Franz Liszt

Piano Sonata in B minor, S. 178 (LW A179)

    Description by Rovi Staff

    There are only three works in Liszt's vast output which are entitled as belonging to any sonata form: the Faust Symphony, the Dante Symphony, and the Sonata in B minor for piano. It will readily be seen that this is the only work he wrote in an absolute sonata form.

    However, he made the sonata form his own in this innovative and unique work in one movement. Wagner described the work as beautiful "beyond all conception" and "sublime." In it, Liszt presents what is considered by most commentators as his finest example of the musical technique of continuous "thematic transformation," which was to have a profound effect on the future of music -- especially as taken up by Wagner and used as the basic musical means by which he constructed all his later operas, especially the great Ring of the Nibelung tetralogy.

    This one-movement sonata makes the impression of a free, unbridled fantasia, virtually an improvisation. But in reality the whole work is tightly constructed from the music of the sonata's introduction. From that introduction he develops, first, three striking and powerful themes, then a passage sounding like a religious chorale. The final main section not only demands the utmost in piano technique to deal with its prestissimo tempo, but also employs elements of all the themes which have been spun out of the opening. Ultimately, in an eloquent concluding Andante, Liszt returns to the earliest versions of the main musical material and recedes into silence. Full of Romantic fire and spontaneity as the sonata may be, it also fits, depending on how one listens to it, into either the pattern of a single sonata-allegro-form movement (with exposition, development, recapitulation, and coda), or the four-movement structure of a traditional sonata (opening movement, slow movement, scherzo, and finale. Thus this work remains an enduring masterpiece even in the estimation of those listeners who tend to find Liszt's music overblown. In the Sonata in B minor, Liszt, the great radical, connected himself convincingly with the sonata tradition.

    The sonata dates from 1854, shortly after the Princess Carolyn Sayn-Wittgenstein, with whom the composer lived, had convinced Liszt to quit touring as a pianist and concentrate on composition. The pianist and musicologist Alfred Brendel, among others, has claimed for years that the sonata is related to the Faust legend. While such an interpretation may actually fit the structure and emotional spirit of the work, it must be regarded with a measure of skepticism. Some musicologists have also argued that the piece is autobiographical, and point out that such a view would not exclude a Faustian interpretation.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Lento assai - Allegro energico
    2. Grandioso - Recitativo
    3. Andante sostenuto - Quasi adagio
    4. Allegro energico - Stretta quasi presto - Presto - Prestissimo - Andante sostenuto - Allegro moderato - Lento assai

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Acousence Classics ACO 13217
    2018 CAvi-music AVI 8553400
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 533
    2018 Genuin GEN 18601
    2017 JRI Recordings J 141
    2017 Quartz QTZ 2124
    2017 Claudio / Claudio Records CR 37056
    2017 Claudio CR 37052
    2017 Brilliant Classics 95564
    2017 Alba ABCD 398
    2017 Naxos 8573792
    2017 Melodiya MELCD 1002463
    2017 MDG MDG 9042042
    2017 Gramola 99147
    2017 Urania WS 121316
    2017 Blue Griffin Recording BG 437
    2016 Sony Classical 88875119792
    2016 Erato 555265
    2016 Erato 555265
    2016 A Life of Music Records
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88875177312
    2016 Quartz QTZ 2113
    2016 Danacord DACOCD 772
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875032272
    2016 Skarbo DSK 1164
    2016 Challenge Classics CC 72698
    2016 APR (Appian) APR 6020
    2016 Onyx / Onyx Classics ONYX 4156
    2016 Bmc Records / Budapest Music Center BMC 223
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4795448
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794350
    2015 Bella Musica BM 312462
    2015 Acousence Classics ACOCD 12114
    2015 La Dolce Volta LDV 20
    2015 Hyperion CDA 68067
    2015 Linn / Linn Records BKD 282
    2015 Malachite Music 40993
    2015 Piano Classics PCL 0084
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 4794647
    2015 Deutsche Grammophon 002894795229
    2015 Romeo Records RR 7314
    2015 Sony Classical 88843054582
    2014 Sony Classical 88843047122
    2014 Doron Music DRC 4025
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 14
    2014 Audite AUDITE 21419
    2014 Praga / Praga Digitals DSD 350078
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002145
    2014 Scruffy Records 020568658
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings
    2014 Three Oranges Recordings 3OR 03
    2014 Hungaroton HCD 41011
    2014 Hungaroton HCD 32730
    2014 Cameo Classics CC 9030CD
    2014 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 Entertainment Group 11502
    2013 First Hand / First Hand Records FHR 19
    2013 Orchid Classics ORC 100031
    2013 Odradek ODR 303
    2013 Elatus 49564
    2013 MDG
    2013 Scruffy Records 67226
    2013 Orchid Classics ORC 100035
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon 4791728
    2013 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099901924
    2013 TYX Art TXA 13028
    2012 Entertainment Group 1574
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099970490
    2012 Haenssler HAEN 93718
    2012 Entertainment Group 12503
    2012 Centaur Records CRC 3207
    2012 Melodiya MELCD 1001911
    2012 CAvi-music AVI 8553240
    2012 Gramola GRAM 98952
    2012 Piano Classics PCLM 0041
    2012 Sophia Agranovich 5637917312
    2012 Dynamic CDS 730
    2012 Phaia Music PHU 01516
    2012 ECM 4764585
    2012 ECM
    2012 Anima Records ANM 70200001
    2012 CAvi-music AVI 8553269
    2012 Doremi Records DHR 79878
    2012 Cambria CD 1206
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099908380
    2011 Decca 4782825
    2011 Decca / Universal Music Classics and Jazz
    2011 Warner Classics 69284
    2011 RCA Red Seal 886919369120
    2011 Warner Classics 674400
    2011 Warner Classics 2564674403
    2011 TwoPianists TP2039091
    2011 Hungaroton HCD32704
    2011 Idis / IDIS IDIS 6617
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon B 001573902
    2011 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT110301
    2011 Sony Classical 8869783987272
    2011 Piano 21 P 21041 N
    2011 Sony Classical 88697873852
    2011 Cascavelle VEL 3157
    2011 Piano Classics PCLD 0015
    2011 Piano Classics PCLD 0022
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099991872
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 Bridge 9337
    2011 EtCetera Records KTC 4037
    2011 Hyperion CDA 67760
    2011 Decca
    2011 Apex 2564665860
    2011 Triton EXCL 00038
    2011 Haenssler 98625
    2011 Piano Classics PCL 0014
    2011 Sony Classical 88697821342
    2011 Delos DE 3412
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 477 876-6
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 15154
    2011 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290845657
    2011 Sony Classical 8869784019
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 002894779525
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon B 001594402
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    2011 Orchid Classics ORC100017
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Decca
    2010 Ligia 10320109
    2010 Solo Musica 147
    2010 Ars Musici 232340
    2010 Supraphon 40212
    2010 Myrios Classics 5
    2010 Hungaroton / Hungaroton Classics 32634
    2010 Fab Four 232920
    2010 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8571282
    2010 Mirare 99
    2010 Ivory Classics 79002
    2010 Decca
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    2009 RCA 8869729146
    2009 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2009 EMI Classics 13251
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93786
    2009 Pierian 0038
    2009 Brilliant Classics 9014
    2009 CPO / Cpo CPO777 478-2
    2009 Gallo 1260
    2009 EMI Classics 2357332
    2009 EMI Classics 35732
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    2009 XXI 1533
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93787
    2009 Cascavelle 3101
    2009 Music & Arts 1234
    2009 Analekta AN28762
    2009 Ayva / Ayva Clasica AV 007
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 12534
    2009 Deutsche Grammophon 4778140
    2009 Rca Red Seal 749925
    2009 RCA Red Seal 88697538852
    2009 Sony Music Distribution 88697575002
    2008 EMI Classics 217304
    2008 Audite 23408
    2008 ABC Classics 4766806
    2008 Warner Classics 4698255
    2008 EMI Classics 4768572
    2008 Gramola 98853
    2008 Avi 8553012
    2008 Camerata Records 28130
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 001190702
    2008 Decca / Universal Classics & Jazz
    2008 Decca 4758637
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4776656
    2008 Philips 4780421
    2008 Brilliant 93761
    2008 Decca 4780235
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 731846
    2008 Audiofon 72070
    2007 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT071101
    2007 Music & Arts 1205
    2007 Fabula Classica FAB 120512
    2007 Arbiter 152
    2007 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 0946392747
    2007 ORF 156
    2007 IDIS 6516
    2007 Avanticlassic 10272
    2007 Alto 1011
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2007 Delphian 34030
    2007 VAI Audio 1265
    2007 Philips 4758247
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon 4372522
    2007 BBC Legends 5004
    2007 Divine Art DDA25064
    2007 Universal Classics & Jazz
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    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
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    2007 Brilliant 93180
    2007 APR (Appian) 6004
    2006 Philips 4757188
    2006 ATMA Classique 22360
    2006 Crystonyx Productions 1004
    2006 Avie 2097
    2006 Albany Music Distribution 880
    2006 Ars Musici 1379
    2006 Diskant 85
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    2006 IDIS 6470/1
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    2006 Danacord 653
    2006 Globe Records 5076
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    2006 Avanti Records 10202
    2006 Philips 000715402
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000764972
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 000721602
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    2005 Decca 4756786
    2005 Claudio Records CR 37052
    2005 Brilliant 92615
    2005 Artemis Classics 1529
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    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76858
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    2005 EMI Music Distribution 85057
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics 74512
    2005 Palexa 537
    2005 Deutsche Grammophon 4775694
    2005 Yarlung Records 52069
    2005 Archipel 0246
    2004 Erato / Warner Classics 6682862
    2004 Ivory Records IVCD74003
    2004 Medici Classics (formerly Monarch) 30092
    2004 EMI Music Distribution 585837-2
    2004 Harmonia Mundi HMC90 1845
    2004 APR (Appian) 5562
    2004 Hyperion 55184
    2004 BBC Music 4146
    2004 Brilliant 92229
    2004 JAV Recordings JAV138
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000344902
    2003 Philips 473461
    2003 Orfeo 611031
    2003 Classic Collection 99882
    2003 Eroica Distribution 3135
    2003 Artemis Classics 1213
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 574233
    2003 Decca 472464
    2003 Decca 000018002
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000085102
    2002 IPO 1001
    2002 Fermate 20009
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 74846
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 567935
    2002 Deutsche Grammophon 471350
    2002 Gega 241
    2002 APR (Appian) 5623
    2002 Pierian 0015
    2002 Andante 2980
    2001 Classica d'Oro 3009
    2001 Mapleshade Records 7382
    2001 BBC Music 4078
    2001 Ivory Records 72001
    2001 Brilliant 99273
    2001 Naïve 4873
    2001 Seraphim UK 74504
    2001 Cypres Records 9612
    2001 CBC Records 1100
    2001 Rca Red Seal 63068
    2001 Eroica Distribution 3047
    2000 INA Memoire Vive 025
    2000 Teldec 21092
    2000 Hyperion 67085
    2000 Motette 12621
    2000 Musicians Showcase 1018
    2000 RCA 63613
    1999 Aura Classics 0182
    1999 Philips 456709
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 68963
    1999 Collins Records 13572
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Pearl 9262
    1999 Philips 456775
    1999 Philips Classics 432305
    1999 Vanguard 110
    1999 Philips 434078
    1999 Philips 456703
    1999 Nimbus 1748
    1999 Philips 446924
    1999 RCA Red Seal 63000
    1999 Philips 456844
    1998 Marston 52007
    1998 Deutsche Grammophon 4576292
    1998 Naxos 8553594
    1998 Philips 456937
    1998 Cembal d'amour 102
    1998 APR (Appian) 5557
    1997 Vox 5172
    1997 RAP Productions 1905472
    1997 Ed Arte 67122
    1997 Decca 452306
    1997 Carlton Classics 01332
    1997 Master Tone Records 1316
    1997 Deutsche Grammophon 453576
    1997 APR (Appian) 5516
    1996 Deutsche Grammophon 447430
    1996 Sony Music Distribution 62664
    1996 Testament 1067
    1996 Hungaroton 31494
    1996 Philips 446920
    1995 RCA Victor 62590
    1995 Philips 438620
    1995 Altarus 9030
    1995 Decca
    1995 London 444851
    1995 Denon Records 78960
    1995 Philips 446200
    1995 Gallo 719
    1995 Orfeo 332931
    1995 BIS 144
    1995 Iron Needle 1303
    1994 Nimbus 7701
    1994 Philips 442 617-2PM2
    1994 Naxos 8550510
    1994 Lydian 18121
    1994 Harmonia Mundi 1903024
    1994 MDG 3514
    1994 Philips 442464
    1993 RCA 61614
    1993 RCA 61415
    1993 Sony Music Distribution 48484
    1993 Reference Recordings 25
    1992 RCA 61221
    1992 Chandos 8548
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 429391
    1992 Hyperion 66616
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 431780
    1991 Hyperion 66429
    1990 RCA 60414
    1990 Teldec 44948
    1990 Deutsche Grammophon 427322
    1990 EMI Music Distribution 763538-2
    1986 Delos DE3022
    Pearl 9396
    EMI Music Distribution 64601
    EMI Angel 47381
    Saga Classics 3381
    AT 000
    Lyrinx 2228
    RCA 5673
    EMI Classics / EMI Music Distribution 69527
    Christopher Schindler 6831
    Ward Brace Colignon 2573
    REM 311270
    Music & Arts 759
    Koch Discover International 920316
    Everest 9015
    Ambitus 97878
    Theorema 121126
    Ducale 010
    The Piano Library 301
    Intersound 3539
    Erato 98476
    Brilliant 92615/2
    REM 311265
    Grammofono 2000 78619/21
    Mr. Owl 4305
    As Disc 123
    Bescol 526
    Doremi Records 71113
    Brilliant 93006/3
    MSR Records 1188
    IMP Classics 963
    Supraphon 111519
    Leningrad Masters 1316
    Music & Arts 662
    Analekta 23030
    Supraphon 110662
    As Disc 345
    IMP BBC Radio Classics 9108
    Erato 88091
    BNL Productions 112797
    MDG 3120957
    Decca 467801
    Legend 144
    As Disc 120
    Magic Master 37027
    Newport Classic 85538
    London 410115
    Philips 410040
    Memories 4218
    Mezhdunarodnaya-Kniga 417071
    As Disc 342
    FSM Adagio 97727
    Zoe Erisman
    Erato
    CBS Records 44925
    Philips 464713
    Erato 45328
    Naxos 8 553237
    Nimbus 5045
    Classical Records 008
    EMI Music Distribution 49063
    Di Wu
    BBC Music Magazine 254
    Deutsche Grammophon 469 151-2GP2
    Manu Music Productions 1446
    Donau 8121
    Cypres Records 9612-11
    Fono Enterprise 312
    Historical Performers 26
    Legend 145
    Music & Arts 600
    Classica d'Oro 3007
    Deutsche Grammophon 471358
    APR (Appian) 7007
    Memoire Vive 262016
    Arlecchino 28
    Stereophile 008
    Music & Arts 760
    Teldec 87009
    Chandos 10004
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