‘The shores of the lake of Wallenstadt kept us for a long time. Franz wrote there for me a melancholy harmony, imitative of the sigh of the waves and the cadence of oars, which I have never been able to hear without weeping…’
Marie d’Agoult wrote this of Liszt’s Au lac de Wallenstadt, a good place to begin exploring the Suisse pieces. It is in the warm key of A flat major; in each bar, the recurrent LH triplet gives the sensation of the pull of the oars, then four semiquavers glide over the water; a spacious melody floats above, echoing from afar as the piece closes.
Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage – translated into French in 1825 and 1827 as Le Pèlerinage de Childe Harold – provides the literary inspiration:
‘…Thy contrasted Lake, with the wild world I dwell in, is a thing which warns me, with its stillness, to forsake earth’s troubled waters for a purer spring.’
Some modern editions contain the literary quotes, but the first edition also had illustrations by Kretschmer of Swiss scenes; visual stimuli for the pianists of 1855. The painting above dates from 1865: Le Lac Wallenstadt, by Roffiaen. The performance on the video is by Lazar Berman…
.. and my recording on iTunes is here!
Not a difficult piece -about Grade 8 standard; a reasonable LH span helps to negotiate the spacing needed between the fourth and fifth fingers, along with a relaxed lateral movement. I’ll stop there before I kill it with too much description of the ‘how’…