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Franz Liszt


S. 155

About this work

Franz Liszt's earliest important compositions all date from 1834. The original Harmonies poétiques et religieuses and the unfinished De profundis for piano and orchestra were composed during this year of remarkable productivity, as were the Apparitions piano solo. The Apparitions comprise a set of three pieces in which the twenty-three-year-old Liszt demonstrates just how rapidly the European musical aesthetic was evolving in wake of Beethoven, who had died just seven years earlier.

"Senza lentezza quasi allegretto" is the first and perhaps the most effective piece in the group. Contemplative and filled with rich, singing melodic lines (the influence of Italian opera is much in evidence), this work seeks to reveal the wondrous connection between human beings and the natural world. The second piece, "Vivamente," is lighter in tone than the first and has much in common with the music of both Chopin and Schumann. The third piece, a finely woven fantasia on a waltz by Schubert, is rather startling for 1834, considering that Schubert was relatively unknown at the time. Several dramatic shifts of both tempo and character -- ranging from the opening "agitated and passionate" to "religious" and "joyful" -- require a pianist of delicate sensibilities and a capability for rhythmic nuance as well as profound sentimentality. Throughout his life, Liszt felt compelled to re-interpret the music of other composers in his own fashion. The third Apparition is a fine early example of this facet of his musicality, and there is a great deal to be learned from the manner in which he dissects -- and reassembles in a fashion which is wholly Lisztian -- his musical source.