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As a composer, teacher and pianist, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) developed new methods in his compositions - both imaginative and technical - which left their mark upon his progressive concepts and procedures. He also developed the method of "transformation of themes" as part of his revolution in form, made radical experiments in harmony and invented the orchestral symphonic poem.
Liszt was himself one of the greatest virtuosi on the pianoforte; he fully understood the instrument's potential and perceived its capabilities in full which he never failed to exhaust in his compositions. In the works of Franz Liszt we find an example of a composer writing almost exclusively for the piano. The smaller-scaled piano works, such as his numerous études and assorted short pieces with poetic names are among the most significant.
The reputation of Schubert did not extend far beyond his native Vienna, and he was virtually unknown in several key European cities. Liszt attempted to correct the situation by transcribing fifty-six songs of Schubert for piano solo. These transcriptions are at times simple replicas of the melodic line written for voice, yet can also take the form of free paraphrase. It is remarkable that the vocal line has been retained in the midst of so much pianistic virtuosity.
The transcriptions were begun in 1833, five years after the death of Schubert and the last one was completed in 1846. Liszt's love of Schubert is evident in Der Müller und der Bach ("The miller and the brook"), also taken from Die schöne Müllerin. This beautiful melody is sung twice in the original song; here Liszt allows us to hear it three times. The second verse particularly has some of his most exquisite piano writing, the bell-like melody singing elegantly above pedaled staccatos and arpeggios. Aufenthalt (“Resting place”) is the fifth song from Schubert’s Schwanengesang, D. 957. This sweet melody in E-minor unfolds to a turbulent and moving line, modulating through unexpected and complex harmonic territory. Der Doppelgänger (Ghostly double”) is also from Schubert’s Schwanengesang. Set in B minor, it contains all sad elements and can be described as a simple dirge.
Notes by Ileen Zovluck. © 2000 Columbia Artists Management Inc.