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Transcriptions Schubert Lieder

By Franz Schubert

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Chamber Piano
Composed by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Robert Schumann, and Clara Wieck-Schumann (1819-1896). Edited by Nicholas Hopkins. Collection. With Standard notation. 128 pages. Carl Fischer Music #PL1056. Published by Carl Fischer Music (CF.PL1056).

Item Number: CF.PL1056

ISBN 9781491153390. Transcribed by Franz Liszt.

Introduction It is true that Schubert himself is somewhat to blame for the very unsatisfactory manner in which his admirable piano pieces are treated. He was too immoderately productive, wrote incessantly, mixing insignificant with important things, grand things with mediocre work, paid no heed to criticism, and always soared on his wings. Like a bird in the air, he lived in music and sang in angelic fashion. --Franz Liszt, letter to Dr. S. Lebert (1868) Of those compositions that greatly interest me, there are only Chopin's and yours. --Franz Liszt, letter to Robert Schumann (1838) She [Clara Schumann] was astounded at hearing me. Her compositions are really very remarkable, especially for a woman. There is a hundred times more creativity and real feeling in them than in all the past and present fantasias by Thalberg. --Franz Liszt, letter to Marie d'Agoult (1838) Chretien Urhan (1790-1845) was a Belgian-born violinist, organist and composer who flourished in the musical life of Paris in the early nineteenth century. According to various accounts, he was deeply religious, harshly ascetic and wildly eccentric, though revered by many important and influential members of the Parisian musical community. Regrettably, history has forgotten Urhan's many musical achievements, the most important of which was arguably his pioneering work in promoting the music of Franz Schubert. He devoted much of his energies to championing Schubert's music, which at the time was unknown outside of Vienna. Undoubtedly, Urhan was responsible for stimulating this enthusiasm in Franz Liszt; Liszt regularly heard Urhan's organ playing in the St.-Vincent-de-Paul church in Paris, and the two became personal acquaintances. At eighteen years of age, Liszt was on the verge of establishing himself as the foremost pianist in Europe, and this awakening to Schubert's music would prove to be a profound experience. Liszt's first travels outside of his native provincial Hungary were to Vienna in 1821-1823, where his father enrolled him in studies with Carl Czerny (piano) and Antonio Salieri (music theory). Both men had important involvements with Schubert; Czerny (like Urhan) as performer and advocate of Schubert's music and Salieri as his theory and composition teacher from 1813-1817. Curiously, Liszt and Schubert never met personally, despite their geographical proximity in Vienna during these years. Inevitably, legends later arose that the two had been personal acquaintances, although Liszt would dismiss these as fallacious: "I never knew Schubert personally," he was once quoted as saying. Liszt's initial exposure to Schubert's music was the Lieder, what Urhan prized most of all. He accompanied the tenor Benedict Randhartinger in numerous performances of Schubert's Lieder and then, perhaps realizing that he could benefit the composer more on his own terms, transcribed a number of the Lieder for piano solo. Many of these transcriptions he would perform himself on concert tour during the so-called Glanzzeit, or "time of splendor" from 1839-1847. This publicity did much to promote reception of Schubert's music throughout Europe. Once Liszt retired from the concert stage and settled in Weimar as a conductor in the 1840s, he continued to perform Schubert's orchestral music, his Symphony No. 9 being a particular favorite, and is credited with giving the world premiere performance of Schubert's opera Alfonso und Estrella in 1854. At this time, he contemplated writing a biography of the composer, which regrettably remained uncompleted. Liszt's devotion to Schubert would never waver. Liszt's relationship with Robert and Clara Schumann was far different and far more complicated; by contrast, they were all personal acquaintances. What began as a relationship of mutual respect and admiration soon deteriorated into one of jealousy and hostility, particularly on the Schumann's part. Liszt's initial contact with Robert's music happened long before they had met personally, when Liszt published an analysis of Schumann's piano music for the Gazette musicale in 1837, a gesture that earned Robert's deep appreciation. In the following year Clara met Liszt during a concert tour in Vienna and presented him with more of Schumann's piano music. Clara and her father Friedrich Wieck, who accompanied Clara on her concert tours, were quite taken by Liszt: "We have heard Liszt. He can be compared to no other player...he arouses fright and astonishment. His appearance at the piano is indescribable. He is an original...he is absorbed by the piano." Liszt, too, was impressed with Clara--at first the "energy, intelligence and accuracy" of her piano playing and later her compositions--to the extent that he dedicated to her the 1838 version of his Etudes d'execution transcendante d'apres Paganini. Liszt had a closer personal relationship with Clara than with Robert until the two men finally met in 1840. Schumann was astounded by Liszt's piano playing. He wrote to Clara that Liszt had "played like a god" and had inspired "indescribable furor" of applause. His review of Liszt even included a heroic personification with Napoleon. In Leipzig, Schumann was deeply impressed with Liszt's interpretations of his Noveletten, Op. 21 and Fantasy in C Major, Op. 17 (dedicated to Liszt), enthusiastically observing that, "I feel as if I had known you twenty years." Yet a variety of events followed that diminished Liszt's glory in the eyes of the Schumanns. They became critical of the cult-like atmosphere that arose around his recitals, or "Lisztomania" as it came to be called; conceivably, this could be attributed to professional jealousy. Clara, in particular, came to loathe Liszt, noting in a letter to Joseph Joachim, "I despise Liszt from the depths of my soul." She recorded a stunning diary entry a day after Liszt's death, in which she noted, "He was an eminent keyboard virtuoso, but a dangerous example for the young...As a composer he was terrible." By contrast, Liszt did not share in these negative sentiments; no evidence suggests that he had any ill-regard for the Schumanns. In Weimar, he did much to promote Schumann's music, conducting performances of his Scenes from Faust and Manfred, during a time in which few orchestras expressed interest, and premiered his opera Genoveva. He later arranged a benefit concert for Clara following Robert's death, featuring Clara as soloist in Robert's Piano Concerto, an event that must have been exhilarating to witness. Regardless, her opinion of him would never change, despite his repeated gestures of courtesy and respect. Liszt's relationship with Schubert was a spiritual one, with music being the one and only link between the two men. That with the Schumanns was personal, with music influenced by a hero worship that would aggravate the relationship over time. Nonetheless, Liszt would remain devoted to and enthusiastic for the music and achievements of these composers. He would be a vital force in disseminating their music to a wider audience, as he would be with many other composers throughout his career. His primary means for accomplishing this was the piano transcription. Liszt and the Transcription Transcription versus Paraphrase Transcription and paraphrase were popular terms in nineteenth-century music, although certainly not unique to this period. Musicians understood that there were clear distinctions between these two terms, but as is often the case these distinctions could be blurred. Transcription, literally "writing over," entails reworking or adapting a piece of music for a performance medium different from that of its original; arrangement is a possible synonym. Adapting is a key part of this process, for the success of a transcription relies on the transcriber's ability to adapt the piece to the different medium. As a result, the pre-existing material is generally kept intact, recognizable and intelligible; it is "strict, literal, objective." Contextual meaning is maintained in the process, as are elements of style and form. Paraphrase, by contrast, implies restating something in a different manner, as in a rewording of a document for reasons of clarity. In nineteenth-century music, paraphrasing indicated elaborating a piece for purposes of expressive virtuosity, often as a vehicle for showmanship. Variation is an important element, for the source material may be varied as much as the paraphraser's imagination will allow; its purpose is "metamorphosis." Transcription is adapting and arranging; paraphrasing is transforming and reworking. Transcription preserves the style of the original; paraphrase absorbs the original into a different style. Transcription highlights the original composer; paraphrase highlights the paraphraser. Approximately half of Liszt's compositional output falls under the category of transcription and paraphrase; it is noteworthy that he never used the term "arrangement." Much of his early compositional activities were transcriptions and paraphrases of works of other composers, such as the symphonies of Beethoven and Berlioz, vocal music by Schubert, and operas by Donizetti and Bellini. It is conceivable that he focused so intently on work of this nature early in his career as a means to perfect his compositional technique, although transcription and paraphrase continued well after the technique had been mastered; this might explain why he drastically revised and rewrote many of his original compositions from the 1830s (such as the Transcendental Etudes and Paganini Etudes) in the 1850s. Charles Rosen, a sympathetic interpreter of Liszt's piano works, observes, "The new revisions of the Transcendental Etudes are not revisions but concert paraphrases of the old, and their art lies in the technique of transformation. The Paganini etudes are piano transcriptions of violin etudes, and the Transcendental Etudes are piano transcriptions of piano etudes. The principles are the same." He concludes by noting, "Paraphrase has shaded off into composition...Composition and paraphrase were not identical for him, but they were so closely interwoven that separation is impossible." The significance of transcription and paraphrase for Liszt the composer cannot be overstated, and the mutual influence of each needs to be better understood. Undoubtedly, Liszt the composer as we know him today would be far different had he not devoted so much of his career to transcribing and paraphrasing the music of others. He was perhaps one of the first composers to contend that transcription and paraphrase could be genuine art forms on equal par with original pieces; he even claimed to be the first to use these two terms to describe these classes of arrangements. Despite the success that Liszt achieved with this type of work, others viewed it with circumspection and criticism. Robert Schumann, although deeply impressed with Liszt's keyboard virtuosity, was harsh in his criticisms of the transcriptions. Schumann interpreted them as indicators that Liszt's virtuosity had hindered his compositional development and suggested that Liszt transcribed the music of others to compensate for his own compositional deficiencies. Nonetheless, Liszt's piano transcriptions, what he sometimes called partitions de piano (or "piano scores"), were instrumental in promoting composers whose music was unknown at the time or inaccessible in areas outside of major European capitals, areas that Liszt willingly toured during his Glanzzeit. To this end, the transcriptions had to be literal arrangements for the piano; a Beethoven symphony could not be introduced to an unknowing audience if its music had been subjected to imaginative elaborations and variations. The same would be true of the 1833 transcription of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique (composed only three years earlier), the astonishingly novel content of which would necessitate a literal and intelligible rendering. Opera, usually more popular and accessible for the general public, was a different matter, and in this realm Liszt could paraphrase the original and manipulate it as his imagination would allow without jeopardizing its reception; hence, the paraphrases on the operas of Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, Meyerbeer and Verdi. "Reminiscence" was another term coined by Liszt for the opera paraphrases, as if the composer were reminiscing at the keyboard following a memorable evening at the opera. "Illustration" (reserved on two occasions for Meyerbeer) and "fantasy" were additional terms. The operas of Wagner were exceptions. His music was less suited to paraphrase due to its general lack of familiarity at the time. Transcription of Wagner's music was thus obligatory, as it was of Beethoven's and Berlioz's music; perhaps the composer himself insisted on this approach. Liszt's Lieder Transcriptions Liszt's initial encounters with Schubert's music, as mentioned previously, were with the Lieder. His first transcription of a Schubert Lied was Die Rose in 1833, followed by Lob der Tranen in 1837. Thirty-nine additional transcriptions appeared at a rapid pace over the following three years, and in 1846, the Schubert Lieder transcriptions would conclude, by which point he had completed fifty-eight, the most of any composer. Critical response to these transcriptions was highly favorable--aside from the view held by Schumann--particularly when Liszt himself played these pieces in concert. Some were published immediately by Anton Diabelli, famous for the theme that inspired Beethoven's variations. Others were published by the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger (one of Beethoven's and Schubert's publishers in the 1820s), who sold his reserves so quickly that he would repeatedly plead for more. However, Liszt's enthusiasm for work of this nature soon became exhausted, as he noted in a letter of 1839 to the publisher Breitkopf und Hartel: "That good Haslinger overwhelms me with Schubert. I have just sent him twenty-four new songs (Schwanengesang and Winterreise), and for the moment I am rather tired of this work." Haslinger was justified in his demands, for the Schubert transcriptions were received with great enthusiasm. One Gottfried Wilhelm Fink, then editor of the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, observed of these transcriptions: "Nothing in recent memory has caused such sensation and enjoyment in both pianists and audiences as these arrangements...The demand for them has in no way been satisfied; and it will not be until these arrangements are seen on pianos everywhere. They have indeed made quite a splash." Eduard Hanslick, never a sympathetic critic of Liszt's music, acknowledged thirty years after the fact that, "Liszt's transcriptions of Schubert Lieder were epoch-making. There was hardly a concert in which Liszt did not have to play one or two of them--even when they were not listed on the program." These transcriptions quickly became some of his most sough-after pieces, despite their extreme technical demands. Leading pianists of the day, such as Clara Wieck and Sigismond Thalberg, incorporated them into their concert programs immediately upon publication. Moreover, the transcriptions would serve as inspirations for other composers, such as Stephen Heller, Cesar Franck and later Leopold Godowsky, all of whom produced their own transcriptions of Schubert's Lieder. Liszt would transcribe the Lieder of other composers as well, including those by Mendelssohn, Chopin, Anton Rubinstein and even himself. Robert Schumann, of course, would not be ignored. The first transcription of a Schumann Lied was the celebrated "Widmung" from Myrten in 1848, the only Schumann transcription that Liszt completed during the composer's lifetime. (Regrettably, there is no evidence of Schumann's regard of this transcription, or even if he was aware of it.) From the years 1848-1881, Liszt transcribed twelve of Robert Schumann's Lieder (including one orchestral Lied) and three of Clara (one from each of her three published Lieder cycles); he would transcribe no other works of these two composers. The Schumann Lieder transcriptions, contrary to those of Schubert, are literal arrangements, posing, in general, far fewer demands on the pianist's technique. They are comparatively less imaginative in their treatment of the original material. Additionally, they seem to have been less valued in their day than the Schubert transcriptions, and it is noteworthy that none of the Schumann transcriptions bear dedications, as most of the Schubert transcriptions do. The greatest challenge posed by Lieder transcriptions, regardless of the composer or the nature of the transcription, was to combine the vocal and piano parts of the original such that the character of each would be preserved, a challenge unique to this form of transcription. Each part had to be intact and aurally recognizable, the vocal line in particular. Complications could be manifold in a Lied that featured dissimilar parts, such as Schubert's Auf dem Wasser zu singen, whose piano accompaniment depicts the rocking of the boat on the shimmering waves while the vocal line reflects on the passing of time. Similar complications would be encountered in Gretchen am Spinnrade, in which the ubiquitous sixteenth-note pattern in the piano's right hand epitomizes the ever-turning spinning wheel over which the soprano voice expresses feelings of longing and heartache. The resulting transcriptions for solo piano would place exceptional demands on the pianist. The complications would be far less imposing in instances in which voice and piano were less differentiated, as in many of Schumann's Lieder that Liszt transcribed. The piano parts in these Lieder are true accompaniments for the voice, providing harmonic foundation and rhythmic support by doubling the vocal line throughout. The transcriptions, thus, are strict and literal, with far fewer demands on both pianist and transcriber. In all of Liszt's Lieder transcriptions, regardless of the way in which the two parts are combined, the melody (i.e. the vocal line) is invariably the focal point; the melody should "sing" on the piano, as if it were the voice. The piano part, although integral to contributing to the character of the music, is designed to function as accompaniment. A singing melody was a crucial objective in nineteenth-century piano performance, which in part might explain the zeal in transcribing and paraphrasing vocal music for the piano. Friedrich Wieck, father and teacher of Clara Schumann, stressed this point repeatedly in his 1853 treatise Clavier und Gesang ("Piano and Song"): "When I speak in general of singing, I refer to that species of singing which is a form of beauty, and which is a foundation for the most refined and most perfect interpretation of music; and, above all things, I consider the culture of beautiful tones the basis for the finest possible touch on the piano. In many respects, the piano and singing should explain and supplement each other. They should mutually assist in expressing the sublime and the noble, in forms of unclouded beauty." Much of Liszt's piano music should be interpreted with this concept in mind, the Lieder transcriptions and opera paraphrases, in particular. To this end, Liszt provided numerous written instructions to the performer to emphasize the vocal line in performance, with Italian directives such as un poco marcato il canto, accentuato assai il canto and ben pronunziato il canto. Repeated indications of cantando,singend and espressivo il canto stress the significance of the singing tone. As an additional means of achieving this and providing the performer with access to the poetry, Liszt insisted, at what must have been a publishing novelty at the time, on printing the words of the Lied in the music itself. Haslinger, seemingly oblivious to Liszt's intent, initially printed the poems of the early Schubert transcriptions separately inside the front covers. Liszt argued that the transcriptions must be reprinted with the words underlying the notes, exactly as Schubert had done, a request that was honored by printing the words above the right-hand staff. Liszt also incorporated a visual scheme for distinguishing voice and accompaniment, influenced perhaps by Chopin, by notating the accompaniment in cue size. His transcription of Robert Schumann's "Fruhlings Ankunft" features the vocal line in normal size, the piano accompaniment in reduced size, an unmistakable guide in a busy texture as to which part should be emphasized: Example 1. Schumann-Liszt "Fruhlings Ankunft," mm. 1-2. The same practice may be found in the transcription of Schumann's "An die Turen will ich schleichen." In this piece, the performer must read three staves, in which the baritone line in the central staff is to be shared between the two hands based on the stem direction of the notes: Example 2. Schumann-Liszt "An die Turen will ich schleichen," mm. 1-5. This notational practice is extremely beneficial in this instance, given the challenge of reading three staves and the manner in which the vocal line is performed by the two hands. Curiously, Liszt did not use this practice in other transcriptions. Approaches in Lieder Transcription Liszt adopted a variety of approaches in his Lieder transcriptions, based on the nature of the source material, the ways in which the vocal and piano parts could be combined and the ways in which the vocal part could "sing." One approach, common with strophic Lieder, in which the vocal line would be identical in each verse, was to vary the register of the vocal part. The transcription of Lob der Tranen, for example, incorporates three of the four verses of the original Lied, with the register of the vocal line ascending one octave with each verse (from low to high), as if three different voices were participating. By the conclusion, the music encompasses the entire range of Liszt's keyboard to produce a stunning climactic effect, and the variety of register of the vocal line provides a welcome textural variety in the absence of the words. The three verses of the transcription of Auf dem Wasser zu singen follow the same approach, in which the vocal line ascends from the tenor, to the alto and to the soprano registers with each verse. Fruhlingsglaube adopts the opposite approach, in which the vocal line descends from soprano in verse 1 to tenor in verse 2, with the second part of verse 2 again resuming the soprano register; this is also the case in "Das Wandern" from Mullerlieder. Gretchen am Spinnrade posed a unique problem. Since the poem's narrator is female, and the poem represents an expression of her longing for her lover Faust, variation of the vocal line's register, strictly speaking, would have been impractical. For this reason, the vocal line remains in its original register throughout, relentlessly colliding with the sixteenth-note pattern of the accompaniment. One exception may be found in the fifth and final verse in mm. 93-112, at which point the vocal line is notated in a higher register and doubled in octaves. This sudden textural change, one that is readily audible, was a strategic means to underscore Gretchen's mounting anxiety ("My bosom urges itself toward him. Ah, might I grasp and hold him! And kiss him as I would wish, at his kisses I should die!"). The transcription, thus, becomes a vehicle for maximizing the emotional content of the poem, an exceptional undertaking with the general intent of a transcription. Registral variation of the vocal part also plays a crucial role in the transcription of Erlkonig. Goethe's poem depicts the death of a child who is apprehended by a supernatural "Erlking," and Schubert, recognizing the dramatic nature of the poem, carefully depicted the characters (father, son and Erlking) through unique vocal writing and accompaniment patterns: the Lied is a dramatic entity. Liszt, in turn, followed Schubert's characterization in this literal transcription, yet took it an additional step by placing the register of the father's vocal line in the baritone range, that of the son in the soprano range and that of the Erlking in the highest register, options that would not have been available in the version for voice and piano. Additionally, Liszt labeled each appearance of each character in the score, a means for guiding the performer in interpreting the dramatic qualities of the Lied. As a result, the drama and energy of the poem are enhanced in this transcription; as with Gretchen am Spinnrade, the transcriber has maximized the content of the original. Elaboration may be found in certain Lieder transcriptions that expand the performance to a level of virtuosity not found in the original; in such cases, the transcription approximates the paraphrase. Schubert's Du bist die Ruh, a paradigm of musical simplicity, features an uncomplicated piano accompaniment that is virtually identical in each verse. In Liszt's transcription, the material is subjected to a highly virtuosic treatment that far exceeds the original, including a demanding passage for the left hand alone in the opening measures and unique textural writing in each verse. The piece is a transcription in virtuosity; "its art," as Rosen noted, "lies in the technique of transformation." Elaboration may entail an expansion of the musical form, as in the extensive introduction to Die Forelle and a virtuosic middle section (mm. 63-85), both of which are not in the original. Also unique to this transcription are two cadenzas that Liszt composed in response to the poetic content. The first, in m. 93 on the words "und eh ich es gedacht" ("and before I could guess it"), features a twisted chromatic passage that prolongs and thereby heightens the listener's suspense as to the fate of the trout (which is ultimately caught). The second, in m. 108 on the words "Betrogne an" ("and my blood boiled as I saw the betrayed one"), features a rush of diminished-seventh arpeggios in both hands, epitomizing the poet's rage at the fisherman for catching the trout. Less frequent are instances in which the length of the original Lied was shortened in the transcription, a tendency that may be found with certain strophic Lieder (e.g., "Der Leiermann," "Wasserflut" and "Das Wandern"). Another transcription that demonstrates Liszt's readiness to modify the original in the interests of the poetic content is "Standchen," the seventh transcription from Schubert's Schwanengesang. Adapted from Act II of Shakespeare's Cymbeline, the poem represents the repeated beckoning of a man to his lover. Liszt transformed the Lied into a miniature drama by transcribing the vocal line of the first verse in the soprano register, that of the second verse in the baritone register, in effect, creating a dialogue between the two lovers. In mm. 71-102, the dialogue becomes a canon, with one voice trailing the other like an echo (as labeled in the score) at the distance of a beat. As in other instances, the transcription resembles the paraphrase, and it is perhaps for this reason that Liszt provided an ossia version that is more in the nature of a literal transcription. The ossia version, six measures shorter than Schubert's original, is less demanding technically than the original transcription, thus representing an "ossia of transcription" and an "ossia of piano technique." The Schumann Lieder transcriptions, in general, display a less imaginative treatment of the source material. Elaborations are less frequently encountered, and virtuosity is more restricted, as if the passage of time had somewhat tamed the composer's approach to transcriptions; alternatively, Liszt was eager to distance himself from the fierce virtuosity of his early years. In most instances, these transcriptions are literal arrangements of the source material, with the vocal line in its original form combined with the accompaniment, which often doubles the vocal line in the original Lied. "Widmung," the first of the Schumann transcriptions, is one exception in the way it recalls the virtuosity of the Schubert transcriptions of the 1830s. Particularly striking is the closing section (mm. 58-73), in which material of the opening verse (right hand) is combined with the triplet quarter notes (left hand) from the second section of the Lied (mm. 32-43), as if the transcriber were attempting to reconcile the different material of these two sections. "Fruhlingsnacht" resembles a paraphrase by presenting each of the two verses in differing registers (alto for verse 1, mm. 3-19, and soprano for verse 2, mm. 20-31) and by concluding with a virtuosic section that considerably extends the length of the original Lied. The original tonalities of the Lieder were generally retained in the transcriptions, showing that the tonality was an important part of the transcription process. The infrequent instances of transposition were done for specific reasons. In 1861, Liszt transcribed two of Schumann's Lieder, one from Op. 36 ("An den Sonnenschein"), another from Op. 27 ("Dem roten Roslein"), and merged these two pieces in the collection 2 Lieder; they share only the common tonality of A major. His choice for combining these two Lieder remains unknown, but he clearly recognized that some tonal variety would be needed, for which reason "Dem roten Roslein" was transposed to C>= major. The collection features "An den Sonnenschein" in A major (with a transition to the new tonality), followed by "Dem roten Roslein" in C>= major (without a change of key signature), and concluding with a reprise of "An den Sonnenschein" in A major. A three-part form was thus established with tonal variety provided by keys in third relations (A-C>=-A); in effect, two of Schumann's Lieder were transcribed into an archetypal "song without words." In other instances, Liszt treated tonality and tonal organization as important structural ingredients, particularly in the transcriptions of Schubert's Lieder cycles, i.e. Schwanengesang, Winterreise a...

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