Harmonies du Soir opens in the bass with the sound of bells, un poco marcato, quasi campana, and bells and their overtones persist throughout the piece in different registers. The melody is underpinned by richly chromatic chords , often needing judgement as to the speed of arpeggiation; elsewhere, chords need the lightest of touches above a LH rocking accompaniment, ppp una corda. Liszt the orchestrator is never far away; a slower theme, Piu lento con intimo sentimo is marked accompagnamento quasi Arpa. A molto animato, ff trionfante section builds to a huge climax requiring great power, but there is more to come; energy resources need to be carefully deployed. A study in chord playing would be a very prosaic description of the piece; it is colourful, demanding – and rewarding. Here is Richter in a live performance:
And so to the final Transcendental Etude, Chasse-Neige: ‘Des vents impétueux qui soulèvent des tourbillons de neige,’ as one edition helpfully explains. I’m writing this during an English winter on December 22; for literary purposes I wish I could say that outside the wind is howling and a blizzard is raging -but the sun is shining and it’s mild, so no inspiration there. Listen, however, to the music’s icy loneliness at the beginning, its shivering tremolandi, two-handed chromatic scale blizzards and its whirling LH chromatic eddies. A tireless, even tremolando is required, so a well-developed rotary movement is essential – or this is the study to learn if it needs developing.
Here is Berman: