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Jorge Bolet, piano
Symphony of the Air
Robert Irving, conductor
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.1 in E-flat Major
Liszt composed his Concerto in E-flat Major while he was serving as conductor to the Duke of Weimar. It was finished in 1848 or 1849, but the composer was dissatisfied with it and laid it aside. He made some revisions in the score in 1853. The concerto was first heard on February 17, 1855, at a concert celebrating the birthday of the Grand Duchess of Weimar. Liszt played the solo part, and the orchestra was under the direction of a distinguished guest from France Hector Berlioz.
The concerto is in one continuous movement, subdivided into four sections, each corresponding to a short symphonic movement. There is an opening section in moderate tempo; a lyrical Adagio; a Scherzo, introduced by a triangle solo, and a final martial Allegro. The thematic material is very closely integrated, with a central motive reappearing throughout the work. And as Liszt himself pointed out, all the material in the finale is derived from the Adagio. If the compact form of the concerto was somewhat radical for its day, even more daring was Liszt’s use of a triangle as a solo instrument in the Scherzo. When the concerto was first performed in Vienna in 1857, the anti-Liszt, anti-Wagner critic, Eduard Hanslick, was so vehement in his denunciation of the innocent little percussion instrument that the composer was obliged to write a lengthy defence of the triangle, and pianists were afraid to play the concerto in the Austrian capital for the next twelve years.
Hungarian Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra
The Hungarian Fantasia is the second of three molds into which Liszt poured the same musical material. The first of these was the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 14 for piano solo, composed in 1852 at Weimar, and dedicated to Liszt’s son-in-law and fellow composer-conductor-pianist, Hans von Bulow. The Fantasia followed soon afterward, possibly at von Bulow’s own request. He was also the soloist at the first performance, which took place at the National Theatre in Budapest on June 1, 1853. Some twenty years later, Liszt, with the assistance of Franz Doppler, made straight orchestral arrangements of several of the Hungarian Rhapsodies. In its new orchestral dress, however, the Rhapsody No. 14 became the Rhapsody No. 1.
Since the Hungarian Fantasia is an arrangement of a Hungarian rhapsody, it follows the prescribed form for such a work. It is in two contrasting sections, the first a slow, sensuous lassan, the second a lively friska.
The Mephisto Waltz, also known as The Dance in the Village Inn, is the second work comprising Two Episodes from Lenau’s “Faust,” the first section bearing the title The Nocturnal Procession. Begun in 1858 and finished at Weimar in January, 1861, the present waltz is the first and best-known of three Mephisto Waltzes composed by Liszt at various times. There was even a fourth, but it was left incomplete. Like the Hungarian Fantasia, the first Mephisto Waltz exists in more than one version. It was originally written for orchestra, and was initially performed by the ducal orchestra at Weimar, Liszt conducting, in the year of its completion. Later, the composer made the brilliant transcription for piano that is heard here.
On the score of this Mephisto Waltz is a quotation from Nicolaus Lenau’s poem. Faust and Mephistopheles, the latter disguised as a hunter, arrive at a village inn, where a peasant wedding is being celebrated. While Faust timidly approaches a black-eyed maiden, Mephistopheles seizes a fiddle from one of the musicians. Playing upon it, he inspires the dancers to wilder steps and strange emotions. Faust and the girl dance out the door, through the meadows and into the forest. The sounds of the fiddle grow fainter and are mingled with the songs of nightingales.