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Hungarian Rhapsodies (No. 1 in F minor and No. 3 in D major)
Composed: 1846-53; 1857-60
Length: 11 minutes (No. 1); 8 minutes (No. 3)
Orchestration: piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, triangle), timpani, harp, cimbalom, and strings
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: November 4, 1928, Georg Schnéevoigt conducting (No. 1); these are the first Philharmonic performances of No. 3
Over the span of his lifetime, Liszt completed nineteen Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano, but only six of these were orchestrated. The first one in the set for orchestra was originally No. 14 of the piano series, and it is also well-known in its piano-and-orchestra version as Liszt's Hungarian Fantasy. (The term "rhapsody" has come down to us as a synonym for "medley" or "suite," but Liszt used it more to connote the epic story-telling quality he found in the original music.) Most of the Rhapsodies are in a traditional slow-fast structure that derives from the traditional csárdás. The grand striding theme that provides most of the material for the characteristic slow opening section (lassú) of the First Rhapsody recurs later to offer a suitably heroic conclusion after the faster section (friss). The Third Rhapsody (taken from No. 6 of the piano cycle) is more episodic, compiled from four of Liszt's earlier Hungarian National Melodies (of which three are retained in the orchestral version).
The published orchestrations of the Hungarian Rhapsodies (Leipzig, 1874-75) were the collaborative efforts of Liszt and his pupil Franz Doppler (1821-1883). In his book The Gypsies and Their Music in Hungary, Liszt explains that he "at an early time [was led] to appropriate some fragments of [this music] to the piano, which seemed…better able than the orchestra to reproduce its various strangenesses - to duplicate more completely the unusual passions with which the gypsy has infused it." As Iván Fischer notes in the booklet accompanying his Philips recording of the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, "the same gypsy music tradition is still alive in Hungary. In these recordings I combined the orchestral version with improvised gypsy music-making in order to bring back something of the original sound Liszt fell in love with.… A few minor changes were made in the Liszt-Doppler orchestration, where the original piano version seemed more stylish to me."
- Dennis Bade is the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association's Associate Director of Publications.