About this Recording
8.554481 - LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsodies, Vol. 2 (Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 13)
English 

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)

Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)

Complete Piano Music, Volume 13

Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 10 to 19

 

The Gypsies play the true national compositions of Hungary... There is something in their music so wild and impassioned... tones of such deep melancholy, such heart-piercing grief, and wild despair, that one is unvoluntarily carried away by it.

- Johann Georg Kohl, from "Austria, Vienna, Prague,

Hungary, Bohemia, and the Danube" (1843)

 

In composing the Hungarian Rhapsodies, Liszt desired to create what he called "Gypsy epics". He felt that the songs he had collected might be united in "one homogeneous body, a complete work, its divisions so arranged that each song would form at once a whole and a part, which might be severed from the rest and be examined and enjoyed by and for itself, but which would, none the less, belong to the whole through the close affinity of subject matter, the similarity of inner nature and unity of development." He wrote the first in 1846 at the age of 35, and his last in 1885 at the age of 74. Most of these are in the sectional slow-fast form of the gypsy dance known as the csardas. The Hungarian Rhapsodies remain undisputedly popular today alter almost 150 years. If we were to follow their history, however, we find in them the same contradictions in origin and purpose, the same contrast between serious musicianship and virtuoso exhibitionism which made Liszt himself so fascinating. There is no doubt that Liszt was devoted to his country, but he was a Hungarian more by enthusiasm than through upbringing or ethnic heritage. He could barely speak the language, for Hungarian was third to German and French, which were spoken at home. He left his native province at the age of nine for the more cosmopolitan cities of Vienna and Paris. When he returned some two decades later he was an international hero in need of a national identity. This identity was achieved through the special musical language of the Hungarian Rhapsodies.

 

In order to collect gypsy tunes and absorb the strong flavour of their rhythms –the slow pride of the Lassan and the rampage of the Friska - Liszt spent time in gypsy encampments. His first fifteen Hungarian Rhapsodies were published by 1854, with the remaining five to come in his last years. Liszt also wrote and had printed, in German and Hungarian, a long book, The Gypsies and their Music in Hungary. As scholars have since shown, he was entirely wrong about the gypsy origins of Hungarian music. Half a century later Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, alter collecting thousands of Magyar folk-tunes, showed that the gypsy contribution was a style of playing, a process of inflection and instrumental arrangement rather than anything original in form. Nevertheless, Hungarian gypsy music, as it is now called, was the glory of the nation, known throughout the world through Liszt's compositions. In spite of the ethnomusicological deficiences of his work, Liszt's free-ranging fantasies, with the inspired use of the word "rhapsody", were strokes of genius. Here Liszt did much more than use the so-called csardas. He miraculously recreated on the piano the characteristics of a gypsy band, with its string choirs, the sentimentally placed solo violin and the compellingly soft, percussive effect of the cimbalom, the Hungarian zither.

 

[1] Hungarian Rhapsody No.10 in E major

(Published 1853; dedicated to the Hungarian composer, actor, translator and librettist Beni Egressy (1814-1851)).

Filigree effects predominate in Rhapsody No.10, with a challenging alternative form preferred by Liszt but avoided by some virtuosi. The theme was by Egressy, embellished by Liszt's soft ascending and descending glissandos.

 

[2] Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 in A minor

(Published 1853; dedicated to Baron Ferenc Orczy)

The cimbalom figurations yield a new play of sonorities in this surprisingly short Rhapsody No.11. In a mood of intimacy rather than dazzle, stringed instruments are suggested in the rapid Vivace assai.

 

[3] Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in C sharp minor

(Published 1853; dedicated to Joseph Joachim)

Liszt dedicated Rhapsody No.12, one of the most elaborate, to the distinguished Hungarian violinist Joachim, using a well-known Hungarian tune. The melody heard in strong unisons is a csardas attributed to the Hungarian-Jewish composer and violinist Mark Rozsavolgyi, while the Allegro zingarese theme was composed by the gypsy composer and violinist Janos Bihari.

 

[4] Hui1garian Rhapsody No.13 in A minor

(Published 1853; dedicated to the amateur composer Count Leo Festetics)

Though Rhapsody No.13 is less often heard, it is musically one of the most interesting, with a broadly designed slow section, a spirited vivace (with a melody also used by Sarasate in his Zigeunerweisen), and a brilliant finale. After Hungarian gypsy-like scales in the slow opening Liszt quotes the Hungarian folk-songs, "Ketten mentuk, Harman jottunk" and "Akkor szep az erdo, mikor zold" in the fast sections.

 

[5] Hungarian Rhapsody No.14 in F major

(Published 1853; dedicated to Hans von Bulow (1830-1894), pupil and his first son-in-law) Rhapsody No.14 is perhaps the most popular of all, also used by Liszt as the famous orchestral Rhapsody No.1 and in a version for piano and orchestra, as the Hungarian Fantasia. Here he drew upon the Hungarian song Magasan repul a daru in the slow funeral march-like introduction as well as in the Allegro eroico. The vivace section uses the famous Kolto csardas.

 

[6] Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 in A minor (Rak6czy March)

(Second Version; Published 1871)

Rhapsody No.15 is better known as the Rlikoczy March. This same march was used by Berlioz in his Damnation of Faust. It was originally the work of Michael Barna, written in honour of Prince Francis Rakoczy, a historic hero in the eighteenth-century Hungarian revolt against Austria. It remains a symbol of Hungarian freedom and national pride.

 

[7] Hungarian Rhapsody No.16 in A minor

(Composed 1882; published 1882; dedicated to the Hungarian painter Mih13.ly Munkacsy (1844-1900))

A powerful octave fanfare leads into the slow introduction. Subtle harmonic progressions characterize Rhapsody No.16, composed on the occasion of a Budapest festival in honour of Munkacsy, a close friend who also painted a famous portrait of the composer. This work is built around a single melodic motif hovering around a central note.

 

[8] Hungarian Rhapsody No.17 in D minor

(Published 1882)

Similar to its predecessor, Rhapsody No.17 uses a chord or a figure chromatically altered and then repeated in its original form. From its opening, the basic impulse and mood of the work remains sombre.

 

[9] Hungarian Rhapsody No.18 in F sharp minor

(Composed 1885; published 1885)

Liszt composed Rhapsody No.18 "on the occasion of the National Hungarian Exhibition", and it was first published in an album entitled "Exhibition Album of Hungarian Composers". The opening Lassan is marked Lento. After approximately fifty measures, the rapid Friss appears in lightly leggiero figurations in the right hand. The texture is spare in music of ascetic simplicity.

 

[10] Hungarian Rhapsody No.19 in D minor

(Composed 1885; published 1886)

In Rhapsody No.19 Liszt explores more unknown harmonic territory, using the music critic Kornel Abrainyi's Csardas noble. The work is full of sparkling passages in thirds and novel cadences, superb examples of Liszt's late improvisatory style, probing new harmonic and colouristic effects.

 

Victor and Marina A. Ledin, @ 1999, Encore Consultants.

 

 


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