Recorded on 05/19/2010, uploaded on 08/24/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner shared a mutual admiration for each other’s work. Wagner openly admitted that Liszt was his only living contemporary that had an influence on his own music. Liszt, on one occasion, had come to Wagner’s rescue, conducting the premiere of Lohengrin in Wiemer in 1850 while its composer suffered in political exile because of his part in the Dresden uprising. When Wagner passed away in Venice in 1883, it was an emotional blow to the aged Liszt and not surprisingly wrote four compositions in memory of his friend and colleague. Liszt also showed his appreciation of his friend and colleague much earlier by transcribing selections from his operas for piano solo.
Interestingly, Liszt chose only one excerpt from the revolutionary Tristan und Isolde to transform into a piano solo: the oft-performed and intensely dramatic Liebestod from the opera’s final scene. Occurring at the very end of the opera, Isolde mourns over the body of her fallen lover, Tristan, with the words “How softly and gently he smiles, how sweetly his eyes open.” In his transcription, Liszt remains faithful to Wagner’s original score, merely dispensing with much of the vocal music and giving highlight to the intense and marvelous orchestral music of the scene (though Liszt transcription is slightly shorter in duration than the original scene). The music begins tragically with a languishing melody over discords in the left hand, and settling uneasily on a diminished seventh harmony. Then, it turns yearning and beautiful as the scene’s passionate melody, the consequence of a motivic struggle established in the opera’s prologue, begins and grows in ever-increasing intensity, moving onward in bittersweetness towards its climax. From there it recedes, as Isolde gently falls onto the body of her lover, and the tragic scene comes to an end. Joseph DuBose
In 1867, Franz Liszt transcribed one of the most dramatic and often-excerpted moments, Isolde's Love-death, from Wagner's masterpiece Tristan und Isolde, which had premiered in 1865.
The music starts off gloomy and sounding quite native to the piano, almost like a passage from one of Liszt's darker late compositions. But shortly it begins to yearn and fill with regret. As the emotions build the music struggles to explode with the impassioned love theme. Finally the climactic moment comes, where-in the opera-Isolde falls gently onto the body of Tristan. Gabriele Baldocci
Courtesy of International Music Foundation.
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