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CD: MDT

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Mephisto Waltzes: No. 1 (The Dance at the Village Inn) (before 1861) [11:07] No. 2 (1880-81)[11:07] No. 3 (1883)[8:44] No. 4 (1885)[2:53]
Mephisto-Polka (1882-83)) [4:26]
Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses) (1845-52) [17:11]
Bagatelle sans tonalité (1885) [2:42]
Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” * (1862) [15:04]
Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
rec. Teldec Studios, Berlin, April 1980 and April 1982*
WARNER APEX 2564 67410-2 [73:15]

Experience Classicsonline


First a moan - this is another Apex reissue with abysmal documentation - a mere four-page leaflet with just the works’ titles and no notes whatsoever. If companies, such as super-budget Naxos, can provide programme notes, then why can’t Warner Classics? Surely it would not be too difficult for them to insert a link to a Warner Classics web site and to programme notes to allow listeners to learn about the music. I suggest that this is important considering that the music here is programme music and needs explanation for full appreciation. Liszt’s musical description of Faust’s activities is after Lenau, not Goethe; how many people have heard of Lenau’s Faust? This music is quite probably new to a majority of customers especially to purchasers of super-budget CDs.
 
But to the business in hand. This present collection might have been called, ‘Music Sacred and Profane’ Since, as the old saying goes the Devil always had the best tunes; let’s deal with the Profane first.  
The first two of Liszt’s four Mephisto Waltzes, composed for orchestra, were later arranged for piano, piano duet and two pianos, whereas Mephisto Waltzes 3 and 4 were written for piano only. Of the four, the first is the most popular and has been frequently performed and recorded.
 
The First Mephisto Waltz is also known as The Dance at the Village Inn. Liszt includes the following descriptive note in the score. It is taken from Lenau’s version of the Faust legend:- 

"There is a wedding feast in progress in the village inn, with music, dancing, carousing. Mephistophelesand Faust pass by, and Mephistopheles induces Faust to enter and take part in the festivities. Mephistopheles snatches the fiddlefrom the hands of a lethargic fiddler and draws from it indescribably seductive and intoxicating strains. The amorous Faust whirls about with a full-blooded village beauty in a wild dance; they waltz in mad abandon out of the room, into the open, away into the woods. The sounds of the fiddle grow softer and softer, and the nightingale warbles his love-laden song."
 
This First Mephisto Waltz sounds diabolical enough on the orchestra but it loses very little of its intensity in the piano version especially as Katsaris’s fleet fingers capture all its voluptuous devilishness.
 
The Second Mephisto Waltz written some twenty years after the first is cast in a more modern-sounding idiom. It anticipates Scriabin, Busoni and Bartók. Liszt begins and ends the work with an unresolved tritone. This musical interval has become associated with the Devil and this Waltz overall is more violently and voluptuously expressive than its predecessor. Mephisto Waltz No. 3 pushes the harmonic language even further. The music is pulled violently between time signatures and opposing keys. Humphrey Searle, in his book The Music of Liszt, considers this piece to be one of Liszt's finest achievements. The Fourth Mephisto Waltz remained unfinished at the composer’s death and was not published until 1955. Liszt worked on it in 1885. It is usually performed in a version (S.216b) combining the completed fast outer sections, omitting the incomplete slow middle section.
 
Two other piano pieces, considered simpler and less challenging, and both associated with the Mephisto Waltzes are included in Katsaris’s programme. The manuscript of the Bagatelle sans tonalité bears the title "Fourth Mephisto Waltz". It may have been intended to replace the Fourth Mephisto Waltz when it seemed that Liszt might not be able to finish it. The Mephisto Polkathough not a waltz, follows the same program as the other Mephisto works. It is a somewhat lighter-hearted, tongue-in-cheek take on the concept although one might detect a wicked sardonic intent. 

To the Sacred - and to Liszt’s sublime Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (‘The Blessing of God in Solitude) from his Harmonies poétiques et religieuses. This lovely work must contain some of the most beautiful pianissimo passages in the whole piano repertoire. All is peaceful reverie; lyrical with rippling arpeggios but with an ardent religioso climax. A lovely moving, flowing performance this, to be set beside Marc-André Hamelin’s on Hyperion. Bach’s cantata, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (Weeping, Lamenting, Sorrows, Fears) (BWV 12) inspired Liszt to use a bass line within it (and in the ‘Crucifixus’ of Bach’s Mass in B Minor) and to transcribe it for piano following the death of Liszt’s daughter Blandine. The music speaks eloquently of tears and mourning but there is also much anger here - it is as though the composer is shaking his fist at a malignant Providence for bestowing so much grief on him.
 
An eloquent Liszt recital of sacred and profane piano music.
 
Ian Lace 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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