony Orchestra; Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus conducted by János Ferencsik.
ADD, recorded circa 1977 on Hungaroton HCD 11861-2.
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Missa coronationalis (Hungarian Coronation Mass) for SATB soloists, chorus and orchestra, S11 (1865; Gradual 1869)
Veronika Kincses (soprano); Klára Takács (alto); Dénes Gulyás (tenor); László Polgár (bass), Péter Hidy (violin); Budapest Symphony Orchestra; Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus conducted by György Lehel.
ADD, recorded circa 1994(?) on Hungaroton Classic HCD 12148.
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
 
Requiem for TTBB soloists, male chorus, organ & orchestra, S12 (1867-68; Libera me 1871)
Alfonz Bartha (tenor); Sándor Palcsó (tenor); Zsolt Bende (baritone); Peter Kovács (bass); Hungarian Army Male Chorus; Sándor Margittay (organ) conducted by János Ferencsik.
ADD, recorded circa 1966 on Hungaroton Classic HCD 11267.
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Christus, Oratorio: for SATB soloists, choir and orchestra, S3 (1855-67)
Henriette Bonde-Hansen (soprano); Iris Vermillion (mezzo); Michael Schade (tenor); Andreas Schmidt (bass); Gächinger Kantorei, Stuttgart; Krakauer Kammerchor; Stuttgart RSO conducted by Helmuth Rilling.
DDD, recorded at Beethovensaal Liederhalle, Stuttgart, Germany in 1997 on Brilliant Classics 99951 (also available on Hänssler Classics 98121). Review
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Saint Elizabeth (Legend of Saint Elizabeth), Oratorio: for soloists, chorus and orchestra, S2 (1857-62)
Eva Farkas (mezzo); Sándor Sólyom-Nagy (baritone); József Gregor (bass); István Gáti (baritone); Kolos Kováts (bass); Eva Martón (soprano); Hungarian Army Male Chorus; Budapest Chorus; Nyíregyháza Children's Chorus; Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by Árpád Joó. DDD, recorded 1984 on Hungaroton Classic HCD 12694-96.
 
Via Crucis (The Stations of the Cross) for solo voices, chorus and organ, S53 (1876-78)
Budapest Chorus and Soloists, conducted by Miklós Szabó with Gábor Lehotka (organ). The cast includes the eminent soprano Éva Marton.
ADD remastered, recorded in September 1971 at the Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary on Hungaroton ‘White Label’ HRC 145 (c/w Szekszárd Mass, S8/2).
 
Missa Choralis (Messe de Jubilé) for mixed choir, vocal solos and organ, S10 (1865)
The Corydon Singers directed by Matthew Best with Thomas trotter, organist.
DDD, recorded at St Alban's Church, Holborn, London in 2000 on Hyperion CDA67199 (c/w Via Crucis, S53).
 
Szekszárd Mass for four-part male chorus, solo quartet and organ, S8/2 (1848 version S8/1; second version S8/2 1869)
Male Chorus of the Hungarian People’s Army and soloists conducted by István Kis;
with Gábor Lehotka (organ).
ADD remastered, recorded circa 1989 on Hungaroton ‘White Label’ HRC 145 (c/w Via Crucis, S53).
 
St. Stanislaus, Oratorio: unfinished, S688 (presented in two completed scenes) (1873-85; Salve Polonia, S113 1863; De Profundis, S16 1881)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, May Festival Chorus and soloists conducted by James Conlon.
DDD, recorded at Cincinnati, Ohio, USA in 2003 on Telarc CD-80607.
 
Recommended Orchestral Works:
 
(Highly recommended works and recordings)
A Faust Symphony, Three character pictures after Goethe, S108 (1854; final chorus added 1857)
a) Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus, conductor Leonard Bernstein, with Kenneth Riegel (tenor)
ADD remastered, recording at Symphony Hall, Boston, USA in 1976 on Deutsche Grammophon ‘Galleria’ 431 470-2.
b) Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Men's Chorus of the Slovak Philharmonic, Bratislava conducted by James Conlon, with John Aler (tenor).
DDD, recorded at Doelen, Rotterdam, Holland in 1983 on Erato ECD 88068 (re-issued on Warner Classics ‘Apex’ 2564-61460-2)
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Dante Symphony, A Symphony to Dante’s ’Divine Comedy’, S109 (1855-56)
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Choeur de Concert de Helmond conducted by James Conlon.
DDD, recorded circa 1986 on Warner Classics ‘Apex’ 0927-49816-2.
 
Recommended Concertante Works:
 
1) Piano Concerto No.1 in E flat major, S.124, R.455, (1830-49, rev. 1853 & 1856).
2) Piano Concerto No.2 in A major, S.125 (1839-40, rev. 1849 & 1861).
3) Totentanz (Dance of death), Paraphrase on the ‘Dies irae’ for piano and orchestra, S.126, R.457, (1849, rev. 1853 & 1859).
Dresdner Philharmonie/Michel Plasson with Nelson Freire (piano)
DDD, recorded Lukaskirche, Dresden, Germany 1994.
4) Wanderer Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra, S.366 (1851)
adapted from Franz Schubert's Wanderer Fantasia (Wandererfantasie) for solo piano in C major, D. 760 (1822).
5) Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Melodies (Hungarian Fantasia) S.123, R.454 (c. 1852)
based on Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No.14 in F minor for solo piano, S.244).
6) Polonaise brillante for Piano and Orchestra, S 367 (c. 1851)
after Carlo Maria von Weber’s Polonaise (Polacca) brillante for piano, ‘L'hilarité’, J. 268, Op. 72 (1819) and introduction from Grande Polonaise for piano, J. 59, Op. 21 (1808).
Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Andras Ligeti with Jenő Jandó (piano)
DDD, recorded 1994.
7) Grande Fantaisie Symphonique for piano and orchestra, S120 (1834)
on themes from Hector Berlioz’s Lélio, Monodrame lyrique; Deuxičme partie de l'Épisode de la vie d'un artiste, Op. 14 bis (1827-32)
8) Fantasy on themes from Ludwig van Beethoven’s incidental music to the Ruins of Athens(Op. 113 from 1811), S122 (1848-52)
Budapest Symphony Orchestra/Andras Ligeti with Jenő Jandó (piano)
DDD, recorded 1990.
9) Malédiction, concerto for piano and strings orchestra, S121 (sketched circa 1830; revised circa 1840).
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/Michael Gielen with Alfred Brendel (piano)
ADD, recording details unknown. Licensed from Vox, USA
10) De Profundis, Psaume instrumental for piano and orchestra, S691(c. 1834-35)  
11) Piano Concerto No. 3 in E flat major, (LW Q6) S125a (1820-1869)
London Symphony Orchestra/Tamás Vásáry with Steven Mayer (piano)
DDD, recorded 1991.
All the above 11 Concertante Works are contained on a 4 disc set from Brilliant Classics 99936. 
 
1) Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes for piano and orchestra (Hungarian Fantasia) S.123, (c. 1852)
2) Concerto in the Hungarian Style for piano and orchestra, S.714 (c.1885) orchestrated by Tchaikovsky in 1892 (frequently attributed as a work of Sophie Menter the Ungarische Zigeunerweisen)
3) Wanderer Fantasia for piano and orchestra, S.366 (1851) adapted from Schubert's Wanderer Fantasia (Wandererfantasie) for solo piano in C major, D. 760 (1822)
The Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy with Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
DDD, recorded 1981 at Old Met, Philadelphia, USA on Cyprien Katsaris’s own archive label Piano 21, Cat. No. P21 022-A.
 
Recommended Dramatic Work:
 
(A highly recommended work and recording)
Don Sanche or (The Castle of Love), Opera in one act, sung in French, S1 (1824-25)
Julia Hamari (mezzo); István Gáti (baritone); Gérard Garino (tenor); Katalin Farkas (soprano); Iidiko Komlósi (mezzo); Hungarian State Opera Orchestra & Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus, conducted by Tamás Pál.
DDD, recorded circa 1986 on Hungaroton HCD 12744-45-2.
Note: Liszt was a young teenager when he wrote his fascinating and underrated score.
 
Recommended Vocal Works:
 
(Highly recommended works and recording)
Lieder
Die Loreley; Du bist wie eine Blume; S'il est un charmant gazon; Im Rhein im schönen Strome; Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh; Der du von dem Himmel bist; Es war ein König in Thule; Freudvoll und leidvoll; Die Drei Zigeuner; Das Veilchen; Die Vätergruft; Die Fischerstochter
Dame Janet Baker (mezzo); Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
ADD remastered, recorded at Abbey Road studios, London 1979-80 from EMI Classics 5 73836-2 (c/w Lieder Schumann & Mendelssohn).
 
Recommended Chamber Works:
 
Chamber
Complete Music for Cello and Piano:
La Lugubre Gondola, S200 (1882); Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth, S382 (song, S274 1841, arr. 1880); Romance Oubliee, S132 (1880); Elegie No. 1, S130 (1874); Elegie No. 2, S131 (1877)
Norman Fischer (cello) & Jeanne Kierman (piano)
DDD, recorded at Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA in 2002 on Bridge Records 9187 (c/w Chopin: Cello Sonata, Op. 65; Polanaise brillante, Op. 3 & Grand Duo Concertant).
 
Recommended Instrumental Works:
 
(Highly recommended works and recording)
Organ
Prelude and Fugue on the name of B.A.C.H., S180; Variations on ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ (Weeping, Lamenting, Sorrows, Fear), S180; Fantasia and Fugue on the chorale ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam (To us, to the water of salvation), S259 Hans-Jürgen Kaiser (organ)
DDD, recorded in 1997 on the Frederich Ladegast organ, Dom in Schwerin, Germany on Brilliant Classics SACD 92208.

 

 


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