LISZT Hungarian Rhapsodies (Grante)
First, some title disambiguation. The ‘original versions’ of Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos 12 17 recorded here are six of the Magyar Dalok/Magyar Rapszódiák, published in 1846. Liszt would revisit this material, make substantial revisions and publish the results in 1851 and 1853 as the first 15 of the Rapsodies hongroises, the form in which they are most familiar today. Because Liszt also reordered the series, there is no direct numerical correlation between the two sets. No 12 of the earlier set recorded here became the trio of Hungarian Rhapsody No 5, No 13 became No 15 in the final series, and so on.
One of this CD’s attractions is the light it casts on Liszt’s creative process. It demonstrates Liszt’s ongoing practice of distillation and refinement before his material, already considerably developed, achieved what he considered to be its definitive form. In one of his prefaces, Liszt compares this process to the common 19th-century practice of novelists releasing successive editions of their work. In Liszt’s case, the final versions evidence extraordinary advances in both musical cohesion and technical accessibility.
Carlo Grante copes manfully with the often unwieldy demands of these pieces. The alternative version of the Tenth Hungarian Rhapsody, without the signature glissandos, has an appealing dash. ‘Longing for the Puszta’, an adaptation of a song by Gizycka to a Lenau text, revisits the trope of pining despair familiar from the lassán sections of the minor-key Rhapsodies.