Recorded on 07/26/2005, uploaded on 01/14/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Guiseppe Verdi’s Aïda premiered in Cairo on December 24, 1871. Though it was not the premiere the composer had wished for the opera, it was nevertheless a great success and a European premiere took place a little more than a month later at La Scala in Milan. Franz Liszt was an admirer of Verdi’s music, transcribing numerous selections from his music including the three Concert Paraphrases based on Il Trovatore, Rigoletto and Ernani composed over a decade earlier. Though perhaps somewhat damaging to Liszt’s own reputation because of the flashy showmanship of these transcriptions, they nevertheless were an aid to the reputation of Verdi and his operas. In 1879, roughly twenty years after the Concert Paraphrases, he displayed his appreciation of Verdi’s music again with a transcription of two selections from Aïda.
With Verdi’s music, Liszt denied himself the liberties he often took in transcribing the music of other operatic composer like Meyerbeer and Bellini, but instead focused primarily on capturing every nuance of the grandeur or passion of Verdi’s music in the tones of the piano. For his transcription of Aïda, he chose two selections: the priest’s chorus, which he called the “danza sacra,” from Acti II, and the final duet of the opera, “O terra addio,” when the two lovers are entombed together in the Temple of Vulcan. The emotional intensity of Verdi’s music leads Liszt into a dramatic and almost bombastic coda. Yet, somewhat contrary to his own methods, he unexpectedly returns to a delicate restatement of the duet and with quiet and poignant tones the piece climbs to its final chords. Joseph DuBose
Franz Liszt and Italy
"The beautiful in this special land became evident to me in its purest and most sublime form. Art in all its splendor disclosed itself to my eyes. It revealed its universality and unity to me. Day by day my feelings and thoughts gave me a better insight into the hidden relationship that unites all works of genius. Raphael and Michelangelo increased my understanding of Mozart and Beethoven; Giovanni Pisano, Fra Beato, and Il Francia explained Allegri, Marcello and Palestrina to me. Titian and Rossini appeared to me like twin stars shining with the same light. The Colosseum and the Campo Santo are not as foreign as one thinks to the Eroica Symphony and the Requiem. Dante has found his pictorial expression in Orcagna and Michelangelo, and someday perhaps he will find his musical expression in the Beethoven of the future."
Liszt's words are a clear example of his love for Italy. In his later years, during the period that eminent scholar Alan Walker calls "a threefold life," when Liszt divided his time among Rome, Weimar and Budapest, Rome was always a special, spiritual place for Liszt, a devout Catholic. Today's recital is dedicated to Italy as a source of inspiration in Liszt's piano works, and covers a wide range of his artistic output.
Paraphrase on Themes from Verdi's Aida
Liszt's admiration for Verdi's operas is evident in the number of transcriptions and paraphrases he wrote. The Aida Paraphrase was published in 1879 and was inspired by two themes: the sacred dance from Act II and the final duet from the last act. Alexandre Dossin
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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