Liszt - Réminiscences de La Scala, S458 (Andreas Pistorius)

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Andrei Cristian Anghel
Published at : 24 Nov 2020
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Many many thanks to Krisztián for providing the scans for this piece.

While living in Como (around 1837), Liszt went several times to the La Scala opera house in Milan and heard a number of works in performances which were for the most part pretty bad. He said so in print while also stating some rather acid remarks about the state of opera-goers' understanding and behaviour (Alan Walker however manages to prove that these essays had actually been published by Marie d'Agoult during Liszt's absence) and brought down much criticism upon himself. In order to placate the enraged Milanese, Liszt organised a charity concert at La Scala on 10 September 1838 in which he played the William Tell Overture transcription, and another work entitled 'Réminiscences de La Scala', the latter thought missing for quite a while. It is now clear that the unpublished and untitled manuscript usually described as a fantasy on Italian operatic melodies must be this missing work.

A brief structural analysis of the fantasy: [Note: all themes with the exception of Theme 4 come from Mercandente's "Il giuramento" opera]
-- INTRODUCTION --
(00:00) - Introduction from 'Ma negli estremi instanti' [introduction of Theme 1] [from: ACT 3]
(00:49) - Orchestral introduction from 'Canto siciliano' [introduction of Theme 2] [from: ACT 1]
(1:24) - Fragments of 'L'adorava qual s'adora' [Theme 3] [from: ACT 3] - an interesting point: right before this, a grand gesture on a pedal B flat seems about to usher in a theme in E flat, however, this expectation is deftly thwarted by a sideslip into D major for an anticipation of 'L'adorava qual s'adora', before finally emerging on the threshold of G flat. It is by means of such ingenious harmonic evasions that Liszt successfully avoids the banality of so many contemporary fantasies, where each new theme is invariably preceded by a long and tedious dominant preparation.
-- TREATMENT OF 1ST THEME --
(1:56) - 'Ma negli estremi instanti' [Theme 1]
(2:54) - Varied repeat of T1
(4:40) - Return of 'Canto siciliano' [Theme 2]
(5:14) - 'fff' reprise of T1
-- TREATMENT OF 2ND THEME, INTRODUCTION OF 4TH THEME --
(6:17) - Modulating transition based on T2
(7:02) - Presentation of Theme 4, the author of which is unknown.
(8:36) - Transition based on T2 and T4
-- TREATMENT OF 3RD THEME, THEMATIC COMBINATION AND CODA --
(9:20) - 'Scherzando' version of T3
(11:23) - Modulating development of T4
(12:29) - An astounding (!) thematic combination of T3 and T4
(15:18) - Coda based on T2 and new figuration
LisztRéminiscencesde

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