Hexameron (musical composition)

Hexaméron, Morceau de concert S.392 is a collaborative composition for solo piano. It consists of six variations on a theme, along with an introduction, connecting interludes and a finale. The theme is the "March of the Puritans" from Vincenzo Bellini's opera I puritani.

Princess Cristina Trivulzio Belgiojoso conceived the piece in 1837 and persuaded Franz Liszt to assemble a set of variations of the march along with five of his pianist-friends. Liszt composed the introduction, second variation, connecting sections and finale, and integrated the piece into an artistic unity. Five well-known composer-performers each contributed one variation: Frédéric Chopin, Carl Czerny, Henri Herz, Johann Peter Pixis and Sigismond Thalberg.

Princess Belgiojoso commissioned Hexaméron–the title refers to the Biblical six days of creation–for a benefit concert for the poor on 31 March 1837 at the princess's salon in Paris.[1] The musicians did not complete the piece on time, but the concert was held as scheduled. The concert's highlight was a piano "duel" between Thalberg and Liszt for the title of "greatest pianist in the world." Princess Belgiojoso announced her diplomatic judgment: "Thalberg is the first pianist in the world–Liszt is unique."[2]

Hexaméron is divided into nine parts:

  1. Introduction: Extremement lent (Liszt)
  2. Tema: Allegro marziale (transcribed by Liszt)
  3. Variation I: Ben marcato (Thalberg)
  4. Variation II: Moderato (Liszt)
  5. Variation III: di bravura (Pixis) - Ritornello (Liszt)
  6. Variation IV: Legato e grazioso (Herz)
  7. Variation V: Vivo e brillante (Czerny) - Fuocoso molto energico; Lento quasi recitativo (Liszt)
  8. Variation VI: Largo (Chopin) - (coda) (Liszt)
  9. Finale: Molto vivace quasi prestissimo (Liszt)

Pianists Ingolf Wunder, Raymond Lewenthal, Leslie Howard, Francesco Nicolosi and Marc-André Hamelin, among others, have recorded the piece.

Liszt made arrangements of the piece for piano and orchestra (S.365b) and for two pianos (S.654). Pianists Ingolf Wunder, Leslie Howard and Eugene List recorded the orchestral version.

In 2009, six New York-based composer-pianists–Matthew Cameron, Corbin Beisner, Simone Ferraresi, Quentin Kim, Greg Anderson, and Hwaen Chu'qi–created their own Hexameron Variations based on the same Bellini "March". It premiered at the 2010 American Liszt Society Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska, US.[3]

References

  1. Leslie Howard, Notes for "Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 53a – Music for piano & orchestra I", Hyperion 1998 .
  2. Walker, Alan (1983). Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years,1811-1847. I (Revised ed.). Cornell University Press. p. 240.
  3. "2010 National Festival" (PDF). American Liszt Society. p. 9.
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