Thursday, February 14, 2008

Liszt's Mephisto Waltz and Années de Pèlerinage

It's good to know that the Mephisto Waltzes are four waltzes composed by F. Liszt in different years. Nos.1& 2 were composed for orchestra, later arranged for piano, and Nos.3-4 were written for piano duets. The first waltz is the most popular and has been frequently performed in concert. The Waltz is a typical example of program music, taking for its program an episode from Faust, not by Goethe, but by Lenau. The first Waltz is named Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (The Dance in the Village Inn).
The beginning depicts Mephisto's arrival, accompanied by Faust, at a country wedding feast. While Faust courts the innkeeper's daughter, Mephisto appropriates a violin, and he tunes it and then plays a frantic devil dance. The second theme reminds of Faust's wooing and goes into the woods with the young girl. Mephisto Waltz is a virtuosic piece, and in orchestral writing.

Années de Pèlerinage (years of Pilgrimage) is a set of three suites by Liszt. "Vallée d'Obermann "(Obermann's Valley) is from the first set Première Année: Suisse. It is the largest of set. Around the time, Liszt was apparently very moved by the letters contained in the epistolary novel Oberman by Senancour. The work opens in an elegiac mood, and a stepwise falling theme. The piece follows by an ethereal passage, using the high range of the piano, and soon gives way to a stormy cadenza-like section. The finale combines the second theme and cadenza material to create a triumphant finish. The whole piece is more emotional than structural.

The one movement sonata 'Dante sonata' was composed in 1849, from second set of Années de Pèlerinage. This work of program music was inspired by the reading of Dante Alighieri's most famous epic poem-"The Divine Comedy". The piece is divided into two main subjects. The first, a chromatic theme in D minor with a tritone motive, typifies the wailing of souls in Hell. D minor is a common key for music relating to death. The second subject is a beatific chorale in F-sharp major, representing the joy of those in heaven.

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