Recorded on 03/12/2008, uploaded on 03/12/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Playing opener to Liszt’s well-known and hauntingly beautiful “Un sospiro” is “La leggierezza,” second in the triptych of etudes published in 1857 as the 3 Études de concert. Meaning “lightness” or “nimbleness,” the etude is, as the title suggests, a poetic exercise in agility and touch combining lyrical but light-hearted passages with florid ornamentation. The etude opens with an introduction, marked A capriccio, and dramatic, measured ascents from the bass to the treble presaging the principal melody. These ascents, each spanning a major sixth (though some enharmonically spelled as diminished sevenths), not only set the stage dramatically for the music to come but establish a unifying motif of sixths that prevails throughout the etude. After pausing briefly on the dominant, the etude proper begins at a Quasi Allegretto tempo and a tarantella-like tune in 9/8 meter. Underneath this lyrical tune is a harmonic accompaniment of descending chords of the sixth reminiscent of the fauxbourdon of previous centuries. Following the completion of the principal melody, the meter changes to common time (though technically 12/8) and the melody begins to undergo development through florid ornamentation. Adorned with swift chromatic scales, brilliant arpeggios, and melodic fragments embellished with leaps of a sixth, the middle portion of the etude becomes a significant challenge for the performer. Passing through various keys, the return to the tonic and the climatic point of the etude is marked by fortissimo return of the introductory melodic ascents, reinforced in octaves and accompanied by shimmering tremolos in the upper register. From this point, the ornamentation become somewhat simpler, as if a great thrust of energy was spent and the remaining notes move forward only because of inertia. In the final measures, a last statement of the ascending sixths of the introduction, this time however accompanied by sustained chords, creates a brief moment of solemnity, and a plagal close ending on a Picardy third ends the etude with a tone of seriousness. Joseph DuBose
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