Études d'exécution transcendante

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Études d'exécution transcendante is the title of a cycle of twelve piano études by Franz Liszt . Liszt's etudes are available in three different versions. The first version was made in 1826, the second in 1837, and the third was completed in 1851 or 1852. The title “Études d'exécution transcendante” refers to the third version. Liszt declared the earlier versions of his etudes invalid.

The expression Etudes of increasing difficulty is often used to translate the title of the work into German . However, this law does not apply. The most difficult of the studies are e.g. B. considered the fourth or the fifth. A more direct translation of the title into German would be, for example, etudes of supernatural execution .


Franz Liszt, portrait by Henri Lehmann , 1839.

Franz Liszt's Études d'exécution transcendante emerged as a revised new version from the Grandes Études composed in September and October 1837 . Most of the Grandes Etudes are based on pieces from the earlier Etudes Op. 6 as musical seeds. For the Etude in F minor, the Etude in the same key from Chopin's Etudes Op. 10 is to be regarded as the starting point. The Etude in E flat major was developed from a motif with which the introduction of Liszt's Impromptu op. 3 begins on melodies by Rossini and Spontini. Originally a total of 24 pieces in all keys was planned for the Grandes Etudes , but Liszt never completed the cycle in this form.

The year 1851 can be found in the lists of Liszt's works for the time when the Études d'exécution transcendante was written . By comparison, Liszt's own information in response to Lina Ramann's inquiries in August 1876 turned out differently. Liszt wrote that he had composed the Etudes op. 6 in Marseille in 1827 . The Grandes Etudes were created in Weimar in 1837 and the Études d'exécution transcendante in 1849 . Liszt was wrong about his stay in Marseilles, which fell in the spring of 1826. His dating of the Grandes Etudes , which can be verified with information in Marie d'Agoult's diary, was correct.

No direct source evidence is available for checking the dating of the Études d'exécution transcendante given by Liszt . As indirect evidence, there is a declaration to the publisher Haslinger dated January 25, 1850 drawn up by Eduard Liszt and signed by Liszt. As a result of this declaration, Liszt received all rights to the Grandes Etudes back with effect from that day . Since it cannot be assumed that the explanation came about without a reason, Liszt had already started to revise the etudes and probably reached an advanced stage. A sketch for the Etude in C minor Wilde Jagd is, however, provided with the date “1851 (Eilsen)”, which refers to the beginning of 1851; and some time passed before the cycle was finally completed.

By March 1851 at the latest, Liszt must have come to a preliminary conclusion with the revision of his etudes. In a letter to Carl Reinecke on March 19, 1851, he announced that the etudes would appear in May of that year. There was, however, a delay, the reason for which Liszt referred to the changes he had made in a letter to Carl Reinecke on April 16, 1852. In this respect, he may have been busy with the studies in 1852. They should now appear in the summer of 1852. From a letter from Liszt to the Breitkopf & Härtel publishing house on October 30, 1852, it finally emerges that the studies had been published by then.

Liszt's contemporaries considered his compositions unplayable and inedible. In order to make his piano works known, she had to perform Liszt herself and only played the pieces in G minor and A flat major from his Grandes Etudes once in two concerts on April 18 and May 2, 1838 in Vienna. These Viennese concerts were organized by Haslinger, whose publishing house was to publish the Grandes Etudes . Haslinger announced the imminent publication of the etudes in an advertisement dated May 16, 1838. According to Liszt's current plans, it was planned that he would give another concert in Vienna in September 1838. During this time the Grandes Etudes should be available in Haslinger's edition. In September 1838, however, it became clear that Liszt had to change his plans and stay in Italy. His etudes therefore remained unpublished.

For the publication of his Grandes Etudes in Paris, Liszt had planned the publishing house Maurice Schlesinger . For reasons of international publishing law, he had agreed with Schlesinger that the etudes should appear simultaneously in Paris, Vienna, London and Milan. He had not given a specific publication date. In the Revue et Gazette musicale of March 24, 1839 , without Liszt's knowledge and participation, Schlesinger reported the appearance of the Grandes Etudes in two issues. The triggering cause may have been that shortly beforehand the publisher Hofmeister in Leipzig had a reprint of the etudes published in 1826 appear as op. Contemporary readers of Hofmeister's advertisements might believe that it was these etudes that had been mentioned in reports of Liszt's Viennese concerts. With the publication of the Grandes Etudes , Maurice Schlesinger wanted to maintain his own business advantage.

After the Grandes Etudes were published in Paris, the publishers Ricordi in Milan and Haslinger in Vienna prepared their own editions, which appeared in late July or early August 1839. The only edition that Liszt himself influenced was Ricordi's edition. This is related to the fact that only in this edition the second booklet with Etudes 8–12 is dedicated to Chopin . Since this second book contains the Etude in F minor, the starting point of which was an Etude by Chopin, a plausible meaning can be seen in the dedication. Chopin's etude is contained in his op. 10, which is dedicated to Liszt. Liszt returned the favor with his dedication and at the same time drew attention to the connection between the two etudes in F minor. The first volume of Ricordi's edition contains a dedication to Liszt's former teacher Czerny, to whom all of the etudes and later also the Études d'exécution transcendante are dedicated in the other editions .

In the spring of 1839 Clara Wieck went to concerts in Paris. At the beginning of March 1839 she received a copy of the first volume of Liszt's Etudes from Schlesinger and described her first impressions in a letter to Schumann on March 10, 1839. She didn't like the studies because they were too wild and torn. She could find spirit but no mind in it. Schumann only got to know the etudes after the Haslinger edition appeared. A letter to Clara Wieck dated September 8, 1839, indicates that he had carefully played through the etudes twice that day. Most of the studies had struck him as too scruffy, there was little that he really liked. Clara Wieck wrote in a letter dated September 10, 1839, that it was the same for her. In line with the shared impressions of the etudes, a review by Schumann that appeared in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik on October 15, 1839, turned out to be negative. It must have been particularly embarrassing for Liszt that Schumann had previously praised his rival Thalberg's studies in a review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik on March 8, 1839 .

The Grandes Etudes had received the working title Preludes in the fall of 1837, meaning “improvisations”. Liszt adopted this title for the first piece of the Études d'exécution transcendante . Most of the remaining pieces were also given titles. The fourth piece was already called "Mazeppa" in the program of a concert on March 27, 1841 in Paris, although a printed edition with this title did not appear in Vienna until November 1846. Liszt had appeared on February 11, 1841 in Brussels in a private concert that had been organized by François-Joseph Fétis . In the course of a controversy about Thalberg's artistic rank , Fétis had denied Liszt his own creativity in the spring of 1837. In February 1841, however, under the impression of Liszt's piano playing, he exclaimed: “Voilà la création du piano, on ne savait pas ce que c'était jusqu'ici.” (“That is the reinvention of the piano, from which one even today I didn't know what it was. ”Liszt assumed with exaggerated elation that he had made a breakthrough as a composer. This is related to the motto of Victor Hugo's fourth étude: “Il tombe enfin! … Et se relève Roi ”(“ At last he falls down!… And gets up again as king ”).

The term “Etude d'exécution transcendante” was coined by Liszt in September 1838 in connection with the composition of his first Paganini etude . It is also related to his earlier controversy with Fétis. In his reply to Liszt's review of some of Thalberg's piano works, Fétis had written: “Vous êtes l'homme transcendant de l'école qui finit et qui n'a plus rien à faire, mais vous n'êtes pas celui d'une école nouvelle. Thalberg est cet homme: voilà toute la différence entre vous deux. ”(“ You are the outstanding representative of the school that is closed and for which there is nothing more to be done, but you are not the representative of a new school. This man is Thalberg; that's the whole difference between the two of you. ”) The term“ Études d'exécution transcendante ”ties in with it in the manner of an ironic commentary. It was supposed to be an indication that Liszt had come up with new ideas compared with the older school. In an essay Études d'exécution transcendante , which appeared in the Revue et Gazette musicale on May 9, 1841, Fétis acknowledged this with reference to the Paganini etudes , but relativized it with a reference to Liszt's takeover of Thalberg's piano works. Since the older school dominated by Liszt, to which the earlier allusion by Fétis referred, was the school of Czerny , the title Études d'exécution transcendante in connection with the dedication to Czerny can be understood as a new indication of Liszt's own further development.

When reworking the Grandes Etudes into the Études d'exécution transcendante , Liszt primarily endeavored to improve the economy of piano technology. Stylistic smoothing and other changes were added. The changes are particularly pronounced in the Etudes in F minor and E flat major, but the other pieces have also been thoroughly revised. While Liszt in most cases limited himself to entering or pasting his changes in a copy of the Haslinger edition of the Grandes Etudes , he wrote down the Mazeppa Etudes from scratch. In particular, the coda, which was only hinted at in the earlier version, was only given a convincing shape in the last version.


First issue

Etude No. 1 Preludio

The first etude, Preludio in C major, seems like a brilliant improvisation. Thematic forms are only available in rudimentary approaches, so that the étude is less suitable for a presentation as a single piece, but rather as an entry into the cycle. Provided you have a well-trained technique, you are dealing with a moderately difficult piano piece.

In concert performances in which the 12 cycle-like etudes are performed in one piece, there is usually no significant time between the first and second studies, as one would actually expect with two individual pieces (but also with most multi-movement pieces). Rather, both pieces merge seamlessly.

Etude No. 2 Molto vivace

At the beginning of the second etude, Molto vivace in A minor, a four-fold repeated tone is introduced as a motif. With the rhythm chosen by Liszt, the motif with which the etude ends is reminiscent of the main motif of Beethoven's 5th symphony ("fate motif" - here in 3/4 time, however). In addition to this motif, which is omnipresent in different variations, there are other motifs that are subject to constant development. This includes a melodic motif (from bar 7, with an upbeat), a brilliant motif (from bar 12) and an arpeggio motif made up of notes one octave apart (for the first time in bar 15). The result is a clear form that is reminiscent of a sonata main clause:

  • Introduction - a capriccio (bar 1, with upbeat, up to bar 6)
  • Exposition (bar 7, with prelude, up to bar 29, half-close in C major with the triad G )
  • Implementation (bar 30, with a prelude, up to bar 68, with a large increase above organ point e in Prestissimo )
  • Shortened recapitulation - Tempo I (measure 70 to measure 80)
  • Coda - Stretto (bar 81, with a prelude, to the end of bar 102) can be understood.

The dissonance rich harmonics is exposed already in the introduction: the pedal point e of sequentially appear Neapolitan sixth chord , the diminished seventh df GIS h and the secondary dominant H7 (as Quintsextakkord ) before the half close to the triad E . The Neapolitan gives rise to Phrygian effects and, in conjunction with the diminished seventh chord, the chromaticism of the etude.

Etude No. 3 Paysage

The third etude, Paysage ("Landscape") in F major, begins as a touch study in the character of a pastoral duet. In a second part, a more or less religious emphasis is reached in a steady increase . The eye of the lyrical self turns from the landscape to the sky. In the last part the state of blissful peace arises with the sound of bells. Liszt never played pieces of this kind in concerts. Given the typical expectations of its audience, such a piece would have looked out of place.

Etude No. 4 Mazeppa

The Page Mazeppa , painting by Théodore Géricault , around 1820.

On November 18, 1846, the Viennese publisher Haslinger announced the appearance of an early version of the fourth etude in D minor with the title “Mazeppa”. The title refers to a story by Victor Hugo . It is about Mazeppa , who came to Warsaw as a page to the court of the Polish King John II Casimir in the second half of the 17th century . Because of an illegitimate love affair with the wife of a magnate, he is tied to a horse by the magnate. The horse is then chased into the steppe so that Mazeppa is supposed to perish under the scorching heat of the sun. After a wild ride, the horse finally collapses. Mazeppa, who already feels close to death, is saved. He is picked up by the Cossacks and brought to Ukraine. In 1687 he was elected ruler there.

Corresponding to the program, the etude begins with an introduction of sharply broken chords. It should be linked to the idea that the horse is chased into the steppe with lashes. The introduction, which was written in this form in spring 1841, leads to the dominant seventh chord in the key of D minor, so that the main part of the etude can follow. Liszt added an episode with passages in the final version. If the right pedal is used profusely, this can be understood in such a way that, like the opening credits to a film, a huge cloud of dust can be seen first. The dust then settles, whereupon a clear view of the scene becomes possible.

To describe Mazeppa's death ride, the main part of the étude is played by a plaintive melody in six stanzas with harmonic support from the bass. The stanzas are combined in pairs, resulting in a three-part form with stanzas 3/4 as a contrasting middle section. In verses 1/2 and 5/6, in addition to the singing in the treble and the bass, there is a rising figure in the middle register, which corresponds to the noise of the striking hooves of the wildly charging horse. The character was played in stanzas 1/2 of the early version in triplet eighth notes. In the final version, the triplet eighth notes are replaced by sixteenth notes in the first stanza. Since Liszt adopted the melody of the first verse in the same note values ​​for the second stanza, the figure in the middle position in the second stanza should in principle be slower compared to the first stanza. In the first stanza there would be eight sixteenths on a half note of the melody, while in the second stanza there would be six triplet eighth notes on a half note. Whether this is really meant remains uncertain, however. As an alternative, there is the interpretation that the speed of the figure should be maintained, which results in a shortening of the melody tones. The comparison with verses 5/6 leads to the result that a corresponding shortening can also be found there and is indicated at the beginning of verse 6 with a changed tempo. The progressive shortening of the melody tones can be understood as an expression of an increasingly breathless haste on Mazeppa's death ride.

The third stanza in B flat major, in which the melody is now in the middle register instead of the earlier figure, acts as a lyrical point of calm. In the fourth stanza, on the other hand, chromatic figures are added to the melody, and in the second half of the stanza, Mazeppa's horror in anticipation of an impending catastrophe is expressed with crashing sixth-fourth chords. The ride is continued in stanzas 5/6. Only in the coda from bar 159 is the tones described how the horse comes to a standstill and finally collapses. This is followed by a recitative with short plaintive motifs that are increasingly interrupted by pauses. Mazeppa has also apparently reached the end of his tether. The last coda is a movement in D major with blaring fanfare motifs, which symbolizes the rescue of Mazeppa and his installation as king.

In the final version of his etude, Liszt made use of his former rival Sigismund Thalberg in an astonishing way . The chromatic course with chord tones in the outer parts in bars 55ff and in other places can be found in the same way in Thalberg's "Grande fantaisie" op. 22, which Liszt had rejected in a review at the beginning of 1837 as allegedly completely unimaginative. In the lyrical third verse, a thumb melody is played around with lush arpeggios. The thumb melody, played around with arpeggios, had been the main subject of Liszt's polemical attacks against Thalberg in the spring of 1837. Liszt had considered this type of piano setting with great contempt and rejected it.

Etude No. 5 Feux follets

The fifth piece, Feux follets (“Irrlichter”) in B flat major, is a coloristic study of movement and filigree, the motif being based primarily on trill forms of semitone and whole step. A motif made up of eight tones is introduced as the “will-o'-the-wisp” in bar 9, which recurs in many places in different shapes, partly diatonic, partly chromatic. The lush use of tonally ambiguous diminished seventh chords and frequent changes between major and minor creates the impression of a dazzling background. The rhythm is not infrequently kept in suspension. In the introduction the confirmation of a difficult cycle time is only reached at the beginning of measure 7. It is already uncertain whether the last chord of bar 8, which falls on an easy beat but is the end of a passage, should not be heard as stressed. The final chord at the end of the analog passage in bars 10f is actually placed on a heavy bar time. Similar problems arise in bar 48 when compared with bar 47. In bar 48 the 4 eighth notes of the 2/4 bar are divided into two groups of three sixteenths each and one group of two sixteenths. The right hand passage coincides with this. With the motif of three sixteenths of the left hand, on the other hand, the question arises whether the first sixteenth at the beginning of the bar should be heard as emphasized or as unstressed. The motif was introduced in bar 47 in such a way that a relative gravity coincides with the second sixteenth.

The form of the etude is a three-part recap form. After an introduction, a main part begins with the second eighth of bar 18, which comes to a clear conclusion in B flat major with the first sixteenth of bar 42 after a lyrical melody fragment in the upper part of bars 40f. A modulating development follows up to the first eighth of bar 73. With the second eighth note of bar 73 begins a strongly changed recapitulation in A major, which on the first sixteenth note of bar 102, after the same lyrical phrase as at the end of the exposition, reaches the tonic of B major again. In the following coda, the tonality remains stable despite the lush chromaticism. While the étude is having an effect today as a brilliant concert number, contemporaries may have found the frequent tonal and rhythmic uncertainty as an uncomfortable feeling. The effect was probably also planned by Liszt in this way, in the manner of a sinister ghost.

Etude No. 6 Vision

In connection with the sixth etude, Vision in G minor, one often reads of a contextual connection that is supposed to exist with Napoleon's burial . This is probably because the main melody is developed from the melody of the dies irae of the funeral mass. Napoleon died in May 1821. His body was transferred to France in 1840 and buried in Paris in the Invalides. Since Liszt's etude was written in an early version in autumn 1837, it is obvious that there can be no connection with Napoleon's burial in 1840. It is also doubtful why Liszt could have thought of Napoleon's previous burial on St. Helena. Corresponding evidence in sources does not appear to be available.

The etude is conceived as a study in broad arpeggios. In a first stanza in G minor, the melody is played by the right hand in thirds and chords and played around with arpeggios by the left hand. In a second stanza in B minor, the melody is assigned to the left hand. The arpeggios have expanded and are now played by both hands together. After an intermediate movement without its own melodic profile, a third stanza in G major follows. A final coda leads to a pompous ending, which is also in G major.

If the etude as a piece of music is basically easy to understand despite its gloomy character, there are two problems: firstly, the key and secondly, the rhythm of the main melody. At the beginning of the etude the key of G minor is mapped out; and the connection with the cycle, the arrangement of which is based on the circle of fifths, leaves no doubt that the key of G minor should be used as the key of the etude. The key is only present in the first eight bars. It is then abandoned and not reached again. The rhythmic problem relates to the first bars of the main melody. A 3/4 time signature is indicated, while the melody suggests a straight time signature very suggestively. Two melody tones are combined so that a hemiolar rhythm is created in which nothing of the 3/4 time can be felt. 3/4 time can be enforced with accents and agogic stretches, but it remains unclear whether the player should do this.

Liszt played the G minor Etude in the version from 1837 and also his Waltz Op. 6 on April 18, 1838 in a concert in Vienna. In a contemporary review it says of the two pieces:

"According to their invention, the Bravour Waltz and the Great Etude seemed to want to summarize everything that could only be difficult to imagine for the instrument, and thus open up a wide field for the presentation of the most incredible Bravour."

You are dealing with idioms that are still widespread in connection with Liszt's piano works. The reality is very different. In terms of piano technical excellence, the étude, even in the version from 1837, is only moderately difficult. The waltz is a brilliant salon piece, no less, but no more either. The reviewer obviously lacked knowledge.

In a similar way, as has already been noted for the Mazeppa etude, a connection with Liszt's rivalry with Thalberg can also be recognized in the Vision etude . In the spring of 1837 Liszt had, with obvious polemical intent, reduced the piano part of his rival to the use of a thumb melody surrounded by arpeggios. The etude Vision is based on precisely this idea . In the 1837 version, the entire first verse was played by the left hand alone. It was demonstrated that the left hand of the player is sufficient to produce a thumb melody played around by arpeggios.

Etude No. 7 Eroica

With the title "Eroica" of the seventh etude, Liszt probably thought of Beethoven and his 3rd symphony, the "Eroica", in the same key because of the key in E flat major. Although nothing of a direct musical connection can be discerned, Liszt has taken the principle of thematic composition to extremes. The introduction is taken as a variant of the introduction of his Impromptu op. 3 on melodies by Rossini and Spontini. The entire Eroica etude has grown out of the inconspicuous germ.

With regard to its form, the main part of the etude presents itself after the introduction as a series of variations on a defiant march theme. It is less the march theme itself than the musical environment in which it is embedded that is further developed and varied. This concerns the strongly modulating harmonics and the forms of play that the player has to master in addition to the main melody. In this sense, the hero represented by the march theme must survive musical adventures. As a technical piano climax, the theme is set in the last variation before the coda in full-fingered chords, which are accompanied by both hands with quick figurations in octaves. In the version from 1837, another variation followed, in which, although not the technical difficulty of the piano, the bravura effect is increased. An episode followed in which the hero seems to succumb to the superiority of his opponents. The piece of music stopped after the name "morendo" ("dying to death") on a break with fermata. In the coda the hero came to life. When revising the final version, Liszt probably deleted this because the same process is already presented musically at the end of the Mazeppa etude.

In the Eroica etude, too, memories of Liszt's confrontation with Thalberg in the spring of 1837 arise. The catchphrase Liszt coined at the time, the thumb melody played around by arpeggios, had apparently taken hold of himself. The Eroica Etude contains a wealth of examples that can be described with this catchphrase. This also includes the passage in front of the coda with the brilliant figuration in octaves. A chordal movement is played around as the middle part of chord configurations, ie arpeggios.

Second issue

Etude No. 8 Wild Hunt

The title of the eighth étude, Wild Hunt in C minor, refers to a crowd of ghost figures who pass by with screams, cracks of whips and barking dogs. However, the etude is based on a form that is reminiscent of a traditional form, the sonata main clause form. The etude begins with an extensive introduction divided into two attempts. A main movement is then introduced in bars 59ff and a contrasting secondary movement in bars 93ff, both beginning and modulating in E flat major. From bar 134 there was a development and from bar 164 a recapitulation in which the two main themes were shifted to C major. From bar 216 onwards there is a coda with an ending in C major.

The expectation associated with the title "Wilde Jagd" is met primarily in the introduction and there with a "chaos rhythm". In measure 2 the middle of the measure and in measure 3 the start of the measure coincide as emphasized cycle times with a pause. In bar 7 the triad of the tonic is only played on the second eighth note. while the stressed first eighth note again has a pause. Immediately afterwards, a motif with a length of 5 eighths is wedged into the 6/8 time, so that a listener loses rhythmic orientation at the latest. Even from the player's point of view, it will be difficult to decide whether to follow the rhythm suggested by the motif or the notated rhythm.

Compared to the introduction, the chaos elements that are also present in the development and at the end of the coda appear very moderate. In the implementation, the main aim is to remove control from the keynote C by constant modulation. At the end of the coda, the idea of ​​rhythmic confusion is taken up again. The chord on the last measure of measure 225 appears either emphasized, although it is on an unstressed measure, or as a prelude that leads to a rest.

Etude No. 9 Ricordanza

If, in connection with the ninth etude, Ricordanza in A flat major, Busoni spoke of an "outdated world of feelings" and of a "bundle of faded love letters", then one would do well to use such utterances primarily as symptoms to describe one's own personality See Busonis. These are examples that show that Busoni was caught up in a one-sided picture of Liszt's personality. It should go without saying that Liszt did not have to anticipate Busoni's world of sensations in the autumn of 1837, when the early version of the etude was written, and that this was not his intention at all. In the same way as Liszt's étude, Busoni could have dealt with Schubert's and Schumann's piano works, and much by Beethoven himself.

Liszt provided the piece in A flat major from his earlier Etudes Op. 6 with an introduction and then with fragrant passages. He has also intensified the contrast between episodes of more socially convention-oriented languor in tender sighs and episodes of passionate expression. The impression arises of a retrospective, mixed with nostalgic sadness, of a time that was lost, but not forgotten, and which in any case remained part of Liszt's inner personality.

In this etude, too, Liszt made ample use of the technique of the thumb melody played around by arpeggios. An example of the way in which this was received by contemporaries is given in a review by Henri Blanchard in the Revue et Gazette musicale of 1840, pp. 285f. The review refers to a matinee on April 20, 1840, in whose program Liszt played his Etude in A flat major, among other pieces. Blanchard recalled Molière , who with naive genius took over some good scenes from works by predecessors. If Liszt had previously dared to step into the barriers of piano playing with Sigismund Thalberg as Caesar, Octavian or Napoleon, now, in order to gain a jagged crown from his crown, he had appropriated the famous thumb melody that all pianists in France dreamed of . Fétis , with whom Liszt had been involved in a polemical debate a few years earlier precisely because of this manner of setting, had spent the happiest two hours of his life in Liszt's matinee.

Etude No. 10 Presto molto agitato

The tenth etude, Presto molto agitato in F minor, in the version from 1837 was a dauntingly difficult piece, even by virtuoso standards, because of the extreme demands placed on security in jumps, long reach and independence of the fingers. Liszt had evidently decided to surpass the starting point, the Etude in F minor from Chopin's Op. 10, in every respect. He has undoubtedly succeeded in doing this, although the number of players who have mastered the etude in this form will always be very small. When revising the final version, Liszt reduced his piano technical demands very considerably. The guiding thought here may have been that the effort made in the earlier version was in an unsuitable proportion to the effect that could be achieved even in the best case.

Based on the Sonata in F minor op. 57 by Beethoven , Liszt's Etude in F minor is often called "Appassionata", but this is probably far too harmless in comparison with the expression designed by Liszt. The etude contains thematic references to the Dante sonata , which portrays a stay in hell. This includes the melody marked "disparato" ("desperate") in bars 126f. The etude describes the desperation of a person who, in a hopeless situation, sees doom approaching him, in which he will perish without the slightest hope of salvation.

The formal structure of the etude is complicated with constant modulations and frequently changing forms of play. As a large structure, two parts can be recognized. The first part extends to the first eighth note of measure 86 and ends there with the dominant seventh chord with a minor ninth in the key of F minor. With the second eighth note of measure 86, a strongly changed recapitulation begins, in which the musical expression is considerably heightened compared to the first part. The development breaks off at the end of bar 149 after the double dominant with minor seventh and ninth of F minor with pauses. In the manner of a cadenza, a sequence of arpeggiated diminished seventh chords follows, the expressive content of which corresponds to that of a hopeless situation. In comparison with the first part, a coda was still missing, which should correspond to bars 78ff. From bar 160, this is forwarded in a different way as a Stretta and ends in the final catastrophe.

Etude No. 10, recorded by Giorgi Latsabidze

Etude No. 11 Harmonies du soir

The eleventh etude, Harmonies du soir (“Evening Sounds”) in D flat major, creates a conciliatory balance to the previous etude in F minor as part of the cycle. The version from 1837 contained a thematic reference that Liszt deleted with great consistency during the revision. The introductory motif of the left hand, a pendulum between notes an octave apart, is apparently intended to symbolize the ringing of a bell. It is used in the further course with the rhythm indicated by the lower part, a half note, followed by a quarter note and another long note, as a motif. Examples can be found in bars 10f and at the end of the etude. In such places, the earlier version contained a different motif in which a half note follows three quarter notes while the pitch remains the same.

The motif of the earlier version plays a central role as a leitmotif in Liszt's Huguenot Fantasy , which appeared in an album in December 1837 for subscribers to the Paris Revue et Gazette musicale . There it is the theme of the chant A solid castle is our God , who plays an important role in the opera Die Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer . Since Liszt composed the early version of the Etude in D flat major a few months before the publication of his Huguenot Fantasy , the assumption seems plausible that he adopted the same reference for the Etude, so that the introductory motif can also be understood as a quotation from the chant . During the period in which the revised version was being produced, a change had occurred in Liszt's private circumstances. He now lived with Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein, who made it important that strict Catholic customs be observed in her environment. Protestant chant was undesirable in this environment. Liszt has therefore replaced the reference to the chorale with a motif that is neutral in terms of content.

A three-part form can be seen in the structure of the etude. After an introduction, in which various motifs are indicated in preparation, a first main theme in D flat major begins in bar 24 with melodious arpeggios. A forward-looking transition follows, whereupon a second main theme begins in bar 38 in G major. In measure 58, a new melody is introduced with the first stanza in E major. After a transition formed mainly from motifs from the second theme of the first main part, a second stanza in D flat major follows from bar 98 onwards, intensified to passionate expression. In bar 120, a shortened recapitulation of the first main part begins, in which the two themes are in D flat major and their order is reversed. A brief coda follows.

Etude No. 12 Chasse incline

In the last piece of the cycle, Chasse neige (“ Snow Drift”) in B flat minor, a study in tremolo figures, elegiac depressive moods prevail. The 1837 version contained a recitative-like introduction that consisted of two components. The theme of the main melody of the etude could be heard from a deep voice. This was followed by an answer in the treble, which in a loving way, musically represented as a double blow followed by a "hugging gesture", seems to give consolation. The recitative was repeated at a formal intersection at the beginning of the last third of the etude.

The Etüde Chasse neige is also composed as a three-part reprise form. The first main part, designed as a duet of a high and a low voice, begins in B flat minor and ends with the first eighth note of bar 25 with the tonic of E major. In a middle section the two voices move closer together as a constriction. Chromatic scale figures are increasingly added to the tremolo, until finally nothing can be heard of the melody voices. In bar 49 a modified and shortened recapitulation of the first main part begins in B flat minor, which in bars 64f with the harmony of the dominant seventh chord with a minor ninth in the key of B flat minor again leads to contourless chromatic scales. After a pause with a fermata and a short chordal cadence, the tonic of B flat minor is reached with the first eighth note of bar 66. Then a coda begins, which, in addition to fragments of the main melody, contains a new motif in the treble, derived from the theme of the main melody, which seems to lament a tragic fate. In the further course, chromatic scale motifs appear again. The main melody is then resolved until at the end only athematic triads in B flat minor are left.

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