The transcriptions were an important moment in Liszt's activity
as a composer. The time of machines suited to the publication
of music is still in the future. Liszt was engaged in an important
work of diffusion because he drew attention to composers and
works which would otherwise have remained unknown to a wider
public. He did this by exploiting the possibilities at the level
of sound of the pianoforte, an instrument which allows the reproduction
of the whole range of the orchestra.
an artistic level he did this in such a way as to project such
possibilities with good reason into the world of concerts. In
his transcriptions Liszt displays an ability to fathom the deepest
meanings of the pieces which have been chosen and at the same
time - but without betraying them - to produce an original and
revealing work. In relation to the music of Wagner, Liszt presents
himself with respect and discretion, and creates, nonetheless,
extraordinary atmospheres at the level of sound.
Lohengrin A romantic opera in three acts. Music and libretto
by Richard Wagner. First performance: Weimar, the Court Theatre,
28 August 1850. Conceived in 1841, completed in 1845 on the
eve of the first performance of 'Tannhäuser', the libretto is
based upon the Medieval legend of the knight of the swan. The
first theatrical performance was organised personally by Liszt
in response to an explicit request made to him by Wagner. This
is the Wagnerian opera which is most performed in the world
and was the first work by Wagner to be performed in Italy (Bologna,
1871). Principal figures: Heinrich, the King of Germany; Lohengrin;
Elsa of Brabante; Telramud, the Count of Brabante; Ortrud, his
1. Corteo Nuziale di Elsa verso il Monastero - Elsa's Bridal
Procession - Elsas Brautzug zum Münster (Composed in 1852, published
in 1853. This is the revised version of 1875). This is one of
the various 'arrangementi' taken from passages from the opera.
Liszt added a short introduction and lengthened the melody.
2. Sogno di Elsa - Elsa's Dream - Elsas Traum Elsa (Act one)
remembers having a vision of a knight who consoled her (Einsam
in truben Tagen). Liszt does not reproduce the scene faithfully
- it begins with the orchestral part which accompanies the entrance
of Elsa, dwells upon the vision of Lohengrin, and ends directly
with the ecstatic element. A synthesis.
3. Rimprovero di Lohengrin ad Elsa - Lohengrin's Admonition
- Lohengrin Verweis an Elsa A faithful transcription of the
music by Wagner with the exception of certain technical details.
|4. Canto di Festa e Canzone Nuziale - Festival and Bridal Song
- Festpiel und Brautlied (Composed and published in 1854) Joy
and festivity open the third act of the opera. In the transcription
Liszt adds ten bars to the exciting Festpiel which he transcribes
as a whole. It continues with the very famous bridal hymn, then
goes back to the Festpiel, and finishes in grand style with
a splendid pianistic esploit.
und der Sägerkrieg auf Wartburg - Tannhäuser A great romantic
opera in three acts. Music and libretto by Richard Wagner.
First performance: Dresden, Königliches Hoftheater, 19 October
1845. This is perhaps the work which Wagner most loved, and
was certainly the one which required the greatest work. A burning
and exuberant work full of dramatic ideas and musical inventions.
The libretto, written in Paris between 1841 and 1842, refers
to two Medieval legends - one that goes back to a historical
tale of the thirteenth century about the battle of Minnesanger;
the other from the fourteenth century, the story of Venere and
Tannhauser. Principal figures: Tannhauser; Hermann, the Landgrave
of Turingia; Wolfram, a singer; Elisabeth, the grandaughter
of the Landgrave.
5. Recitativo e Romanza "Stella della Sera" - Recitative and
Romance "Evening Star" - "O, du Mein Holder Abendstern" Rezitativ
und Romanze (Composed and published in 1849) Wolfram, whose
love for Elisabeth is not corresponded, turns to the star of
sunset with a pained song. A rather literal transcription of
the famous solo where Liszt confines himself to a mere change
Fliegande Holländer - L'Olandese Volante - The Flying Dutchman
A romantic opera in three acts. Music and libretto by Richard
Wagner. First performance: Dresden, Königliches Sächsisches
Hoftheater, 2 January 1843. This is seen by everyone as the
first work in which Wagner expresses his independence, in a
way separate from the conventional Franco- German models which
prevailed at the time. It is based upon a piece by Heinrich
Heine, 'Aus den Memoiren des Herrn von Schnabelewopski' (1834)
and enriched with biographical elements. The action takes place
along the coast of Norway. The principal figures: Donald, a
Norwegian seafarer; Senta his daughter; the Dutchman.
6. Ballata - Ballad - Ballade (Composed in 1872, published in
1873) Senta evokes the leggend of the Flying Dutchman with a
ballad ('Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an'). In his 'transcription'
Liszt has an approach which is freer than the original musical
text. He follows its most mysterious parts, the obsession of
Senta, lengthens the melody, and adds short personal changes.
7. Coro delle Filatrici - Spinning Chorus - Spinner Lied (Composed
in 1860, published in 1861) The second act: young women are
engaged in spinning and sing in chorus 'Summ' und Brumm' du
Gutes Rädchen'. The version by Liszt adheres to the Wagnerian
score with the exception of certain changes at the beginning
and in the finale, and a reference to the theme of the 'The
Ring des Nibelungen - L'Anello dei Nibelunghi A scenic festival
over three days and an eve, divided into four parts. Music
and libretto by Richard Wagner. Eve: the gold of the Rhine:
first day: the Valkyrie; second day: Sigfried; third day: the
first twilight of the gods. First complete performance: Bayreuth,
Festpielhaus 13- 14- 16- 17 August 1876. This is the longest
opera in the history of music and Wagner dedicated himself to
its composition for twenty- five years. The source of inspiration
was the collection of Norse songs of the thirteenth century
(Edda- Codex Regius).
8. Valhalla (Composed and published in 1875) Here also we find
more a paraphrase than a transcription (as it was declared to
be), and a paraphrase produced in a free style.
Meistersinger von Nürnberg - I Maestri Cantori di Norimberga
- Der Meistersinger Opera in three acts. Music and libretto
by Richard Wagner. First performance: Munich, National Theatre,
21 June 1868. The action takes place in Nuremberg towards the
middle of the sixteenth century, at a singing competition to
win the hand of the young Eve. Principal figures: Hans Sachs,
a cobbler: Walhter, a young knight from Franconia; Eve, the
daughter of the goldsmith Pohner; David, Sachs's apprentice.
Am Stillen Herd (Composed and published in 1871) Here we have
the passage where Walther is taking the 'emancipation' exam
to become a 'master singer'. Liszt has not really engaged in
a transcription (even though he describes it as such). It follows
the operatic piece to a certain extent but draws away from it
with personal changes and a great finale which is typically
Lisztian in character.
A sacred scenic festival in three acts from the poem 'Parsifal'
by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Music and libretto by Richard
Wagner. First performance: Bayreuth, Festspielhaus, 26 July
Marcia Solenne al Santo Graal - Solemn March to the Holy Grail
- Feirlicher Marsch zum Heiligen Graal (Composed 1882, published
in 1883) Liszt write this piece immediately after the first
performance of the opera. The motifs which characterise the
scene are gathered together by him in a most personal form of