‘Vado ben spesso cangiando loco’ goes this bright and cheerful marching-song, with a catchy melody long attributed to the poet/painter/actor Salvator Rosa , but in fact written by a fellow-Italian, Bononcini. Liszt’s straightforward transcription of it in the Italian Année is the perfect foil for Il penseroso which precedes it, banishing the darkness of C# Minor with its jaunty sunshine and smilingly good-humoured A Major. And its final chord is used as a harmonic pivot at the opening of the Sonetto which follows, neatly turning the listener around into the new key via a harmonic bridge.
The Canzonetta was written well after Liszt’s Italian sojourn, and after his break with Marie d’Agoult – in 1849. Brendel has interesting theories as to its allusions – to Salvator Rosa as painter and as adventurer, perhaps.
I think that Liszt was very aware of outdoor song in Italy; he writes of his coachman singing; he used a Venetian gondolier’s song in the symphonic poem Tasso. Perhaps the Canzonetta is a sound bite from the Italian soundscape.
But whatever the reason for its inclusion, we can all be glad that it’s there. It’s a great tune.