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Weihnachtsbaum (Christmas Tree): 12 Pieces in Liszt's Original Transcription for Piano Four Hands.

by Franz Liszt. Dover Publications, Inc. (31 E. 2nd St., Mineola, NY 11501), 2002. 81 pp. $11.95. Intermediate.

Piano duettists of every stripe--children, adult beginners, professional duos--will rejoice over this re-publication of one of Liszt's most artful collections of pieces for piano, four hands. The original title promises something relatively rare in Liszt's output: Weihnachtsbaum: 12 Clavierstucke (zumeist leichter Spielart) ["Christmas Tree: 12 Piano Pieces, for the most part easy to play"].

Amazingly, this very playable set with its attractive theme, perfect for the masses of amateur pianists of both Liszt's and our own day, lay in obscurity until the present Dover volume, a reprint of the original Adolph Furstner publication of 1882. Though the cycle is easy to play, the music is sophisticated and the sentiments grownup. The pieces were written in the autumn of Liszt's life, in the late 1870s, evidently as a Christmas gift to his granddaughter Daniela.

The first four works are arrangements of Christmas songs--Psallite (a hymn by Michael Praetorius), O heilige Nacht! ("Oh Holy Night," but not the one we hear nowadays), Die Hirten an der Krippe (to the tune of "Good Christian Men, Rejoice") and Adeste Fideles (cast as a lively march).

Several of the remaining pieces conjure up yuletide, including Liszt's original compositions "Scherzoso" (a musical depiction of lighting candles on the Christmas tree) and two works about bells and chimes. Harmonic ambiguity--suggestive for Liszt in his twilight years of the illusory nature of life?--permeates the last three works: the nostalgic Ehemals ("Old Times"), the dark and plodding Ungarisch ("Hungarian," supposedly an autobiographical sketch) and Polnisch (a mazurka in B-flat minor that erupts into a full-fledged tone poem).

You probably will wish to cede to the modern practice of marking measure numbers (missing from this old edition), an accommodation for the lack of correspondence between the staves of primo and secondo, and an indispensable rehearsal aid. Reviewed by John Salmon, Greensboro, North Carolina.
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Author:Salmon, John
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2003
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