Recorded on 02/03/2009, uploaded on 02/03/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Franz Liszt’s 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies were inspired by two successive visits to Hungary during 1839-40. He had been absent from his homeland for over a decade and his time there prompted to him to immortalize his country and heritage in music. During his visit, he transcribed the melodies he heard performed by the roaming gypsy bands, which he believed to be authentic Hungarian folk music. However, many of these melodies were the inventions of contemporary Hungarian composers whose fame had spread into the popular scene. Nevertheless, Liszt composed his Rhapsodies and published fifteen of them between 1851 and 1853. Four more followed decades later in 1882-86.
More displays of showmanship than of any substantial musical thought, the Hungarian Rhapsodies drew the contempt of some of Liszt’s prominent contemporaries, including Robert Schumann and Frédéric Chopin. Even in later times, Charles Rosen described them as demonstrations of the “various noises that can be made with a piano.” Nevertheless, the Rhapsodies remain favorite items in the repertoire for pianists and audiences alike.
The sixth Hungarian Rhapsody, in D-flat major, is perhaps one of the Rhapsodies that prompted Schumann’s and Chopin’s condemnation of Liszt’s blatant display of virtuosic pianism. Divided into four sections, the opening is a pompous march dominated by a syncopated rhythm in the accompaniment. This march is then followed by a brief Presto in a much more lighthearted manner but still emphasizing the off-beat rhythm at the conclusion of each phrase. Shifting to the relative minor, a darker, more exotic tone is achieved in the following Andante. The melody here is freer, almost improvisatory-like, with many ornamental flourishes. The final section of the rhapsody, in B-flat major, features a simple melody, bordering on the banal, which runs lightly up and down the tones of the scale. Embellished by a persistent sixteenth-note rhythm and doubled in the octave, the melody drives the rhapsody to its bombastic conclusion. Joseph DuBose
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