Franz Liszt

Hexaméron (Grande variations sur le march des I Puritains), collaborative work for piano, S. 392 (LW A41) (after Bellini)

    Description by Adrian Corleonis

    What this splendid and revealing Romantic curiosity amounts to is succinctly described in its full title, Hexaméron -- Variations on the March from Bellini's I Puritani by Liszt, Thalberg, Pixis, Herz, Czerny, and Chopin with introduction, interludes, and finale by Liszt. While Princess Cristina Belgiojoso-Trivulzio was staging the considerable coup of having pianistic rivals Liszt and Sigismond Thalberg face off at a charity concert for Italian refugees in her salon (at 40 francs a head) -- the event of the season, on March 31, 1837, and the stuff of legend ever after -- she also entertained the notion of having the leading virtuosos in Paris pen a variation each on the march from Bellini's popular opera I Puritani, whose catchy tune projects the revolutionary sentiment "Sound the trumpet for liberty." Moreover, she hoped these eminent gentlemen would perform their respective variations at her concert. This did not happen. Variations by Thalberg, Pixis, Herz, and Czerny were in hand only by the beginning of June and Liszt was dispatched by the Princess to coax Chopin. The delay allowed Liszt to fashion the variations into a single grandiose piece looming larger than the sum of its parts, though those parts are extremely interesting as a conspectus of Romantic pianism, or, at least, of what captivated audiences of the time. Looking back to this era in 1910, Busoni noted, "The virtuosi who lived before the penultimate generation really played nothing but their own compositions and other works with their own alterations; they played what they had put in order for themselves, what came 'pat' to them and only what they could do as regards feeling as well as technique." Liszt, however, could do everything other pianists could do, and do it better, while adding enormously to the stock of pianistic devices -- many of them possible only to himself -- enabling his incomparable fantastications. Though considered powerful and a vast improvement in piano manufacture, the new Erards of the late 1830s seem thin and weak beside a Steinway grand of our time. Liszt and his colleagues compensated with rapidity of figuration spanning the keyboard, abundant octaves, and a plethora of four- and five-voiced chords whose brilliance tends to sound clotted on today's heavier instruments. Liszt performed Hexaméron all over Europe with great success and -- not yet the orchestral wizard he would become in the 1850s -- had the work arranged for piano and orchestra in 1838. The solo version was published by Tobias Haslinger in Vienna 1839.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2017
    Brilliant Classics
    95564
    2016
    Piano Classics
    PCL 0106
    2013
    MDG
    MDGSC 9041803
    2012
    CAvi-music
    AVI 8553240
    2011
    Claves
    501108
    2010
    Naxos
    572241
    2006
    Tudor Records
    7112
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    586522-2
    2000
    Elan Recordings
    82276
    1999
    Nuova Era
    6880
    1999
    BMG
    63310
    1994
    Symposium
    1091
    Capriccio Records
    10091