Tablet - Portrait

Tablet - Landscape


Franz Liszt

The date of composition listed in the headnote can be somewhat misleading here. There are three versions of the Transcendental Etudes. The first, titled Études en douze exercizes, came in 1826; the second in 1838; and the final one in 1851. Rarely encountered on disc or on the recital stage, the earlier versions are inferior. The Appassionata etude here is one of the more exciting, more passionate outpourings in the final version. The work opens in a manner consistent with its Allegro agitato molto marking as notes rapidly cascade down and lead to music that bursts forth with nervous energy and a sense of urgency. The main theme desperately yearns, but clings to its songful manner despite rhythmic disruptions from quivering chords and ominous hammering from the bass. A constant sense of agitation prevails until the theme seizes control in the middle section for a brief respite. Still, it cannot hold back the rising currents of its own dark thematic underpinnings and thus finally yields to the fomenting anxiety. The ending is fraught with intensity and virtuosic hurdles, notes hurtling from up and down the keyboard, and a final dash that seems more an attempt at escape than a race to the finish line. The closing chords punctuate this five-minute masterwork with an ominous sense.