Classical Music | Piano Music

Franz Liszt

Un Sospiro, from Trois Etudes de concert, S. 144  Play

Sophia Agranovich Piano

Recorded on 10/13/2011, uploaded on 01/06/2012

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Arguably one of Franz Liszt’s most well-known and beloved compositions for the piano is the final etude of his Trois études de concert (Three Concert Etudes), Un sospiro. The Italian subtitles of this etude and its siblings, as they are generally known by today, were not given by Liszt himself and only appeared in later editions. Indeed, Liszt remained in the habit of referring to the etudes only by their key. However, Un sospiro (“A Sigh”) carries a poignancy with it, heightening the Romantic emotionalism of Liszt’s music. While perhaps too narrow an epithet to adequately embrace the fervent and heartfelt melodies that emerge during the piece’s course, it nevertheless provides the imagination the seed with which to construct a suiting scene.

A study in crossing the hands, Un sospiro requires great agility of the performer to execute and even greater skill to hide its technical demands in the expressiveness of the music. Sweeping arpeggios establish the accompaniment pattern and the key of D-flat major in the opening measures followed by the etude’s simple melody, sounded in delicate, staccato notes in the right hand. Upon its completion, Liszt immediately begins to vary and develop this melody of burgeoning emotions which soon finds release in a beautiful modulation into A major. New energy is summoned in this modulation as the melody, from its simple beginnings, becomes more florid and passionate, engulfed in the persistent rise and fall of the etude’s harmonic landscape. Changing to C-sharp minor, the melody returns in simplistic staccato notes with which it was announced. A feeling of splendor and wonder is created here with the juxtaposition of C-sharp minor’s dominant harmony against chords still belonging to the preceding tonality of A major. Returning to the initial key, a final statement of the melody, interwoven into the arpeggios of the accompaniment, is heard before the coda. In the coda, Liszt returns to the feeling of splendor with mysterious chord progressions over a slowly descending bass. Soft but majestic chords, unadorned and pure, then lead into the final cadence.       Joseph DuBose