Recorded on 01/12/2010, uploaded on 03/02/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The 1860s were a time of great sadness for Franz Liszt. Dealing with the death of his son, Daniel, in 1859 and his daughter, Blandine, later in 1862, as well as the Catholic Church’s refusal to grant his mistress a divorce from her husband, Liszt receded into a solitary life. In 1863, he took up residence at a monastery outside of Rome called Madonna del Rosario. Liszt participated only occasional in Rome’s musical life and much of his compositional efforts eventually turned toward sacred works. However, one of the first compositions to come from his pen in this new austere life was the Rhapsodie espagnole for solo piano.
Recollecting his travels through Spain and Portugal in 1845, the Rhapsodie espagnole is inspired by the traditional music Liszt would have heard on the Iberian Peninsula. A lengthy cadenza, which subtly hints at the material of the ensuing variations, opens the work in a virtuosic manner. Settling into the key of C-sharp minor, the first section is a passacaglia on La Folia, a harmonic progression of Spanish origins and already made popular by Jean-Baptiste Lully, Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi. The folia bass appears initially already in an embellished form, but retaining the typical sarabande rhythm that accompanies it. The variations upon the bass are extensive, ranging from terse dotted rhythms, chromatic triplets, and sweeping sixteenth notes through several octaves. Following the passacaglia and changing to a brilliant D major is the Jota aragonesa. The jota is a traditional dance of Spain, most likely originating in Aragon, and not unlike the waltz though with more variation. The section begins simply with the melody appearing over an imitation of a drone bass, but eventually grows into an exciting and lively virtuosic display. In 1894, Ferruccio Busoni arranged the work for piano and orchestra. Joseph DuBose
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