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Listz - Ètudes, Price: 9.29 Euros
Each additional coverpak (single CD) is only 8.29 Euros and each additional coverbook (double CD) is only 14.49 Euros.

12 Ètudes d'execution transcendante

When Liszt first began this work he was about fifteen years old and he gave this work a title which was rather heavy: 'Etude en quarante-huit exercises dans tout les tons majeurs et mineurs (Op. 6)'. He would not go beyond more than twelve pieces - pieces, however, which would constitute the first stone of a construction (growing in the wake of his astonishing technical development) which would culminate in 1851 with the 'Studi Transcendentali' dedicated to his maestro, Carl Czeni.

Few pianists venture to undertake this work because of the extreme difficulties which are encountered in its performance. After a performance at 'La Scala' in Milan in 1838 Liszt wrote in the 'Musical Gazette' of Paris: 'the word 'study' immediately made a bad impression; a gentleman who at that moment represented a frightening majority exclaimed: "I come to the theatre to enjoy myself and not to study!" I was not able, therefore, to make the audience appreciate the baroque idea of performing a 'study' outside my private room...' Despite this fact, during his tour of Italy, and during the subsequent years of his exceptional career as a pianist, Liszt continued to propose such studies at his concerts, with a reworking of his original idea.

Etude I - Preludio Presto, in do maggiore, in C major An authoritative beginning which is striking and short, suited to affirm that this series of studies have the characteristic of being a 'concerto'. Almost an improvisation, to be played freely...in order to loosen up one's fingers.

Etude II Molto vivace, in la minore, in A minor This piece does not have a title but at least two have been given to it - Fusée (razzo) or Capriccio. Perhaps the most appropriate would be Capriccio because in form and character this work recalls the Capricci of Paganini, a figure much admired by Liszt. This piece, too, is very brief, and demands great technical capacity and an absolute command of the keyboard in order to achieve the dynamic gradation and the strong contrasts which it requires.

Etude III - Paysage - Paesaggio - Landscape Poco adagio, in fa maggiore, in F major This piece is a search for sound, a picture in half-light in which Liszt plays the card of poetry. In order to take part in its charm, its performance plays upon a closely linked and sweet touch, and upon the wise use of the pedals.

Etude IV - Mazeppa Allegro, in re minore, in D minor Liszt gave definitive form to this study in 1851 and with it we enter the heart of the cycle. Mazeppa is a Cosack military leader who lived between 1644 and 1709. He was the protagonist of a sentimental-heroic story which inspired, in various forms, both writers and musicians - Voltaire, Byron, Slowacki, Pushkin, Hugo, Cajkovskij, and Pedrell. Mazeppa, the page of Casimir V of Poland, has an affair with the wife of a powerful man. He is discovered, bound naked to the back of a stallion which crosses the whole of the steppe, and when found dying by Ukrainian peasant he is proclaimed king. The playing of the study requires great skill. A pianist who does not have a technical capacity well above the normal, who does not have the courage to deal with the piece with the necessary verve, would be better advised to abandon the attempt. There are no technical alternatives in which he can hide. Octaves and running chords, very quick chords of two notes played with hands which cross over: we have here music and techniques in such a state of symbiosis that at the level of sound it seems that more than two hands are playing. The whole of the study is developed in the form of a theme which has variations always marked by a difficult way of writing music. The study ends with the last words of Victor Hugo: 'il tombe enfin!...et se relève roi'. Emotional in its contents, this piece immerges those who listen to it in an atmosphere of tension.

Etude V - Feux Follets - Fuochu Fatui. Will o' the Wisps Allegretto, in si bemolle maggiore, in B flat major This is one of the most well known of the series, a brilliant moto perpetuo. Lightness and a sweetness of touch, a highly imaginative quality and very broad-ranging - these are the characteristics of its playing. The passages with double notes which are closely linked, its marked speed, the quantity of chromatic appogiature, give rise at certain moments to an uncertain sound which make the study interesting at a harmonic level as well. This piece is marked by major technical difficulties and the need for absolute command of finger use.

Etude VI - Vision - Visone - Vision Lento, in sol minore, in G minor Another study organised around the theme of variations. In which vision or impression is Liszt making us take part- A funeral procession (the funeral of Napoleon)- The cadence of the rowing of a group of galley slaves- Space is left to the imagination. Whatever the case, this piece remains a fine expression of Romantic torment. In the playing of the first part the left hand dominates, and it is at the same time called upon to follow the theme, the basso, and the arpeggio. The dynamic gradation requires strength and special care.

Etude VII - Eroica Allegro, in mi bemolle maggiore, in E flat minor The introduction to this study goes back to a piece of 1824: the 'impromptus sur des thèmes de Rossini et Spontini'. It develops around a marching theme (but which is comodo, according to the annotation of the author), a triumphant march which makes us think of the return home of a hero. Orchestral effects emerge (almost horns, almost trumpets) which require great musical sensitivity in touch and an able use of the pedal, rhythmic incisiveness, and virtuosity.

Etude VIII - Wilde Jagd - Caccia Selbaggia - Wild Hunt Presto furioso, in do minore, in C Minor The title is in German to call our minds directly to the theme of the wild hunt, an element widely present within German romantic literature. A furious beginning, hammering, a suggestion of Sabba, a hunt fanfare...increasing difficulties which provide expressive force and epic intensity. Here there is the Liszt who dares and who presents himself in all his reckless virtuosity.

Etude IX - Ricordanza - Remembrance Andantino, in la bemello maggiore, in A flat major This is perhaps the best known of the series, the favourite choice of concert programmes. This is a sensitive, intimate piece, light and brilliant in its various passages; made more valuable by the imaginative inquiry into timbres borrowed from the harp and other instruments.

Etude X Allegro agitato molto, in fa minore, in F minor This is another famous study. It does not have a title but musical literature has bestowed upon it more than one: 'Allegro Appasionato', 'Appassionata', and 'Restlessness' ('Inquietudine'). In musical terms this piece is important both because of its form and because of its emotional contents. The composing technique employed by Liszt - the mass of produced sound, the multiplicity of sound levels - made people speak, at the time, of pure magic.

Etude XI - Harmonies du Soir - Armonie della Sera - Evening Harmonies Andantino, in re bemolle maggiore, in D flat major This is one of the most poetic of the series and has an 'andamento' which induces self-abandonment. A host of beautiful details are encountered - the mysterious atmosphere created by the harmonies of the beginning, the 'più lento con intimo sentimento' movement, and then the 'trionfante' which leads to the conclusion.

Etude XII - Chasse-Neige - Tempesta di Neve - A Blizzard Andante con moto, in si bemolle minore, in B flat minor The title evokes a French image - impetuous winds which whip up flurries of snow. The constant tremulo which characterises the piece evokes the visual aspect. It begins quietly, alternates with greater and lesser force, reaches the heights of tension, and then becomes calm. One could well imagine its performance by an orchestra - the wailing of the wind represented by the chromatic figures played by the left hand; the initial tremulo as the lowest cords of the violins, the oboe in the principal melody, the pizzicato of the cellos. This study is imbued with a shadow of melancholy which makes the composition fascinating.

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