LISZT Franz, Mephisto Waltz No.1

Liszt composed the Mephisto Waltz No.1 in about 1859, at the same time as a version for orchestra. It was dedicated to Carl Tausig, the Polish virtuoso who was considered Liszt’s most gifted pupil, still in his teens at the time. As well as being a dazzling concert waltz that calls on all a pianist’s technical resources, it is also a programmatic work derived from the 1836 Faust by Nikolaus Lenau (indebted to Goethe, and to Byron). Liszt quotes part of Lenau’s preface in the score to explain the story, which is closely mirrored by the music: A wedding feast is in progress with music and dancing. After encouraging Faust to join the festivities, Mephistopheles snatches a violin and draws seductive sounds from it. Faust whirls about with a beautiful woman in a wild dance, out of the hall and into the woods as a nightingale warbles its song.

© Nigel Simeone


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