Schubert had been dead for seven years when, in 1838, the 27-year-old Liszt returned to Vienna for the first time since his childhood, when he had been taken to see Beethoven by his teacher Czerny an, perhaps apocryphally, been blessed by a kiss from the old man. Now apparently discovering the songs of Schubert for the first time, he began to produce transcriptions of Lieder almost as rapidly as they had been written in the first place.
Within eight years, Liszt had produced 56 such transcriptions from the treasury of Schubert’s Lieder, which are models of their kind: faithful, ingenious and gratifying to play. Giovanni Doria-Miglietta includes eight of them in this beautifully curated tribute from one genius to another: Du bist die Ruh; Das Wandern; Aufenthalt; Wohin; Gretchen am Spinnrade; Der Doppelgänger; Ständchen, and Der Wanderer.
The last of these Lieder had supplied Schubert with the melodic idea for a fantasy of his own which stands as his most brilliantly virtuosic work for the piano. Dating from 1822, the Wanderer Fantasy makes hardly less prodigious demands on the performer than the Hammerklavier Sonata of Beethoven from five years earlier, and in places is more awkwardly written. As the great pianist of his own age, Liszt rewrote the Fantasy in an act of homage, firstly as a concerto, then a solo piece, and this lesser-known version is recorded here by Giovanni Doria Miglietta.
As the pianist remarks in his own analytical essay for the album, Liszt did not seek to elaborate or decorate Schubert’s writing, the way his successors such as Alkan and Godowsky did in their tributes to Chopin. Rather, Liszt tends to replace sequences in arpeggios with passages of repeated chords or alternating octaves, and he often amuses himself by inserting additional voices (often in the left hand) enriching the polyphonic fabric. Many of these passages are pianistically more effective and in some cases technically more manageable.
Finally, Doria-Miglietta includes Liszt’s more complex rewritings of two Impromptus. In D899 No.2 he does indeed make the harmony more complex and the effect more brilliant, whereas he leaves the divine simplicity of No.3 almost untouched except for changing the key from G flat to G major, perhaps to make it easier to play for the amateur pianist.
Giovanni Dora-Migletta has attracted glowing reviews for previous Piano Classics albums which have focused on the art of transcription. ‘This is a fabulous disc, operating both as a celebration of Earl Wild and, indeed, of the art of transcription itself. Brilliantly recorded… and with Dora Miglietta’s impeccable technique and musicianship as our guiding force, this is a splendid addition to the Earl Wild discography.’ Fanfare, September 2019 (PCL10175)
- The concept of “Der Wanderer” (the wanderer) had a lifelong fascination for Franz Schubert. The idea of an eternal journey towards happiness or a better life, albeit unattainable, was close to his romantic heart. The same may be said of Franz Liszt, who, mutatis mutandis, shared Schubert’s wanderings and quest for an ideal. No wonder that Liszt was one of the first to recognize Schubert’s genius, playing his works in his concerts and transcribing songs for piano solo.
- This new recording presents Liszt’s arrangements of Schubert’s great Wanderer Fantasie (adding some Lisztian pianistic touches to this already demanding tour de force), an Impromptu and several of the songs, most of them linked to the “Wanderer” theme.
- Played by Italian pianist Giovanni Doria Miglietta, whose recording of the complete piano music by Earl Wild for Piano Classics received excellent reviews: “extremely well played..possibly my favourite piano disc of 2014..” Classical Net.