About this Recording
8.553508 - LISZT: Transcriptions of Vocal Works by Mozart, Lassen, Franz (Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 11)
English 

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music, Volume 11
Transcriptions of Vocal Works by W. A. Mozart, Eduard Lassen, Robert Franz, Otto Lessmann and Josef Dessauer

Time and again at Weimar I heard Liszt play. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was the greatest pianist of the nineteenth century. Liszt was what the Germans call Erscheinung - an epoch-making genius.

- William Mason (1829-1908), American pianist, composer and teacher in Memories of Musical Life.

The art of transcription essentially began when the earliest composers took a theme by someone else and created an improvisation or a set of variations. It was not uncommon among Bach's works to find transcriptions of Vivaldi or other composers, re-cast in a different instrumental costume. So it cannot be said that Franz Liszt invented the concert paraphrase or transcription. But what can be said, is that Liszt, like no other composer before him (or after him), expanded, nurtured, perfected, and practised the art of transcription. His influence on succeeding generations of transcribers (Busoni, Godowsky, Rachmaninov, Grainger, to just name a few) was enormous.

During his lifetime, Liszt produced an astonishing quantity and variety of transcriptions. From Palestrina and Allegri to his nineteenth century musical contemporaries, all music was grist for Liszt's transcription mill. Most cataloguers of Liszt music divide the transcription output into two distinct groups - (a) the paraphrases and operatic transcriptions; and (b) the "partitions de piano". In the paraphrases and operatic transcriptions, Liszt allowed himself considerable freedom and fantasy, while the "partition de piano" were essentially instrumental transcriptions were an objective realisation of the original composer's intentions is provided on the piano. All of the works on this disc fall into the category of "partitions de piano".

There is no doubt that Liszt held Mozart's music and achievements in highest esteem. He was invited to conduct the Mozart Festival Concert in Vienna on 27th January, 1856, in honour of the centennial of Mozart's birth. In his letters to his uncle Dr Eduard Liszt and to the Mayor of Vienna, Dr Ritter von Seiler, Liszt speaks of the "glories which Mozart unfolds in the different domains of Art," and also "of his genius," referring to Mozart as "the glorious Master." The two Mozart transcriptions recorded here were products of the 1860s. A la Chapelle Sixtine is a one-movement work combining variations on the Miserere mei Deus by Gregorio Allegri (1682-1652) with Mozart's Ave verum corpus (K.618). The connection of the works by Liszt was not accidental. In April of 1770 Mozart, with his father, visited Rome where they heard a performance in the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week of Allegri's Miserere, a nine-part choral work, supposedly the exclusive property of the papal choir and not permitted to be published. According to Leopold Mozart, immediately after the service Wolfgang (then fourteen years old) wrote out the work from memory, and the accuracy of his version was attested by a member of the choir. Not surprisingly, much has been made of this feat in biographies of Mozart, only to underline that few musicians of any age have demonstrated a comparable ear and faculty for retention. The Ave verum corpus was written by Mozart six months before his untimely death and anticipates the exalted spirit, the profound expressiveness, and the unearthly beauty of his great Requiem. Liszt's transcription was published in the piano version, together with an organ transcription, in 1865. A piano duet version appeared in 1866, and an orchestral version remains unpublished. In combining the Allegri with the Mozart, Liszt was creating a work that acts as musical book-ends, a tribute encompassing the beginning and end, of a composer he greatly admired. The resulting transcription is more of a homage than a piano evocation of two separate and distinct works. The Confutatis maledictis and Lacrymosa from Mozart's Requiem was also published in 1865. In Mozart's Requiem these sections are the last two parts of the Dies Irae sequence that he was able to attempt, before his death. In his work the Confutatis maledictis provides a dramatic contrast between the male voices declaiming the torments of the damned, and the upper ones, with only violins accompanying, praying for salvation, with the full chorus eventually uniting all, to which the strings add an urgent, throbbing note. The Lacrimosa in Mozart's manuscript breaks off after a sublime eight bars, with an extraordinary crescendo on a chromatic ascent. In essence, these were the last two works Mozart wrote, the Lacrimosa being completed by Franz Xaver Sussmayr. Liszt's transcription is once again a homage. It should be noted that the spelling of Lacrymosa in Liszt's transcription uses the "y" instead of the "i" commonly found in Mozart scores. August Gollerich (1859-1923), German pianist, teacher, pupil and biographer of Liszt, on New Year's Eve, 1885, reports that Liszt "gave to a select circle a transfigured performance of Mozart's Ave verum corpus from his A la Chapelle Sixtine. Together with the Dies Irae and Lacrymosa from the Requiem, this heaven- soaring work was among his special favourites." Gollerich recounts Liszt's comments on these works: "The sequences of the Ave verum are among the most beautiful things that Mozart wrote... I don't think he would have had anything against my development of them."

Eduard Lassen (1830-1904) was born in Copenhagen. In 1832 his parents moved to Brussels, where he attended the Conservatoire. In 1851 he won the Prix de Rome. After travels in Germany and Italy, and a long stay in Rome, he was appointed court music director at Weimar in 1858. From 1861 to 1895 he held the position of court Kapellmeister at Weimar as Liszt's successor, being himself succeeded by d'Albert and Stavenhagen (both Liszt pupils). Much of Lassen's music has been totally forgotten. Yet, he was an important, if not prolific composer, whose output included two symphonies, a violin concerto, three operas, incidental music, cantatas, choruses, and numerous songs. Liszt championed Lassen's opera Landgraf Ludwigs Brautfahrt, bringing it to production at Weimar in 1857. Liszt transcribed two of Lassen's songs for the piano. Lose, Himmel, meine Seele was published in 1866 and Ich weil in tiefer Einsamkeit was published in 1872. In both cases the music is imaginative and warmly expressive, treated by Liszt with respect and admiration, leading us to be curious about Lassen's other forgotten songs.

Robert Franz (1815-1892) was a song-composer, who published 350 songs, according to Dr Theodore Baker, "remarkable for their perfect fitness and exquisite finish of the musical setting, and rivalling Schubert's in beauty of melody, and Schumann's in romantic expression." His life was full of woes and difficulties. His parents were unsupportive and continually pressed him to abandon the study of music. After completing his music education, despite their lack of support, Franz was unable to find a suitable position, or even a publisher for his compositions. Eventually, in 1843, his first set of twelve songs appeared and received warm praise from Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt and others. Soon after he became organist at the Ulrichskirche in Halle, then conductor of the Singakademie, and eventually the musical director of Halle University. In 1868, deafness, and a complication of nervous disorders, forced him to give up all his positions. The meagre income from his compositions was supplemented by the generosity of his fellow artists in Germany (primarily Joseph Joachim and Franz Liszt) and America (Otto Dresel, S.B. Schlesinger and Benjamin J. Lang) who gave a series of concerts for his benefit in 1872, realising some $25,000 of support for the ailing composer. Franz Liszt transcribed thirteen songs by Franz, publishing them in 1849. The first of these, Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen (He came in wind and rain) was published by Franz as Opus 4, No.7. The remaining twelve songs Liszt transcribed come from Franz's Opp. 2, 3 and 8. In all cases, Liszt tips his musical hat to the composer, combining piano accompaniment with the singer's musical line in thorough sympathy. All of the songs are of purely lyrical quality. Their concise form, and the absence both of extended epic developments and of dramatic modes of expressions are mirrored in Liszt's transcriptions.

Otto Lessmann (1844-1918) is today a rather obscure musical curiosity. He studied with Hans von B├╝low and Friedrich Kiel, eventually teaching piano and composition himself, ran his own piano school for a short period of time, and in 1872 became the head of the music department at the Kaiserin Augusta-Stiftung in Charlottenburg. From 1882-1907 he was owner and editor of the AIigemeine Musik- Zeitung. As such, Lessmann wielded a great deal of power in Germany as music critic and opinion-maker. He was, throughout his life, a keen supporter of Liszt. Perhaps, as a token of his appreciation, Liszt transcribed Lessmann's three songs in 1882, publishing them in the same year. Liszt's biographers are curiously quiet about these works and about Lessmann, implying that despite his prominent position in critical circles of his day, Lessmann was a very minor musical figure and only survives as a footnote as a result of Liszt's efforts. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians does not even bother to acknowledge Lessmann's contributions by including him in its pages.

Josef Dessauer (1798-1876) was a Prague-born composer who studied with Johann Wenzel Tomaschek and Dionys Weber. He lived most of his life in Vienna. Although he composed five operas, several orchestral overtures, string quartets, a cello sonata and piano works, he was celebrated in his time for his songs. Ferdinand Hiller described him as "one of the best of the Viennese Lieder composers," and Berlioz wrote that "Dessauer's predilection is exclusively for the elegiac. He feels at ease only with a melancholy soul; tears are his greatest happiness and the woes of the heart his chief joy." Franz Liszt transcribed three songs by Dessauer in 1847. Although the first two songs seem to show the more lyrical and poetic side of Dessauer (sympathetically reflected in Liszt's treatment of the melodic material), the Spanisches Lied is a rousing bolero, effectively transcribed into a rousing piano piece. Liszt admirably matches the the poetic intensity and Latin fervour of the work in this rarely performed gem.

1998 Marina and Victor Ledin, Encore Consultants

Valerie Tryon
Valerie Tryon's career as a concert pianist began when she was still a child. Before she was twelve she had broadcast for the BBC, and was appearing regularly before the public on the concert platform. As a scholarship student at the Royal Academy of Music she won many prizes, receiving the highest award that is conferred on a performer. In 1955 she was awarded the coveted Boise Scholarship which enabled her to study in Paris with Jacques Fevrier. A year later, she became a prize winner at the Liszt Competition in Budapest. Her place among Britain's acknowledged artists was assured when a Cheltenham Festival debut recital in 1959 brought her the enthusiastic acclaim of the country's foremost critics. She has given concerts throughout the world and in 1967 was presented with the Harriet Cohen Award in recognition of her services to music. Her repertoire ranges from Bach to contemporary composers and includes over fifty concertos. Now a resident of Canada, Valerie Tryon is pianist-in-residence and faculty member at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.


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