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ClassicsOnline Home » LISZT: Hungarian Rhapsodies, Vol. 2 (Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 13)
By David Mulbury
American Record Guide
Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
Complete Piano Music, Volume 13
Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos. 10 to 19
The Gypsies play the true national compositions of Hungary...
There is something in their music so wild and impassioned... tones of such deep
melancholy, such heart-piercing grief, and wild despair, that one is unvoluntarily
carried away by it.
- Johann Georg
Kohl, from "Austria, Vienna, Prague,
and the Danube" (1843)
In composing the Hungarian Rhapsodies, Liszt
desired to create what he called "Gypsy epics". He felt that the
songs he had collected might be united in "one homogeneous body, a
complete work, its divisions so arranged that each song would form at once a whole
and a part, which might be severed from the rest and be examined and enjoyed by
and for itself, but which would, none the less, belong to the whole through the
close affinity of subject matter, the similarity of inner nature and unity of
development." He wrote the first in 1846 at the age of 35, and his last in
1885 at the age of 74. Most of these are in the sectional slow-fast form of the
gypsy dance known as the csardas. The Hungarian Rhapsodies remain
undisputedly popular today alter almost 150 years. If we were to follow their
history, however, we find in them the same contradictions in origin and purpose,
the same contrast between serious musicianship and virtuoso exhibitionism which
made Liszt himself so fascinating. There is no doubt that Liszt was devoted to
his country, but he was a Hungarian more by enthusiasm than through upbringing
or ethnic heritage. He could barely speak the language, for Hungarian was third
to German and French, which were spoken at home. He left his native province at
the age of nine for the more cosmopolitan cities of Vienna and Paris. When he
returned some two decades later he was an international hero in need of a
national identity. This identity was achieved through the special musical
language of the Hungarian Rhapsodies.
In order to collect gypsy tunes and absorb the strong flavour
of their rhythms –the slow pride of the Lassan and the rampage of the Friska
- Liszt spent time in gypsy encampments. His first fifteen Hungarian
Rhapsodies were published by 1854, with the remaining five to come in his
last years. Liszt also wrote and had printed, in German and Hungarian, a long
book, The Gypsies and their Music in Hungary. As scholars have since shown,
he was entirely wrong about the gypsy origins of Hungarian music. Half a
century later Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly, alter collecting thousands of Magyar
folk-tunes, showed that the gypsy contribution was a style of playing, a
process of inflection and instrumental arrangement rather than anything
original in form. Nevertheless, Hungarian gypsy music, as it is now called, was
the glory of the nation, known throughout the world through Liszt's
compositions. In spite of the ethnomusicological deficiences of his work, Liszt's
free-ranging fantasies, with the inspired use of the word "rhapsody",
were strokes of genius. Here Liszt did much more than use the so-called csardas.
He miraculously recreated on the piano the characteristics of a gypsy band,
with its string choirs, the sentimentally placed solo violin and the
compellingly soft, percussive effect of the cimbalom, the Hungarian
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.10 in E major
(Published 1853; dedicated to the Hungarian composer,
actor, translator and librettist Beni Egressy (1814-1851)).
Filigree effects predominate in Rhapsody No.10,
with a challenging alternative form preferred by Liszt but avoided by some
virtuosi. The theme was by Egressy, embellished by Liszt's soft ascending and
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.11 in A minor
(Published 1853; dedicated to Baron Ferenc Orczy)
The cimbalom figurations yield a new play of sonorities
in this surprisingly short Rhapsody No.11. In a mood of intimacy rather
than dazzle, stringed instruments are suggested in the rapid Vivace assai.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.12 in C sharp minor
(Published 1853; dedicated to Joseph Joachim)
Liszt dedicated Rhapsody No.12, one of the most
elaborate, to the distinguished Hungarian violinist Joachim, using a well-known
Hungarian tune. The melody heard in strong unisons is a csardas
attributed to the Hungarian-Jewish composer and violinist Mark Rozsavolgyi,
while the Allegro zingarese theme was composed by the gypsy composer and
violinist Janos Bihari.
 Hui1garian Rhapsody No.13 in A minor
(Published 1853; dedicated to the amateur composer Count
Though Rhapsody No.13 is less often heard, it is
musically one of the most interesting, with a broadly designed slow section, a
spirited vivace (with a melody also used by Sarasate in his Zigeunerweisen),
and a brilliant finale. After Hungarian gypsy-like scales in the slow opening
Liszt quotes the Hungarian folk-songs, "Ketten mentuk, Harman jottunk"
and "Akkor szep az erdo, mikor zold" in the fast sections.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.14 in F major
(Published 1853; dedicated to Hans von Bulow (1830-1894),
pupil and his first son-in-law) Rhapsody No.14 is perhaps the most
popular of all, also used by Liszt as the famous orchestral Rhapsody No.1 and
in a version for piano and orchestra, as the Hungarian Fantasia. Here he drew
upon the Hungarian song Magasan repul a daru in the slow funeral
march-like introduction as well as in the Allegro eroico. The vivace
section uses the famous Kolto csardas.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.15 in A minor (Rak6czy
(Second Version; Published 1871)
Rhapsody No.15 is better known as the Rlikoczy
March. This same march was used by Berlioz in his Damnation of Faust.
It was originally the work of Michael Barna, written in honour of Prince
Francis Rakoczy, a historic hero in the eighteenth-century Hungarian revolt
against Austria. It remains a symbol of Hungarian freedom and national pride.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.16 in A minor
(Composed 1882; published 1882; dedicated to the
Hungarian painter Mih13.ly Munkacsy (1844-1900))
A powerful octave fanfare leads into the slow
introduction. Subtle harmonic progressions characterize Rhapsody No.16,
composed on the occasion of a Budapest festival in honour of Munkacsy, a close
friend who also painted a famous portrait of the composer. This work is built
around a single melodic motif hovering around a central note.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.17 in D minor
Similar to its predecessor, Rhapsody No.17 uses a
chord or a figure chromatically altered and then repeated in its original form.
From its opening, the basic impulse and mood of the work remains sombre.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.18 in F sharp minor
(Composed 1885; published 1885)
Liszt composed Rhapsody No.18 "on the
occasion of the National Hungarian Exhibition", and it was first published
in an album entitled "Exhibition Album of Hungarian Composers". The
opening Lassan is marked Lento. After approximately fifty measures, the
rapid Friss appears in lightly leggiero figurations in the right
hand. The texture is spare in music of ascetic simplicity.
 Hungarian Rhapsody No.19 in D minor
(Composed 1885; published 1886)
In Rhapsody No.19 Liszt explores more unknown
harmonic territory, using the music critic Kornel Abrainyi's Csardas
noble. The work is full of sparkling passages in thirds and novel cadences,
superb examples of Liszt's late improvisatory style, probing new harmonic and colouristic
Victor and Marina A. Ledin, @ 1999, Encore
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