Transcription of Waltz from Gounod's opera, 'Faust' : Work information

Charles (François) Gounod ( Music, Images,)
Franz Liszt ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Stéphane Blet (Piano)

This work

Work name
Transcription of Waltz from Gounod's opera, 'Faust'
Work number
S. 407
1861-01-01 02:01:00

This recording

Ivan Pastor
Jean-Pierre Bouquet
Recording date
1996-01-01 02:01:00

Track listing

  • 9:19 min

The Composers

Charles (François) Gounod

Thanks to a thorough musical grounding from his mother, Charles Gounod made rapid progress at the Paris Conservatoire - the year after commencing his studies in 1836 he won the Second Prix de Rome, and was overall winner in 1839.  Travelling to Rome that year he encountered the music of Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina while visiting the Sistine Chapel and was impressed by its humility and lack of artifice.  He also befriended Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel who introduced him to her brother Felix Mendelssohn.  The French church in Rome comissioned a mass from him, and further religious commissions were forthcoming when he travelled to Vienna in 1842, including a requiem.  Visiting the Hensels in Berlin and Felix Mendelssohn in Leipzig allowed them instil in Gounod an extensive knowledge of the Germanic tradition.

After returning to Paris and promoting the works of Palestrina and Johann Sebastian Bach to unappreciative church audiences, Gounod began work on his first opera.  Sapho (1851) was praised by Hector Berlioz but not a success.  Undeterred, he continued to write stage works, and his ecclesiastical pieces were enthusiastically received.  By the late 1850s he had shed the formative influence of Giaccomo Meyerbeer and was ready to write his most famous opera, Faust (1859).  Firmly establishing Gounod as an operatic composer, Faust mixed grand opera with counterpoint, lightness of touch and colourful musical characterisation.

Fleeing the Franco-Prussian war, Gounod and his family travelled to England where he was the first to conduct the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society.  Here he was well received thanks to works such as his Méditation sur le 1er prélude de S. Bach (1852), in which he set the Ave Maria to the accompaniment of the C major prelude from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier.  Failing health and a tumultuous private life led to Gounod's return to France in 1874.  There he adopted an ever more simplistic style which many thought banal - his oratorio La rédemption (1882) was panned by European critics such as Hanslick, but English publishers and audiences remunerated him handsomely.  This led to a return to church music in later life, and he completed another 12 masses before his death in 1893.

Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt was the son of a talented amateur musician who was a steward in the service of the Esterhàzy family. He was a child prodigy at the piano and, by the time he was eleven, had performed in many parts of Europe and was well-established as a concert pianist.

In 1821 he left Hungary and moved to Vienna where he studied piano with Carl Czerny and composition with Antonio Salieri. Two years later he went with his family to Paris where he was recognised as a brilliant performer and quickly became a favourite of the wealthy French families. In 1830 he met Chopin, Berlioz and the violin virtuoso, Paganini. Paganini’s virtuosity inspired Liszt to explore the expressive possibilities of the piano, transferring the violinist’s technical wizardry to his own instrument.

As a young man in Paris, Liszt was as famed for his affairs of the heart as for his piano technique. In 1835 he eloped with his mistress, the Countess Marie d'Agoult (who was already married), to Switzerland and they spent the next few years in the Alps and in Italy. They had three children.

Between 1839 and 1847, Liszt took on the role of a traveling virtuoso, playing all over Europe to wide acclaim. It is said that he invented the concept of a modern piano recital. He separated from his mistress in 1844, and in 1848 took up a full-time conducting post as Kapellmeister at the Weimar court, where he lived with Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein. He abandoned his performing career and devoted his attention mainly to composition, although he conducted and taught, among others, Hans von Bülow. Here he wrote some of the most difficult piano music ever written, such as the Transcendental Studies. He expanded some of the ideas of musical form, increasing the length and scope of traditional ideas such as Sonata Form, and turning multi-movement pieces into single works.

It is in his piano compositions, though, that Liszt’s virtuosity as a performer shows through. His imaginative use of unusual combinations of chords, scales and intervals is punctuated by a very advanced use of chromaticism. He also had the ability to express a very wide variety of moods and ideas in his music, which makes it so rewarding to listen to. Unfortunately for Liszt, public denouncements on his relationship with the Princess forced him to move to Rome in 1860, where he stayed until 1869. Here, he found expression for his long-held spiritual leanings and he composed many religious works. In 1865 he joined the Franciscans and was given the title of Abbé. From 1870 onwards, he traveled regularly between Rome, Weimar, where he had many pupils, and Budapest, where he was regarded as a national hero.

Related Composers: Wagner, R Strauss, Chopin