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Mephisto Waltzes

The Mephisto Waltzes are four virtuoso piano solos composed by Franz Liszt. Of the four, the first is the most popular and has been frequently performed in concert and recorded. It was composed in 1856-1861, and Liszt made an orchestral version (as No.2 in the Zwei Episoden aus Lenaus Faust) immediately after the completion of the original piano solo. Liszt dedicated the piece to Carl Tausig, his favourite pupil (who died prematurely at the age of 29 in 1870). It is popularly called "the Mephisto Waltz," as if there were only one.

The Second Mephisto Waltz followed the first by some 20 years. Its composition took place between 1878 and 1881. Liszt again orchestrated the piece right after the completion of the piano solo. The piece is dedicated to Camille Saint-Saëns..

The Third Mephisto Waltz takes the harmonic language even further. Composed in 1883, it features chords built up by fourths and there are numerous ominous passages with succession of descending minor triads whose roots are a semi-tone apart. Liszt made no orchestral version of the Third Waltz.

The Fourth Mephisto Waltz remained unfinished. Liszt worked on the piece in 1885. There is a version with the completed fast outer sections (without the incomplete slow middle section) that has been performed and recorded in recent years. Leslie Howard the acclaimed Australian pianist, who recorded all of Liszt's solo piano pieces (over 95 CDs) made a recording of the whole Waltz including the incomplete middle section that he assembled from Liszt's manuscript sources and completed in line with the composer's late style adding a minimum number of his own notes. It is available on Hyperion's "complete piano music of Liszt"-series. Pretty obvious, no orchestral version of this Waltz was completed by Liszt.

Mephisto Waltz no.111:31
Klyuev, I.
Mephisto Waltz no.1
10:45
Mantione, C.