Liszt was the only contemporary whose music Richard Wagner gratefully acknowledged as a influence upon his own. His lasting fame was an alchemy of extraordinary digital ability — the greatest in the history of keyboard playing — an unmatched instinct for showmanship, and one of the most progressive musical imaginations of his time. Hailed by some as a visionary, reviled by others as a symbol of empty Romantic excess, Franz Liszt wrote his name across music history in a truly inimitable manner.
This is the first set in Franz Liszt's triology, Années de Pèlerinage (Years of Pilgrimage, or Years of Travel). Suisse is comprised of nine pieces, each inspired by scenes or moods associated with Liszt's Swiss travels. He and his one-time lover, Marie d'Agoult (a brilliant and popular writer whose pen name was Daniel Stern), had journeyed throughout Switzerland and Italy during the period, 1835-39. Eight of the items here date from that time, but Orage, placed fifth in order, was composed in 1855, the year the set was published. All pieces, except for Orage and the seventh, Eglogue, are based on pieces in the composer's earlier Album d'un voyageur.
La Valée d'Obermann (The Valley of Obermann) may be the most profound work in the collection. A melancholy theme establishes the mood here to depict not just a locale, but the eponymous character in an 1804 novel by Etiene Jeane Senancour, Obermann, who, disheartened by his misfortunes, withdraws to the country to seek solace. Cast in three sections, the piece contains themes that are beautiful, transforming from sadness and gloomy pensiveness at the outset to a brighter, if not quite radiant mood in the last section. It is a philosophical not emotional triumph that Liszt arrives at in the end. This piece usually runs close to fifteen minutes and is the longest in the set.