Consolations (Liszt)

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The Consolations are a set of six solo piano works by Franz Liszt. The compositions take the musical style of Nocturnes[1] with each having its own distinctive style.[2] Each Consolation is composed in either the key of E major or D-flat major. E major is a key regularly used by Liszt for religious themes.[3][4]

There exist two versions of the Consolations. The first (S.171a) was composed by Liszt between 1844 and 1849[5] and published in 1992 by G. Henle Verlag.[6] The second (S.172) was composed between 1849 and 1850[7] and published in 1850 by Breitkopf & Härtel, containing the familiar Consolation No. 3, Lento placido, in D-flat Major.[3][8][9]


The source of the title Consolations may have been Lamartine’s poem Une larme, ou Consolation from the poetry collection Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (Poetic and Religious Harmonies). [3] Liszt's piano cycle Harmonies poétiques et religieuses is based on Lamartine's collection of poems.[10] Another possible inspiration for the title are the Consolations of the French literary historian Charles Sainte-Beuve.[7][11] Sainte-Beuve's Consolations, published in 1830, is a collection of Romantic era poetry where friendship is extolled as a consolation for the loss of religious faith. [12]

The Consolations are also referred to as Six pensées poétiques (Six poetic thoughts), a title not used for Breitkopf's 1850 publication but for a set published shortly thereafter, in the same year, by the Bureau Central de Musique in Paris.[13]

Consolations, S.171a[edit]

The Consolations, S.171a consist of six solo compositions for the piano. [14][15]

  1. Andante con moto (E major)
  2. Un poco più mosso (E major)
  3. Lento, quasi recitativo (E major[14]/C-sharp minor[15])
  4. Quasi Adagio, cantabile con devozione (D-flat major)
  5. Andantino (E major) - "Madrigal"
  6. Allegretto (E major)

Composed between 1844 and 1849,[5] they are Liszt's first version of the Consolations and were first published in 1992 by G. Henle Verlag.[16] The manuscripts are located at the Goethe and Schiller Archives in Weimar.[17]

The third Consolation is an arrangement of a Hungarian folksong that would be later reused by Liszt in his Hungarian Rhapsody No.1, S.244/1.[18] The fifth Consolation is the earliest of the compositions and dates from 1844. In an early manuscript the fifth Consolation is entitled “Madrigal”.[19][20] Liszt dedicated the Madrigal to a friend of his, a Weimar Intendant named M. de Ziegäser.[19]

Consolations, S.172[edit]

The Consolations, S.172 consist of six solo compositions for the piano. [21][22]

  1. Andante con moto (E major)
  2. Un poco più mosso (E major)
  3. Lento placido (D-flat major)
  4. Quasi Adagio (D-flat major)
  5. Andantino (E major)
  6. Allegretto sempre cantabile (E major)

Composed between 1849 and 1850, [7] they are Liszt's second version of the Consolations. This version of the Consolations is better known than the first version and was published in 1850 in Leipzig by Breitkopf & Härtel.[6] In comparison to the first version of the Consolations, the original third Consolation (S.171a/3) was replaced with a new Consolation (Lento placido in D-flat major) and the remaining Consolations were simplified.[17]

Consolations Nos. 1 and 2[edit]

The first of the Consolations is in E Major and initially marked Andante con moto. The shortest of the set, consisting of just 25 measures, it has an identical opening to another of Liszt's works, the Album-Leaf (Première Consolation), S.171b. [23] Consolation No. 2 is also in E Major and is initially marked Un poco più mosso. It is often played directly after the first, without a break. [24]

Consolation No. 3[edit]

Consolation No. 3, First few bars.

The third Consolation is in D-flat major and initially marked as Lento placido. It is the most popular of the Consolations [3][8][9] and also a favorite encore piece.[25]

Its style is similar to the Chopin Nocturnes,[3] in particular, it seems to have been inspired by Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2.[11] The similarity between the two works has been interpreted as a tribute to Chopin who died in 1849, a year before the Consolations were published.[17] This third Consolation is however one of several of Liszt's works that take a style reminiscent of Chopin; some examples include Liszt's Polonaises, Berceuse, Mazurka brillante, and his Ballades.[26]

In 1883, years after composing the Consolation, Liszt received a Grand piano from the Steinway Company with a design that included a sostenuto pedal.[27] Liszt began transcribing this Consolation for the new sostenuto pedal and in a letter to Steinway he wrote:

"In relation to the use of your welcome tone-sustaining pedal I inclose two examples: Danse des Sylphes, by Berlioz, and No. 3 of my Consolations. I have today noted down only the introductory bars of both pieces, with this proviso, that, if you desire it, I shall gladly complete the whole transcription, with exact adaptation of your tone-sustaining pedal."[28]

Liszt recommended sparing usage of the sostenuto pedal in the interpretation of this Consolation and opined on the positive effect it would have on the more tranquil passages.[27]

Consolation No. 4[edit]

Consolation No. 4, First few bars.

Consolation No. 4 is in D-Flat major and is initially marked Quasi adagio. Composed in 1849, [29] it is also known as the Stern-Consolation ("Star Consolation") because of the six-pointed white star that appears on the printed score.[3] The Consolation was inspired by a Lied written by Maria Pavlovna, the Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. [30] The mood of the composition has been described as "churchly-religious"[31] and "prayerlike".[32]

Liszt later re-used the Consolation's theme in the Andante sostenuto / quasi adagio section of his Piano Sonata in B Minor.[30]

Consolation No. 5[edit]

Consolation No. 5, First few bars.

Consolation No. 5 is in E-Major. It is initially marked Andantino. The Consolation has a cantilena vocal style. .[8][32] This Consolation has the oldest genealogy having been reworked from the earlier fifth version of the Consolations, entitled the Madrigal .[17][19][20] Compared to the earlier Madrigal, this Consolation: [33]

  • is shorter, having 56 measures compared to the Madrigal's 69;
  • shares several sections with similar melodies;
  • employs simpler harmonies;
  • and is rhythmically less rigid.

Consolation No. 6[edit]

Consolation No. 6, First few bars.

The sixth and final Consolation is in E Major. It is initially marked Allegretto sempre cantabile and is the longest of the Consolations with a total of 100 measures. It is the most technically demanding of the Consolations.[8] The piece has been described by Carl Lachmund, one of Liszt's students, as more characteristic of Liszt's style than the more renowned D-flat major third Consolation.[34] Lachmund provides insight into the style in which Liszt played the Consolation, stating:

"He [Liszt] played each note of the melody as if it were a significant poetic word, which effect was heightened in that he used the thumb for each one of these notes, and dropping his hand in a languid manner as he did this. He would dwell slightly here or there on a note as if entranced and then resume the motion without leaving a feeling that the time had been disturbed. I do not recall the particular measures in which he did this; but even then I felt that he might do it in a different place each time he played the piece." [35]


  1. ^ Lachmund 1999, p. 37.
  2. ^ Liszt 1995, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Arnold 2002, p. 108.
  4. ^ Merrick 1987, p. 297.
  5. ^ a b Eckhardt 1992, p. 450,453.
  6. ^ a b Eckhardt 1992, p. 449.
  7. ^ a b c Walker 1993, p. 145.
  8. ^ a b c d Magrath 1995, p. 203.
  9. ^ a b Hinson 2004, p. 32.
  10. ^ Merrick 1987, p. 9.
  11. ^ a b Hinson 2003, p. 12.
  12. ^ Sainte-Beuve 2004, p. 980.
  13. ^ Liszt 1850.
  14. ^ a b Mező & Kaczmarczyk 2011, p. 86.
  15. ^ a b Howard 1995.
  16. ^ Liszt 1992.
  17. ^ a b c d Liszt 1992, p. V.
  18. ^ Howard 1991, p. 4.
  19. ^ a b c Helm 1963, p. 102.
  20. ^ a b Howard 1995, p. 4.
  21. ^ Mező & Kaczmarczyk 2011, p. 25.
  22. ^ Howard 1991.
  23. ^ Howard 1995, p. 7.
  24. ^ Mező et al. 1981, p. 102.
  25. ^ Liszt 2006, p. 14.
  26. ^ Walker 1993, p. 146.
  27. ^ a b Banowetz 1992, p. 217.
  28. ^ Huneker 1911, p. 394.
  29. ^ Szász 2010, p. 10.
  30. ^ a b Szász 2010, p. 1.
  31. ^ Szász 2010, p. 12.
  32. ^ a b Liszt 1995, p. 4.
  33. ^ Helm 1963, p. 103-105.
  34. ^ Lachmund 1999, p. 52.
  35. ^ Lachmund 1999, p. 53.
Cited Sources
Other Sources

External links[edit]

Sheet music[edit]


S.172, 2nd Version